Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year

The Van Winkle family’s involvement in the bourbon industry began in the late 1800s with Julian P. "Pappy" Van Winkle, Sr., a traveling salesman for the "W.L. Weller and Sons" wholesale house in Louisville.  Pappy and his friend, Alex Farnsley, eventually bought the wholesale house and also purchased the A. Ph. Stitzel Distillery, which made bourbon for Weller. They merged the two companies and became the Stitzel-Weller Distillery. Their brands were W.L. Weller, Old Fitzgerald, Rebel Yell, and Cabin Still.

In May 1935, Pappy opened the Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville. Upon his death, his son, Julian, Jr. took over operations but was forced by stockholders to sell the distillery in 1972.

After selling the distillery, Julian, Jr. resurrected a pre-prohibition label, the only one to which the Van Winkles kept the rights, called Old Rip Van Winkle. He used whiskey stocks from the old Stitzel-Weller distillery to supply the brand. Julian Jr.'s son, Julian III and his son, Preston, now oversee the brand.  Production now takes place at Buffalo Trace in Frankfort. 

All of the Van Winkle bourbons are made with corn, wheat, and, barley instead of corn, rye and, barley. This "wheated" recipe gives the bourbon a softer, smoother taste. 

Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year

Buffalo Trace Distillery/Old Rip Van Winkle
107 proof
($ paid unknown).  Given as a gift (MSRP: $49; secondary market price: ~ $200)

Color: Deep amber  

Nose: Vanilla, toffee, toasted oak, maple syrup, caramelized banana.

Tasting Notes: Caramel, toffee, vanilla, maple sugar, butterscotch, cinnamon candies, oak.  The finish is long and spicy and warms you right up.  

Overall: A.  Old Rip Van Winkle 10 is cozy and delicious.  To ensure that I was not influenced by the hype and the Van Winkle name, I tasted ORVW blind against several other bourbons in the 100-107 proof range.  It was my winner against Old Weller Antique (which is very similar, but just not quite as "warm" or sophisticated) and Four Roses Single Barrel.  If you find this bourbon, you absolutely must buy it.