Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 15 Year Showdown – 2009 Release vs. 2019 Release

Whisk(e)y Network Reviews #299 & #300: Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 15 Year Showdown – 2009 Release vs. 2019 Release

American Whiskey Review #59: Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 15 Year (2019 Release)

Distillery: Buffalo Trace

Bottler: Buffalo Trace

Region: Kentucky

Price: Courtesy of /u/MarrowX‘s incredible generosity

ABV: 53.5%

Age: 15 year.

Color: 1.4, Tawny.

Nose: (according to the wife) Fresh apples dominate this, there’s basically nothing else that comes through other than it. Every now and again, there’s a sweet vanilla note but that quickly gets overtaken by the apples.

Palate: There’s bits of cherry here and there. Gingerbread cookies is one of the stand out notes here with nutmeg and cinnamon mixing in well hints of ginger. No sign of any icing though to go with them though. Then comes the oak, way too much oak for me. With a little bit of water, the cherry note becomes much sharper but it feels like I’m biting into a slightly unripe cherry.

Finish: Long. The nutmeg from the palate lingers for ages along with far too much oak.

Conclusion: I’ll preface this by saying I didn’t think whisky was bad by any stretch of the imagination. It was alright however, like many Buffalo Trace products, I am left feeling that the whisky has been over-oaked. At this point, I have to think that Buffalo Trace does it on purpose. The balance on this is a little off for me, a bit more sweetness or a bit more fruit would’ve gone a long way especially given the more spicy nature from gingerbread and oak. Not bad, but you won’t see me lining up for this anytime soon.

Final Score: 80


American Whiskey Review #60: Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 15 Year (2009 Release)

Distillery: Rumored to be the last year of 100% Stitzel Weller

Bottler: Buffalo Trace

Region: Kentucky

Price: Courtesy of /u/MarrowX‘s incredible generosity

ABV: 53.5%

Age: 15 year.

Color: 1.5, Auburn/Polished Mahogany.

Nose: (according to the wife) It’s really refreshing. It starts with a nice and ripe persimmon before transitioning into champagne grapes. Very bright and fruity. These fruit notes are joined by the lovely, slightly savory note of maple glazed donuts.

Palate: It’s so rich and full of flavor from the outset. The first notes I pick out are fruity ones, there’s a near bursting sensation similar to popping boba balls. It starts with a little bit of the fruit and then suddenly explodes into a bit of flavor. I picked out cherries and raspberries, there were a few other red berry notes as well. After the fruit comes a slight note of oak, which does very well to balance out the strong fruit flavors. Then comes the cream. So much cream. Delicious. With a drop of water, this gets creamier still with the fruit flavors becoming bolder and blending together. It’s sweeter on the whole as well and the package reminds me of a cream and jam donut.

Finish: Incredibly long. The cream lingers for ever with touches of oak going in and out.

Conclusion: Talk about a fun whisky, this dram almost has it all. The nose teases that it’s going to be a mix of fruits and some savory-sweet elements with the maple glazed donut. The palate is bursting full of fruit flavors. The creaminess that oozes throughout has enough sweetness to prevent it from becoming overbearing. The little bits of dryness and spice from the oak does so well to keep things balanced. The slight transformation into a liquefied cream and jam donut after some water is added helps make this whisky memorable. It’ll have to go onto the list of “if I ever win the lottery” of things to buy.

Final Score: 92


Final Thoughts: For my 299th and 300th whisk(e)y reviews, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to try this side-by-side of perhaps America’s most sought after whiskey (/u/MarrowX, you’re a legend). With the two bottlings coming a decade apart from each other, I was really excited to see what changes, if any, had happened over the years. Honestly, if you served these to me blind, I would not have ever thought that they were the “same” whisky. One is bursting full of flavor, with a beautiful richness that goes throughout. The other is just another slightly over-oaked bourbon. Both are still good but one is truly memorable while the other I’ll likely forget about in a day or two. Thank you to everyone who reads these reviews and to my biggest fan, my wife who gets roped into these reviews on the regular! Here’s to another 300!

American Whiskey Review #59 & 60, Bourbon Review #46 & 47, Whisky Network Review #299 & 300


Scoring Legend:

  • 96-100: The perfect dram, nectar of the gods.
  • 90-95: Near perfect, there is something truly special about this whisky.
  • 85-89: Amazing, will always try to keep a bottle of this in my collection (if feasible).
  • 80-84: Very Good, maybe only one minor nitpick about the whisky keeping it here.
  • 75-79: Good, quite enjoyable to drink.
  • 70-74: Solid, wouldn’t go out of my way to get it.
  • 60-69: Meh, still drinkable.
  • Below 59: If you have a bottle of this, start cooking with it instead.

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