Waterford Whiskey Society welcomed The Buffalo Trace Distillery for its tasting for October 2021 which was held online. The tasting was led by Ian Doogue the Senior Business Development Manager for Hi-Spirits in Ireland. This was an extremely special and rare tasting of a range of the Van Winkle Bourbons, these are virtually impossible to source and are some of the most expensive bourbons on the market, with a retail or secondary value of over €6,000.
This entire Van Winkle endeavor started with one man and his philosophy of product over profit. Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle hadn’t always planned to enter the bourbon business, but his impact on the industry continues to be felt four generations later. As he put it, he “simply tried to be honest and make a good product.” It was that simple to him, and it has stayed that simple for more than 100 years.
Recently, the Van Winkles entered a joint venture with the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky. All the Van Winkle’s whiskey production now takes place at Buffalo Trace under the same strict guidelines the family has always followed to produce a superior quality product.
WE MAKE FINE BOURBON AT A PROFIT IF WE CAN, AT A LOSS IF WE MUST, BUT ALWAYS FINE BOURBON.
The line-up for the event was as follows:
· Buffalo Trace Bourbon 40%
· Old Rip Van Winkle 10YO 53.5% ABV
· Van Winkle Special Reserve 12YO 45.2%
· Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 15YO 53.5%
· Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 20YO 45.2%
· Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 23YO 47.8%
Buffalo Trace Bourbon 40%:
This is their flagship product and is aged for 7-8 years, with a high corn and low rye content. The regulations require a min 51% corn/maize with Rye and Barely making up the rest. The distillate is placed into virgin oak barrels at 125 proof (62.5% ABV). There is 10% evaporation in the first year and 6-7% thereafter.
During the distillation the corn is cooked at 180@ under pressure for 1 hr, then the remainder components are added. The use an open top fermentation for 2-5 days and a portion of the previous mash is added as well.
They initially use a column still which is the largest in the US and was setup in 1956 and is 35 feet tall by 7 feet wide and has 16 levels. It can process up to 1,000 barrels per day.
The output of the column still is then double distilled in smaller pot stills.
Old Rip Van Winkle 10YO 53.5% ABV:
This uses a wheated mash bill the Van Winkle range uses no Rye just wheat as the additional grain.
Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Range:
Very little to say only stunning bourbons and it was the first time many of the attendees had tasted these so it was a real experience.
The favourites on the night were definitely the 10YO and the 15YO, but I think people felt they might have a chance to get a bottle of these in the future compared to the older expressions.
All in all, a fantastic experience and once that will be hard to repeat very often.