Whiskey Review: Pappy Van Winkles Family Reserve 20 year

Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 20 Year

What year was this?


Brand: Pappy Van Winkles Family Reserve 20 year
Distiller: Buffalo Trace
Proof: 90.4
Age: 20 years

Label Notes:

  • Pappy completes a round at the 18th with his faithful “Caddy” (and sometimes hunting dog) Buck. The character of this fine old Kentucky bourbon matches that of a true character, Julian P. “Pappy” Van Winkle, Sr.
  • Bottled by Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery, Frankfort KY


Color: Amber

Nose: Mellow, sweet oak, tobacco, leather

Palate: Oily mouthfeel. I’d barely gotten the first sip into my mouth when I made a face at my wife who was sitting across the table from me and mumbled “oh mmm”. I was getting very pronounced sweet cream and smarties candy flavors right off the bat. But every sip was a different amazingly crisp flavor. Caramel chews, dark caramel, light caramel, milk chocolate, smarties, vanilla, tobacco, grape candy, honey, creme brulee, cherries.

Finish: The flavors constantly dance and shift, going on and on for a long finish. Glorious.


I’m going to give this my top rating. Simply put, it’s the best whiskey I’ve ever had in my life. Before and after this pour, I enjoyed a Stagg Jr Batch 14 which was also delicious. Unfortunately I only had the one pour – I was gifted a pour of this amazing whiskey by Brian after a wonderful birthday dinner at Antonia’s restaurant in Hillsborough, NC.

Being my first ever pour of Pappy 20 – I assumed based on things I’d heard that it would be very oaky. WRONG. In fact the oak takes a back seat to such an amazing range of flavors that I was simply amazed. Floored would be a better description of my reaction.

Rating: 10

Rating Overview:
1: Gross I can’t even drink this crap.
2: Poor I would force this down in good company
3: Bad I wouldn’t have to force it down, but it’s not good either.
4: Not Bad But still not good.
5: Just OK Average.
6: Good Above average, but not special.
7: Very Good Well above average.
8: Excellent This is a favorite of mine for sure.
9. Amazing I would bathe in this if I could afford to.
10. Life Altering Nothing could be better than this.

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