What Makes Pappy Van Winkle 15-Year Bourbon So Special?

You’ve heard of the Pappy Van Winkle 15-year bourbon. Everyone you’ve talked to raves about it, and perhaps you’ve had a glass while hanging out on your neighbor’s patio under the breeze of a windmill ceiling fan. But every time you go out to buy a bottle of your very own, you can’t find it. You can’t even grab one in an online search.

What gives?! There are plenty of bottles of Jack Daniels and Jim Beam, but Pappy Van Winkle bourbon is like a white unicorn — you know it exists, but you can’t quite get your hands on it.

Don’t worry; you’re not alone. Pappy Van Winkle’s entire line of bourbon — which includes 15, 20, and 23-year bottles — is just as rare as its distinct taste. Bourbon connoisseurs far and wide go their entire lives without having so much as a sip of Pappy Van Winkle. But why? Well, it’s mostly because the distillery only releases approximately 84,000 bottles per year. On top of that, it’s expensive. According to several published reports, the normal retail price is between $80 and $250. 

If you can believe this, the aftermarket price can skyrocket to as much as $5,000 per bottle!

So what makes this particular bourbon so special?

It’s a combination of the taste and the aging process. Let’s look at the aging process first, though, because as everyone knows, the longer a spirit like a bourbon sits in a barrel untouched, the more it interacts with the oak and better it’s going to be. The Pappy Van Winkle 15-year bourbon alone is aged more than three times as long as brands like Jack Daniels and Jim Beam — which are mouthwatering bourbons in their own right. As an article by Cool Material eloquently pointed out:

“Most of the taste comes from the barrels themselves, so if you go dumping them out in 3 years,
that wannabe moonshine simply doesn’t have the character of that which spent the better
part of the Bush and Obama administrations soaking in oak.”

OK, now let’s talk about that amazing taste.

The entire line of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon was crafted according to the strict and exclusive family wheated recipe. Because they heavily use wheat over rye or corn, there’s less of a bite compared with other bourbons on the market. As you gaze at the 15-year bourbon, you immediately notice a hazy, copper color. The website thewhiskeywash.com describes what happens next way better than we ever could … 

“This smells like a night at the movie theater: candy corn, A&W Root Beer, popcorn,
butter, shellac. There are
also some slightly hidden aromas of tropical fruit — pineapple, coconut,
and orange peel. … The initial flavors are tart and a little bitter — blood orange, citrus gastrique, dark chocolate, wheat bran. As the palate evolves, more of those classic aged bourbon flavors appear like
warmed prunes, nutmeg, perique tobacco, stewed cherry, and pencil shavings.” 

We wish that we could tell you exactly where to grab yourself a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 15-year bourbon, but we’re just as in the dark as you are. The good news is that it’s worth the wait, and if you do get your hands on a bottle or two, don’t let it leave your sight. Your neighbors will be hounding you every day for a taste of the good stuff.

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