Whisky Advocate

Review: Old Rip Van Winkle Family Selection 23 yr. old

December 8th, 2009

ORVWDecanter09_lg1Old Rip Van Winkle Family Selection, 23 year old, 57%, $350
Distilled in 1986. An excellent old wheated bourbon. Soothing oily texture, with notes of toffee, old rum, nougat, vanilla bean, candied fruit, black raspberry, corn bread, hints of earl grey tea, cinnamon, and nutmeg, with a smooth, polished oak finish. I recently reviewed a Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 23 year old (Bottle #B1986) at 47.8%, which I also thought was outstanding with a comparable flavor profile (although some earlier bottlings I tasted years ago were heavy on the oak), and it was priced at $220. Given this, you need to ask yourself if you want to pay the extra $130 or so for the higher strength, special decanter, pair of glasses, and wood box that comes with this new ORVW Family Selection. Or not.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 95

18 Responses to “Review: Old Rip Van Winkle Family Selection 23 yr. old”

  1. Red_Arremer says:

    Obviously, hanging a price tag like that on a 23 yo bourbon is pretty revolutionary, even with the strength, glassware and box.

  2. H.Diaz says:

    I say keep the fancy packaging and drop the price $200. $150 sounds like a fair price for a bourbon of this age, historically speaking.

    Or, maybe they’re testing the waters with this one. Any bites?

    Sames goes for much of the higher priced Scotch whiskies.

    The packaging may excite alot of collectors, I know. But to me, more of a drinker, straight to the trash bin.

  3. Scott says:

    You would be suprised how much packaging like this sells the product. The name alone will sell this bottle to the whiskey advocate, however when trying to find a gift for someone the value of the packaging and glassware is a deal maker.

    *takes off retail hat*

    But I would love to get my hands on just the bottle!

  4. JWC says:

    john, let’s be honest, besides the box, decanter and glasses, is there ANY difference to justify the price difference between this and the “other” 23 yr old pappy? when i heard about this, my first thought was: oh no, american bourbon makers are trying to copy the marketing crap of the scotch distillers.

    the special johnnie walker blues (astronomically priced) fell flat – i guess that’s why the pappy is only $130 more than the “regular” 23 yr old pappy.

  5. John Hansell says:

    JWC, the proof is higher, so you’re getting a little more. But, you have to ask if the glasses, decanter, and box are worth the extra price. Some will agree, some won’t. Some will see the extra expense being a waste. Others will look at the decanter and glasses and say, “these will make a nice FUNCTIONAL memory of a great whiskey after the whiskey is gone.”

  6. JWC says:

    john, so far, buffalo trace has been very good to its customers and it has generated a ton of goodwill – they haven’t been pulling the same stuff as the scotch distillers (perhaps bc it being bourbon, they’re not in a position to do so). i know the pappy’s are being made by bt – it would have been great if they had come out with this whiskey without all the doo-dads but i doubt people would have paid extra over the other 23 yr old. as a matter of fact, around houston, the 15 yr olds sold out asap, the 20 yr olds – only a few left. the 23 yr olds – still sitting on the shelves.

  7. sku says:

    From what I’ve read, this is a 23 year old Bourbon from Stitzel-Weller stocks, hand picked by Julian Van Winkle. That makes it the equivalent of a Brora or Port Ellen – – rare and collectible, but also a distillery known for good whiskey. Given those comparisons, I think it’s hard to complain too much about the price here, though yes, they have added some bling.

    It’s a big bonus that you can get some Pappy 23 for much less, and I’d love to do a side by side tasting of the two.

  8. Jeff H. says:

    I know I’m not supposed to be swayed by the fancy packaging, but knowing that there’s great whiskey inside, I sure wouldn’t mind having that decanter.

    As for the glasses…old-fashioned style tumblers? Really? Maybe that’s just the bourbon way, but I’d like to at least see a tapered opening. I mean, for $350, you’re going to want to get the most out of all facets of the drinking experience, including the nose.

    I suppose they’re nice looking, though.

  9. Andy says:

    What a sad world it would be if all whisky came in a standard tall round and how miserable it would be for the uneducated consumer who goes in for a bottle at Christmas. It would be like to trying to pick a quality mid priced claret back in the early 90’s.

  10. John Hansell says:

    sku, I think your Port Ellen/Brora analogy is a good one. Yes, there’s bling. But this is a piece of history (coming from the old Stitzel-Weller distiller), and very high quality too.

    One thing I know for sure: If I found this under my Christmas tree later this month, I would not be complaining to Santa.

    And regarding the side-by-side comparison with the standard 23 year old , I did that twice and it was very interesting. I wouldn’t say the flavor profile was identical, but certainly closely related.

  11. sam k says:

    Jeff H, I have no argument with twenty-three year old, 114 proof bourbon being served in wider-mouth glasses. Lighter single malts might need the concentration, sure, but there’s plenty of aroma to be enjoyed regardless of serving vessel with a big bourbon like this.

    Julian wouldn’t lead you astray!

  12. Jeff H. says:

    sam – I guess you could say the same about, say, a Laphroaig 10. I certainly get plenty of aroma from that when drinking out of a tumbler. Problem is, it seems to only be part of the aroma, not the full story.

    It sure seems like a tapered top helps bring together all of the elements better. Maybe it’s all in my head, though.


  13. Scott says:

    We just got in our only set of this and up close it is very impressive. (I’ll post some pics tonight when I get home… can’t do it from work.) Glencairne glassware looks very nice!

  14. […] On the bourbon front, John Hansell talks about this innovative new wheated bourbon finished off in a rye cask. He also gives a 95 rating to Old Rip Van Winkle Family Selection 23 year old. […]

  15. Kevin says:

    If this is just some marketing gimmick (which I doubt it is) they’ve hit me hook, line & sinker. I will definitely be grabbing one, if not two, of these… I have long wished that the 23 year was higher in proof and now I’ve got it, along with anice nox, decanter & glasses.

  16. Scott says:

    Sorry about the wait, my access at home has been really bad past week. Here is the pic of the Pappy 23 in our display case:

  17. John Hansell says:

    Scott, it looks nice! Thanks for posting the pic.

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