The first thing we noticed about the 15-year-old Pappy was how dark it is in the glass. It has a dark amber, almost mahogany color, which is the darkest color in our 33 Whiskies books. Its aroma balances sweetness and strong alcohol. The alcohol is clearly evident in its scent, but it also hints at candy. Rachel said she detected a touch of chocolate in it. This bourbon’s flavor has some fun playfulness going on. The 15-year carries the fire and spice you’d expect at 107 proof, but it also has the perfect amount of toffee sweetness to balance it out. The result is a very well-rounded, full-bodied taste with a nice finish that lingers for quite a while.
All of our Pappy hunting yielded only the 12-year-old Special Reserve and this bottle of Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 15-year-old for our home bar. (To be fair, though, we found several liquor stores that carried one bottle of the 12-year, which we promptly bought and gave as gifts to people we love enough to share Pappy with.) I was a little worried that all the hunting raised our expectations to an unreasonable level, and that we’d be unsatisfied once we finally popped these Van Winkles open. That was not the case. Both the 12- and 15-year-olds taste fantastic.