There are times in life - your wedding day, the birth of a child, in the lodge after a particularly fruitful fishing trip with your dad - when you want to treat yourself to something special. Times when only the best will do. It's time to pour yourself a few fingers of supreme brown elixir and reflect on that makes life worth it.
Bourbon is America’s only true, native spirit. In order to be called Bourbon, a whiskey must meet a number of requirements. There are a few rules around alcohol content at various stages, but importantly: It must be produced in the United States, made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn, be aged in new, charred, white oak barrels, and finally be bottled at no less than 80 proof (40% alcohol by volume).
To be called Straight Bourbon, a whiskey needs at least 2 years in the barrel, but in practice, you don’t want anything less than 4 years old. Any Straight Bourbon less than 4 years old must list its age on the bottle.
There are any number of excellent bourbons that deserve a space on your shelf, but today is special. Today you want the best.
Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 23 Year is thought of by many as the best bourbon in the world. Pappy is extremely rare – one reporter from The Wall Street Journal went so far as to call it “Unobtanium” and said that its “…so popular even billionaires can’t find it.” Louisville Magazine calls it “The best bourbon you will never taste”. Indeed, a bottle of Pappy 23 carries an MSRP of $269.99, but due to its scarcity, bottles regularly go for between $3,000 and $5,000 dollars.
The story of Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve starts in 1910 when Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle’s liquor wholesaler W.L. Weller and Sons bought the A. PH. Stitzle Distillery in Louisville Kentucky. The new Stitzle-Weller firm brought to market a line of Whiskeys under the “Old Rip Van Winkle moniker. During Prohibition, the Stitzle-Weller firm maintained a license issued by the U.S. government to produce whiskey for medicinal purposes. In 1972, Julian Van Winkle Jr. reintroduced the Rip Van Winkle brand, and began selling these incredible Whiskeys.
Those who have had the great fortune of tasting this legendary whiskey report that it is rich and spicy, with hints of oak wood, tobacco, and chocolate, with a long sweet finish. All seem to agree that it is incredible stuff.
If you ever encounter a bottle Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 23 Year, do not hesitate. Buy it immediately before someone else beats you to it. It is a worthy splurge. When the occasion is right, crack the bottle and pour yourself a drink. Serve in a snifter. Neat