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I am new to this Forum but have already received much useful info about bourbon. I have not yet purchased any of the Van Winkle bourbon and have a question regarding these products. There are only two varieties available in my area. One is the 20 yr. Family Reserve ($90-100) and the other is the 12 yr. Van Winkle special reserve ($30-40). I have not seen any mention of the 12 yr. on this forum. Is this the same thing as the 13 yr. which is mentioned plenty? If it is it seems to be highly recommended and if it isn't, what about the 12 yr?
High Desert Whiskey Fan
The 12-year-old Special Reserve Lot "B" is very good, and many people think highly of it. It tends to be overshadowed by the older (and far more expensive) "Pappy" Family Reserves, and honestly it's not the same league as the 20-year-old Pappy (not much is). Your prices are higher in New Mexico than in Kentucky, but I imagine they're proportional. The 12-year-old Special Reserve is only a couple dollars more than Russell's Reserve, and I think of the two as comparable in quality. I easily prefer it to the highly-touted Hirsch (Michter's) 16-year-old. The only reason it's not on my favorites list is that Julian sells some other really fine bourbon and they tend to show up on my "must-have list" instead. If you ever run across 107-proof Old Rip Van Winkle 15-year-old (in the "squat" bottle), I think you'd enjoy it even more, and it's in the same price range. And that same outstanding bourbon, aged an additional five years, is what you'll now find in the bottle of 20-year-old Pappy's Family Reserve. The only word for that one is "outstanding" (well, actually one of the members here had an even more effective description one evening as some of us were tasting at D.Marie's in Louisville. Her evaluation was, "Wow!" - and that said it all). Unfortunately, as you've already noticed, those additional five years will set you back another fifty bucks or so.
The 13-year-old you hear so much about is a rye whiskey, but it's ALMOST a bourbon. Julian sells two rye whiskeys, that one and a 12-year-old in the Old Rip squat bottle that many of us think is the finest rye ever made. According to Julian, the 13-year-old is "just barely legal rye", meaning it was made with just above the legal minimum of 51% rye grain. The result is a "high-corn content" rye that is almost bourbon, and people who really enjoy high-rye bourbon (Old Grand Dad, Old Forester, etc.) love it intensely.
So you're left with a choice between two outstanding examples. Of course, I'd pick both (I have, in fact), but you won't go wrong with either of them. Look around for a liquor store with a wider selection, or check out the mail order stores (Internet Wines&Spirits, SPEC's, Sam's, Spirits of St. Louis, Hi-Times). I think you'll enjoy ANY of Julian Van Winkle's products.
The VW 12YO Lot "B" is an excellent bourbon, and one of my favorites in the medium price range. Even though I find it quite tasty, I have two friends who won't touch the stuff, so it's best to recall just how subjective taste is. Occasionally however, you'll find groups of people caught up in a state of simultaneous cohesive subjectivity, which is why I think you'll find the notion of "Lot B" being superior to Hirsch 16 a real hard sell around here.
As far as the
Just to echo John, you won't go too far wrong with any Van Winkle product.
--Chuck Cowdery (http://cowdery.home.netcom.com)
Welcome to the forum.
Sorry for the high prices you have to pay for my whiskey in NM. I don't have a distributor set up there yet, so NM is handled through a broker in California-which makes the prices higher than elsewhere in the US. I would suggest, as John Lipman suggested, checking with one of the stores that sells over the internet for better prices on my whiskeys. Try the 13-year rye, I think you'll love it. My favorites: the 15-year, 107 proof Old Rip VW before dinner, 20-year "Pappy" after dinner.
Julian Van Winkle
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