Pappy Van Winkle (My article “on Whiskey” for Okra Magazine in New Orleans)

On Whiskey: Pappy Bourbon

On Bourbon, On Whiskey | February 1, 2012 by admin | 2 Comments

TwitterWarren Bobrow is the Food and Drink Editor of the 501c3 non profit Wild Tableon Wild River Review located in Princeton, New Jersey. He attended Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans. He has published over three hundred articles on everything from cocktail mixology to restaurant reviews to travel articles. In addition to OKRA Magazine, Warren writes for Williams-Sonoma’s Blender Blog and Foodista.

Photo by Warren Bobrow

There comes a time in everyone’s drinking history that they aspire to seek the very best that money can buy.  Be it a bottle of wine, a bottle of Port- or in my case a bottle (or two) of Bourbon.  The Holy Grail for my drinking history was reached about five years ago when I received several bottles of pre-1960 Bourbon.

To some, present company included, the gift of a bottle of Bourbon is a high honor.  When FedEx arrived yesterday bearing a rather large box, hailing from Kentucky- I knew something special was inside.  Carefully unwrapping the bottles, their inner glow revealed themselves as the extremely rare and utterly profound bottles of Pappy.

But what is Pappy?

Those of us who follow the art and history of making bourbon aspire someday to be able to taste the liquid charms of Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon.  It’s not inexpensive stuff- I don’t want to quote prices, but you can look that up.  Is this a considerate gift to someone who appreciates the very best?  You can bet your last nickel on it.  But I will tell you, you need to rub your nickels together and hope they meter out a bit more than the amount needed to wet your lips with this magical elixir. There are few bottles of anything distilled that even approach the charm and subtlety of Pappy.

Pappy is not for everyone- just as a bottle of a First Growth wine may not please everyone.  Good taste comes at a price.  But good taste is tough to come by since very few bottles are produced each year.  If you see some on the shelf at your local bar,  it must be a very special place because most people don’t even know about Pappy.

They call their method of making their bourbon “wheated. ” This means the process uses corn, wheat, and, barley instead of corn, rye and, barley.  Pappy ages gently and produces a softer finish than its peers on the bourbon shelf.   They say it ages more gracefully. I say it is unlocked history in your glass.

I would also go so far to say that each taste unlocks more than just memories of the past.  The deeply aromatic flavor of this bourbon helps you create new memories of the present through the finely tuned craftsmanship of the past.

Tasting Notes:

Pappy Van Winkle 15 year- is it me or is the 15-year more powerful than the 20 year?  Well, first let me tell you what’s on the label.  It reads very clearly 107 proof.  The first things I taste are wild gathered acorns on the nose- followed closely by the unmistakable scent of saddle leather.  The heat of the 107 proof touches every part of my mouth and the finish just goes on and on.  This is not your typical Bourbon and cola sip- I think if you were to mix it you’d be on your own.  I’m not suggesting any mixing.  Ok, maybe a sprinkle of Branch.  But that’s it.

Pappy Van Winkle 20 year- Soft dew coated white flowers give way to the flavor that only time in the barrel can give- it’s soft to the tongue- easy to savor- easier to swallow and images of charred wheat bread smeared with sweet butter and apricot jam come into view.  This is very sophisticated stuff- certainly not for just anyone.  In fact just anyone can buy it, but good luck finding it.  Extremely rare.  Entire websites are dedicated to finding out when the next batch will be released- doubtful that you can find it?  Well, you’re halfway there.  The way that this liquor is made- they do so little of it- wealthy people just buy it up.  Again, I’m not telling you how much it costs- but a healthy part of your mortgage payment will just about cover the price of admittance!

Not everyone will like the softer, rounder flavors of Pappy 20.  They might say, save your money and buy one of the overly oaked barrel aged Bourbon varieties that clog the shelves of your local spirit shop.  To me, many of them just taste the same.

Let me tell you- and you can quote me on this.  Pappy 20 and the 15 year old versions are things of rare beauty.  I drank my tastes in a small glass with a polished hunk of Maine granite. (Frozen in the freezer overnight)  You really can do what you want with it as far as mixing or adding ice- but I don’t recommend it- just like I’d never add crushed ice to a glass of the uber-expensive white wine named Le Montrachet. And some people like to do that too!

Of course you can do anything you want, after all it’s your hard-earned money that purchased a bottle.

I’m just saying that it’s just not recommended, so I’m not making any mixing suggestions.  Of course if you want to sprinkle some freshly gathered Branch water over the top, please feel free to do so.   And do so with reverence.

But please enjoy with restraint and create your own memories!