Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Review

Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Review

After finally trying the Old Rip Van Winkle 10 I can fully say… I don’t get the hype. That’s not to say that it’s not phenomenal bourbon, because it absolutely is, but I’m not exactly sure it’s worth all of the hype. True this is the only one of the Van Winkle family I have tried so I can’t really be considered an authority on all things Van Winkle (yet), but at least for the 10 it’s not worth standing in line for hours or paying 3x+ retail for a bottle.

The Van Winkle’s got into the bourbon business when Julian (aka Pappy) was a traveling salesman for W.L. Weller and Sons wholesale house (of the W.L. Weller bourbon fame) until he and a friend bought Weller and the A. Ph. Stitzel Distillery that made bourbon for Weller. Pappy then ran the company and oversaw operations for over 30 years. Upon his death in 1965 his son Julian Jr. Took over.

In 1972 Julian Van Winkle was forced, by stockholders, to sell the distillery and it’s brands (W.L. Weller, Old Fitzgerald, Rebel Yell and Cabin Still) to other distilleries and companies. After the sell Julian Jr. brought back a pre-prohibition label he managed to keep the rights to called Old Rip Van Winkle and he used old stocks from the Stitzel-Weller distillery to fuel his brand.

Julian Jr. died in 1981 and his son Julian Van Winkle III took over and in 2001 Julian’s son Preston Van Winkle joined the operation to continue making the family’s renowned wheated bourbon. Rather recently the Van Winkles and the famed Buffalo Trace Distillery joined forces and all of the Van Winkle whiskey is now produced at Buffalo Trace under strict supervision by the family.

The motto of the Van Winkle family is “We make fine bourbon. At a profit if we can, at a loss if we must, but always fine bourbon” and I have to say the Old Rip 10 definitely keeps with that motto. Overall I loved this bourbon and if it were easier to get a hold of it would be a daily drinker. It’s wonderfully round and smooth with a complex yet balanced flavor and aroma. Should you get the chance to try it don’t hesitate, it’s a great bourbon experience.

If you’ve tried Old Rip Van Winkle 10 I’d love to see what you think in the comments below.

Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Review

ABV: 53.5%
Price: $43
Distiller: Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery / Buffalo Trace

Ruby caramel

I love the smell of this bourbon. Thick rich caramel, vanilla and cherries exude from the bottle. Bourbon spice, oak, dark fruit leather, sweet grains and baking spices round out an aroma that walks the line of too sweet but manages to keep it’s balance.

Sometimes the nose of a whiskey can be deceiving, but that’s definitely not the case here. Caramel, vanilla and cherries again lead the charge across the palate with sweet grains corn, light oak and a touch of cinnamon bringing up the rear. The palate is a bit spicier than the nose, but delicious throughout.

Rather low heat (burn) and remarkably thick. It’s smooth and warm going down with an overall effortless feel to it.

A Medium finish that starts out with bourbon spice and fades to oak and caramel.

SCORE: 93/100

Josh Peters

Josh Peters

I read about, think about, write about, and drink whisk(e)y. In short, it's my passion.
Josh Peters

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12 Responses to Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Review

  1. Full disclosure- I got this for 50 bucks from a liquor store I frequent. I know, I’m quote blessed- because those odds are one in a million.

    Anyway, this bourbon is perhaps my all time favorite. And considering it was only 50 bucks to me, that tops many higher price competitors like the George T Stagg.

    But after having the pappy 20, well…. There’s a reason it goes for that much. It’s the best. The nose on both are just superb. Like a candle should burn that scent. The taste? Goosebumps. Nothing else does that (save the Russell’s single Barel). And the finish is a nice warm glow in the chest- the perfect amount of burn.

    Anyway, I love the 10, but agree that the price point is a bit much anywhere else. It’s better to use your energy to find the more elusive 20 year. And trust me, that’s worth almost all the Trouble in the world!

  2. “I don’t get the hype. That’s not to say that it’s not phenomenal bourbon, because it absolutely is, but I’m not exactly sure it’s worth all of the hype. True this is the only one of the Van Winkle family I have tried so I can’t really be considered an authority on all things Van Winkle (yet), but at least for the 10 it’s not worth standing in line for hours or paying 3x+ retail for a bottle.”

    Don’t forget you’re talking about their entry level product here. The 10 year old doesn’t even carry the “Pappy” brand. Normally you wouldn’t “stand in line for hours” for this one, but you just might want to for the Pappy line (15, 20, and 23). I’ve tasted only the Pappy 15 and the Van Winkle 12 yr (a year apart however) and going by memory, which can be tricky, I think I liked the 12 year just as much, because it wasn’t overly okay like the 15 was. So go figure. I’ve got an unopened bottle of 15 that I will crack open one of these days when the right special occasion comes along.

  3. This is really one of the finest bourbons on the market and is my preference of the entire Van Winkle line, just stellar in all respects and deserving of the 93 rating by you. I agree with you on the hype about lines and jacked up prices. I am fortunate to have a long time relationship with a liquor retailer which kindly sets a bottle aside for me each year at normal price. I really enjoy your reviews. Thanks.

  4. People love to say the Old Rip “isn’t Pappy” but the reality is the Old Rip Van Winkle brand was the one that started it all. Your review is spot on, in that it says this is an incredible bourbon. Hype and secondary pricing shouldn’t detract from what the product actually is. I understand that people get angry when they can’t find a bottle, and they like to bash the name accordingly, but all things being equal, I don’t know of a better ten year bourbon in the world.

  5. I have close to a hundred bourbons in my collection and this one is my absolute favorite! Can drink this anytime and anywhere, by myself, with friends, after a meal or even just a sip in the morning. Most of the others just sit now. I have all of the Pappy’s except the 23 year (even the 20 year is a bit too oaky for me) and this 10 year is without a doubt my favorite of them all. It is just perfect for me. Incredible flavors remind me of cooked caramel, honey, vanilla cream and sometimes a little roasted nut flavor in there and even more. And the 107 proof gives it that perfect amount of kick.

    I’ll share a trick that I learned too when I couldn’t get any for several months. Take 10 ounces of Weller Antique (107 proof) and add one ounce of Weller 12 year (is much more available now) and you honestly just about cannot tell the difference between that and the Van Winkle 10 year. (Or try 10 oz Weller 107, 1/2 oz Weller 12 year and 1/2 oz Stagg JR 🙂

    The ONLY other bourbon that competes with this one for me is William Larue Weller which I just started this year. I can only sip that one because it’s just so hot at between 135-140 proof. But, man, what amazing flavor!

    Love your site!

  6. I’ve been fortunate to get 3 bottle of the 10 year old rip van winkle and just one of the 12 year lot B bottles over the past two years. The 12 year blows away the 10 year and although I haven’t had to, I would now stand in line for several hours to get another bottle of the lot B. Best bourbon I’ve ever had and I have about a 50 bottle bar/collection that I sample often. Wheated is the way to go in my opinion. If you can get the 12 year it’s worth whatever you have to pay.

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