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6 Best Pappy Van Winkle Bottles Ranked (2023 Updated)

Last Updated on December 27, 2022 by Lydia Martin

Pappy Van Winkle is serious about making a fine bourbon, but its bourbon fans are more serious about wanting a bottle of this rare and highly coveted spirit. 

The level of aging, its fine-tasting bourbons, and its great reputation are some of the things that set it apart from other bourbons. 

Are you curious about what could be the best Pappy Van Winkle expression? We were lucky enough to score six bottles, so we ranked them for you. Read on.

Top 6 Pappy Van Winkle Bottles (Ranked)

6. Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year

close up shot of Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year Bottle

Average Price: Around $69.99 (MSRP) / $899 (Drizly) for 750ml

Alcohol Content: 53.5% ABV

Why We Like It: Old Rip Van Winkle 10 is bottled as close to the barrel proof with a splash of Kentucky limestone water.

This 10-year bourbon has a distinct flavor profile with dried fruits, oak, and baking spices.

It’s like the entry-level offering of Pappy Van Winkle whiskey for its price, but it has an incredibly creamy texture on the palate.

Its strong notes and high proof don’t have an off-putting taste.

5. Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye 13 Years Old

hand holding bottle of Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye 13 Years Old

Average Price: Around $119.99 (MSRP) / $1,999 (Drizly) for 750ml

Alcohol Content: 47.8%  ABV

Why We Like It: This Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye 13 is one of the oldest rye whiskey available in the market (next to Sazerac Rye) and the only rye whiskey in the family of wheated bourbons.

Even amidst its secret mash bill, you can smell the rich caramel aroma with spice and oak.

It has a broad entry of heat and spice bowled over by rich toffee and some vanilla tasting notes on the palate. 

4. Van Winkle Special Reserve 12-Year-Old

close up shot of Van Winkle Special Reserve 12-Year-Old bottle

Average Price: Around $79.99 (MSRP) / $1,100 (Drizly) for 750ml

Alcohol Content: 45.2% ABV

Why We Like It: Van Winkle Special Reserve 12-year is wheated bourbon whiskey that is remarkably sweet and has full-bodied tasting notes.

It’s one of the best bourbons with a smooth texture but has rich flavors.

This Special Reserve aged whiskey is batched to have a manageable proof using Kentucky limestone water, creating a pleasant and soft mouthfeel.

It’s rich in brown sugar, vanilla, oak cinnamon spices, and a luscious toffee aroma. This bourbon whiskey has a long finish with lingering toffee and vanilla notes.

3. Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 20 Year

Pappy Van Winkle's 20 Year Bourbon Whiskey Bottle

Average Price: Around $199.99 (MSRP) / $2,699 (Drizly) for 750ml

Alcohol Content: 45.2% ABV

Why We Like It: This Pappy bottle is the most awarded of the Pappys. It makes a fine bourbon whiskey that is sometimes mistaken for a fine cognac. 

“We make fine bourbon, at a profit if we can, at a loss if we must, but always fine bourbon.”

– Julian Van Winkle Sr., Master Distiller

You’ll get a sweet and rich oak aroma, but it has a balanced vanilla sweetness, dried fruit, and woody notes on the palate.

It has a rich and long finish with lingering sweet and spicy notes. 

2. Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 15 Year

close up image of Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 15 Year bottle label

Average Price: Around $119.99 (MSRP) / $1,999 (Drizly) for 750ml

Alcohol Content: 53.5% ABV

Why We Like It: Family Reserve 15 is one of the Pappy bottle collections with the highest proof, although it is the youngest.

Unlike the older Pappy bottles, it offers a thicker texture.

It has a full-bodied palate, intense caramel, vanilla notes, and peppery spice flavors.

The finish is long and flavorful, full of lingering sweet oak notes, and ends with spice.

1. Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 23 Year

Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year Bottle on a table

Average Price: Around $299.99 (MSRP) / $3,002 (Drizly) for 750ml

Alcohol Content: 47.8% ABV

Why We Like It: This bottle is the oldest lineup of Pappy but has a lower proof than the 15-year.

This bourbon was initially aged in the Stitzel-Weller distillery until they sourced it to a new facility.

Fun Fact: The 2013 bottlings of 23-year brand expression from Stitzel-Weller might be the last of its kind. 

After Julian Jr died, his son Julian III led the comeback of this flagship, and since 2002, the Family Reserve has been distilled and bottled by the Sazerac Company.

FAQs 

Is Pappy Van Winkle hard to find?

Yes, Pappy Van Winkle bourbon is hard to find in normal liquor stores. In fact, these fine bourbons have become rare in the sight of some avid fan collectors of Pappy.

Can I buy Pappy Van Winkle at the Buffalo Trace Distillery?

No, you can’t buy Pappy Van Winkle at the Buffalo Trace Distillery because of the three-tier system.

From the manufacturer, distributors will sell it to retailers, who then sell it to consumers.

For instance, some buyers would turn to the secondary market, such as the black market, and buy a bottle even if it’s sold far beyond its MSRP. [1]

How often is Pappy Van Winkle released?

The Pappy Van Winkle lineup is released annually, but the allocated bottles of Pappy Van Winkle whiskeys per year can’t keep up with the high demand.

Fact: This year’s 2022 Van Winkle expression release got a higher yield than usual. 

How rare is Pappy Van Winkle 23?

Pappy Van Winkle 23 is rare and the most elusive bourbon that’s nearly impossible to find. It’s always at an all-time high, and its rarity makes it one of the most coveted bottles of bourbon.

Pappy Van Winkle 23 is the most sought-after bourbon among the Van Winkle brands. Nowadays, you are considered fortunate if you have a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 23.

What is the rarest Pappy Van Winkle?

Old Rip Van Winkle 25-year is the rarest expression of Pappy Van Winkles because it has a once-in-a-lifetime limited release from its distillery.

Last 2017, Buffalo Trace released just 710 bottles of this bourbon globally. [2] From its original $1,800 price, today, a bottle of this rare bourbon could cost around $65,000.

How do you drink Pappy Van Winkle?

You should enjoy Pappy Van Winkle bourbons’ smooth, well-aged, complex flavors neat.

You can also make cocktails from it, but its richness best fits on the rocks.

Final Verdict 

Pappy Van Winkle from Sazerac company is considered the rarest and the best bourbon in the world.

Its premium quality became the holy grail for bourbon enthusiasts.

Its bottles have always been in extremely high demand, so you’re lucky if you find one—and when you do find it, it will surely break the bank and cost you thousands of dollars for a bottle.

Drinking fine bourbon is always good when you want a wonderful time. However, if you’re too tight on a budget, you can try other cheaper bourbon whiskey, such as Evan Williams and Maker’s Mark. 

References:

  1. https://www.businessinsider.com/van-winkle-whiskey-listed-retail-price-annual-virginia-bourbon-lottery-2022-3?amp 
  2. https://www.bizjournals.com/louisville/news/2017/02/21/the-oldest-van-winkle-bourbon-ever-to-be-released.html 

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