Liquor Laboratory

Pappy Van Winkle 20-Year Bourbon Review (2024 Edition)

Pappy Van Winkle 20-Year Bourbon Review 

Last Updated on March 8, 2024 by Lydia Martin

For those considering Pappy Van Winkle expressions, you might have come across their 20-Year bourbon. 

If you’re hesitating to try this expression, read our Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year Bourbon review to assess if this is something you need to grab onto or look for the next option.   

In-Depth Review On Pappy Van Winkle 20-Year Bourbon

Bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 20 year

Like the other Van Winkle bourbons, this 20-year-old Van Winkle is made with wheat instead of the traditional rye. It is one of the favorite wheated bourbons today. 

This bottle was originally made at the old Stitzel & Weller distillery, which closed around 20 years ago.

Pre-prohibition, this brand was called the Old Rip Van Winkle. But at present, Pappy Van Winkle’s products are made at the Buffalo Trace facility. 

Quick Facts 

DistilleryBuffalo Trace Distillery 
Classification & RegionWheated bourbon/Kentucky, USA
Alcohol Proof45.2% ABV 
Mash BillWheated mash bill (No rye with around 15% wheat mash)
Age Statement20-Year Old 
ColorGolden oak
Average PriceAround $199.99 (MSRP)

What’s Pappy Van Winkle 20-Year?

This 20-Year Van Winkle Bourbon is a wheated expression made from the wheated mash bill of the Buffalo Trace Distillery.

It has the same mash bill as most of E.H. Taylor, Benchmark, and Old Charters’ bourbons. 

“Sophisticated and full of character, this is a very special whiskey with a wonderfully smooth, rich taste.”

— Paul Pacult, Spirits Journalist

Aged for 20 years, it is bottled at 90.4 proof, which creates its perfectly smooth and rich tasting notes. Also, it’s full of character, making a truly remarkable whiskey. 

Other must-try bottles from Pappy are: 

  • Special Reserve 12-Year
  • Pappy Van Winkle 15 and 23 Years 
  • Family Reserve Rye 13-Year 
  • 10-Year-Old Rip Van Winkle 

Tasting Profile 

Pappy Van Winkle 20-Year Bourbon Bottle and a Glass


We like the aromas of butterscotch, black cherries, honey, and toffee with hints of vanilla bean, oak, and milk chocolate on the nose. 


So a good palate, full of characteristics with a refreshing lemon hint and savory flavor of brownies, vanilla, cinnamon, maple, and raisins.

Actually, you can expect the major flavor categories in this bottle. 

A combo of bitter, sour, and sweet spice notes on the palate gives a delightful experience. 


It delivers a long, dry finish with oak and woody taste and sweet cherry, leather, caramel, maple, and vanilla notes.

But as it goes down the throat, the cherry flavor lingers with some hint of spicy notes of cinnamon and burnt caramel.   

Why We Like It 

  • This Pappy 20-Year Family Reserve is a perfectly aged whiskey, but it isn’t too complex. 
  • It’s a perfectly-made dessert that pairs well with pinto beans, cornbread, and fried potatoes. 
  • The combination of sweet and spicy tastes is a delight to the mouth.
  • It’s smooth and satisfying, with good dessert flavors and an enticing nose. Besides, it’s comparable to Scotch.      


Man Holding Pappy Van Winkle 20-Year Bourbon
  • It’s a wheated bourbon whiskey, so there are no hints of rye spices. (If you’re a rye fanatic, you may pass on this one.)
  • The oak and woody notes aren’t that transparent despite the long aging process. So, if you like oak and earth tones, we suggest looking for another bottle.
  • It’s rare and difficult to find, similar to other Van Winkle bourbons.    

What The Experts Say About Pappy 20-Yr 

According to experts, Pappy 20-Year is a one-of-a-kind bottle packed with quality and impressive flavors. 

As we interviewed other aficionados, they call Pappy the “holy grail” of bourbons.

Even our club specialist says the same thing about this expression, and upon tasting it, we can’t help but agree. 

In fact, celeb chef Anthony Bourdain once said, “If ever God made bourbon, this is what he’d make.” 

Pappy Van Winkle 20-Year Rating 

We give this expression a perfect 5-star rating.  

Although it’s hard to find and expensive, it has the excellent quality, good flavors (from the nose to the palate), and a satisfying finish.

So, it’s well worth the money, time, and effort.  

Do We Recommend It?

Man Holding Pappy Van Winkle 20-Year Bourbon, Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year bourbon Review

Yes, we recommend this 20-Year expression from Pappy. It has flaws, but considering all the positive points, it’s worth it.  

Serious fanatics and drinkers would agree that Pappy bottles are excellent in their own way and a must-have in every bar and home bar.  

But, if you can’t find Pappy these days, you should opt for alternatives. We recommend the following: 

  • Weller 
  • Benchmark
  • Old Charter
  • E.H. Taylor  

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Where can you buy Pappy Van Winkle 20-year bourbon?

You can buy Pappy Van Winkle in liquor shops, but the supply is limited. The recent Fall 2022 release of Pappy is getting sold out, so finding a bottle can be really challenging. Also, the price is increasing, depending on the store. 

Is Pappy Van Winkle’s 20-year bourbon hard to find?

Yes, the Pappy Van Winkle 20YO is hard to find due to the limited supply [1], exceeding the high demand. 

What does Pappy 20 year taste like?

Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year is renowned for its exquisite taste, characterized by a rich and complex flavor profile that captivates the senses. This rare bourbon offers a harmonious blend of sweetness, warmth, and depth, with prominent notes of caramel, vanilla, and oak.

The aging process imparts a smoothness that distinguishes it from younger counterparts, while subtle hints of dried fruits, leather, and a touch of spice contribute to its sophisticated and well-balanced taste.

The long, lingering finish adds to the overall allure, leaving enthusiasts with a memorable and indulgent experience.

Is Pappy Van Winkle a good investment?

While Pappy Van Winkle is undeniably celebrated for its exceptional taste, its status as a good investment is a subject of much debate. The limited supply and high demand have driven up prices, making it a sought-after collector’s item.

However, the investment value depends on individual perspectives and market trends. Some argue that the steep prices may not be sustainable in the long term, while others believe the rarity and prestige associated with Pappy Van Winkle could lead to continued appreciation.

Potential investors should carefully consider their motivations, recognizing that the primary allure lies in the sensory experience rather than guaranteed financial returns.

Why is Pappy so expensive?

Pappy Van Winkle’s reputation for being expensive stems from a combination of factors that contribute to its exclusivity and high demand. The limited production, meticulous aging process, and strict quality standards set by the Van Winkle family result in a scarce supply.

Additionally, the bourbon has gained a cult following due to its exceptional taste, winning numerous awards and garnering widespread acclaim. This popularity has driven collectors, enthusiasts, and investors to vie for the limited bottles available, further escalating prices in the secondary market.

The mystique surrounding Pappy Van Winkle, coupled with its scarcity and exceptional quality, all contribute to its premium price tag.

How rare is Pappy 20?

Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year is exceptionally rare due to its limited production and the meticulous craftsmanship involved in its creation. The Van Winkle family produces a small number of barrels each year, and the 20-year aging process further diminishes the available stock.

The rarity is compounded by the fact that the demand far exceeds the supply, with enthusiasts, collectors, and investors eagerly seeking out this elusive bourbon.

As a result, acquiring a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year has become a challenging and highly competitive endeavor, adding to its allure and making it a prized possession among whiskey connoisseurs worldwide.

Why is Pappy so popular?

Pappy Van Winkle’s popularity is driven by a combination of factors that contribute to its legendary status in the world of bourbon. Its exceptional taste, crafted through a meticulous aging process, results in a flavor profile that resonates with enthusiasts seeking a unique and sophisticated drinking experience.

Furthermore, the limited production quantities, coupled with the Van Winkle family’s commitment to quality, create an aura of exclusivity that adds to the bourbon’s allure.

Awards and accolades, along with a mystique built over decades, have turned Pappy Van Winkle into a symbol of prestige and connoisseurship, fueling its widespread popularity.

What is the most expensive Pappy whiskey?

The Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 23 Year is the most expensive among the Pappy lineup. This ultra-aged bourbon, with a remarkable aging process that imparts unparalleled complexity and depth, commands a premium price in the market.

The scarcity of barrels that meet the family’s stringent standards for this extended aging period, combined with the high demand for this particular expression, contributes to its elevated price tag.

Collectors and enthusiasts often seek out the Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year as the pinnacle of the brand’s offerings, making it a coveted and prized possession for those fortunate enough to acquire a bottle.

Why is Pappy so hard to get?

The scarcity of Pappy Van Winkle is primarily attributed to the limited production quantities and the meticulous aging process employed by the Van Winkle family.

Each year, only a small number of barrels are produced, and the aging periods range from 10 to 23 years, further reducing the available stock. The high demand for Pappy, fueled by its exceptional taste, awards, and prestige, far exceeds the limited supply.

This intense demand has led to a competitive and challenging environment for enthusiasts and collectors alike, making it difficult to secure a bottle through traditional retail channels. As a result, Pappy Van Winkle has become a rare and sought-after commodity, contributing to its elusive nature.

How do you drink Pappy Van Winkle?

Pappy Van Winkle is best enjoyed neat or with a few drops of water to unlock its complex flavors without diluting them excessively. Sipping this exceptional bourbon allows the nuances of its rich and well-balanced flavor profile to shine. Some enthusiasts prefer using a tulip-shaped glass to concentrate the aromas, while others may choose a classic rocks glass.

The slow sipping process allows the drinker to savor the intricate layers of caramel, vanilla, oak, and subtle spices that define Pappy’s taste. Alternatively, some may opt for an ice ball or cube to slightly chill the whiskey, altering the drinking experience by muting certain flavors and emphasizing others.

Ultimately, the choice of how to drink Pappy Van Winkle is a personal one, with enthusiasts savoring it in ways that enhance their appreciation of this rare and exceptional bourbon.

What’s the big deal with Pappy Van Winkle?

The allure of Pappy Van Winkle lies in its exceptional reputation as one of the finest bourbons globally, earning a cult-like following among whiskey enthusiasts and collectors.

The mystique surrounding Pappy is fueled by its limited production, meticulous aging process, and the Van Winkle family’s unwavering commitment to quality, creating a rare and sought-after bourbon that embodies exclusivity, prestige, and unparalleled taste.

What does Pappy taste like?

Pappy Van Winkle is celebrated for its rich and complex flavor profile, characterized by a harmonious blend of sweetness, warmth, and depth. With prominent notes of caramel, vanilla, and oak, this bourbon offers a smooth and well-balanced taste that distinguishes it from its counterparts.

The aging process imparts a luxurious smoothness, while subtle hints of dried fruits, leather, and a touch of spice contribute to a sophisticated and memorable drinking experience.

The long, lingering finish adds to the overall complexity, making Pappy Van Winkle a sensory delight for those fortunate enough to savor it.

What tastes most like Pappy?

While Pappy Van Winkle is renowned for its distinct and unparalleled taste, some bourbons share similar characteristics, offering enthusiasts alternatives to explore.

Brands like William Larue Weller, George T. Stagg, and Old Forester Birthday Bourbon are often noted for their complex flavor profiles, high proof, and well-aged expressions, drawing comparisons to Pappy.

However, it’s important to note that each bourbon has its unique nuances, and while some may resemble Pappy, the experience of tasting the original remains unparalleled.

Is Pappy Van Winkle sweet?

Yes, Pappy Van Winkle is known for its pronounced sweetness, a defining characteristic that contributes to its broad appeal. The sweetness in Pappy is derived from the aging process and the high-quality grains used in its production.

Caramel and vanilla notes are particularly prominent, creating a luscious and indulgent sweetness that complements the other complex flavors.

This sweetness, however, is impeccably balanced with the warmth of oak, subtle spice, and other nuanced elements, ensuring that Pappy’s sweetness is part of a multifaceted and well-crafted flavor profile.

To Sum It Up about Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year Bourbon Review

Undoubtedly, Pappy Van Winkle is a grand slam, winning awards and recognitions from different competitions and tasting events.

It’s one of the sought-after bourbons many whiskey hunters aim to find.

In our experience with the 2022 release of this 20-Year Old [2], it has the right balance, body, and mouthfeel. It lacks proof and complexity, so we recommend it for beginners. 

Some serious whiskey fans may find this stuff too simple, but considering the overall character, it’s an excellent and attractive expression– definitely a must-have. 


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