It's time for some rye! Van Winkle rye, made by Julian Van Winkle in conjunction with the Buffalo Trace distillery, is a popular rye whiskey that has been hard to find in Southern California. Lately though, there is some Van Winkle on the shelves at premium liquor shops. I'm a big fan of Buffalo Trace's other ryes: Sazerac, Sazerac 18 year old, and Thomas Handy, so I figured I would try the Van Winkle. Julian Van Winkle sources his own whiskey, and this is thought by many to be a blend of ryes from two distilleries: Bernheim and Medley, though we don't know for certain and it could also be made by Buffalo Trace. (Note to whiskey geeks, this is one of the new "A" series bottles).
Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye, 13 years old, 47.8% alcohol ($70)
The first whiff of this stuff is Bourbony sweetness, they you get flooded with the strong rye spice. The flavor flips that formula on its heads with rye spice in the forefront and a bit of bitterness, followed with some sweetness that lasts into the finish, hand in hand with the bitter. This is a bit less rounded than Buffalo Trace's other ryes and the sweetness and spice feel less integrated, but it gets points for a solid and complex rye flavor. If they could tame the bitter edges, this would be amazing stuff.