Review: Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 Years Old “Lot B” Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey / by Jason Hambrey

Virgin Charred Oak; 12 Years
~70% Corn, 16% Wheat, 14% Malted Barley
Distiller Buffalo Trace (Frankfort, Kentucky)

Yes, this is one of the renowned Van Winkle whiskies - not a Pappy, which represents the whiskies in the lineup that are 15 years+. However, it is very hard to find, and generally overpriced - in Ontario last year the LCBO ran a lottery to decide who got a bottle. The stuff used to be produced at the renowned Stitzel-Weller distillery in Kentucky, but now it is produced by Buffalo Trace. It is a wheated bourbon, which can take some time to come into their own - hence why the older expressions have their own brand and are much more highly sought after. In my opinion, though, the prices on the secondary market simply aren't worth it - if you wanted to know. Pappy 15 in particular is very good, and, having had it, I also know it isn't worth what people pay for it, and tasted blind they wouldn't pay as much for it. Enough of that, how does the 12 taste?

Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2014

The nose is very sweet and fruity, with many dried fruit characteristics reminiscent of brandy. Oak and sweetness are firmly in the center, with corn and grain playing lightly in the background. Lots of dried grain notes too, and tea develops with time. The palate is very sweet, with vanilla-laden oak and wood spice holding the middle of the palate along with developing cinnamon and barrel char. The finish has lightly roasted spices, sweet corn, and more cinnamon and clove. Very good bourbon, but not outstanding.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low, at $120.