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Review: Old Rip Van Winkle 10 year Bourbon (107 Proof)

This past weekend, while traveling, I was able to locate a bottle of Old Rip Van Winkle 10 year 107 Proof bourbon. I reviewed the 90 proof version of this whiskey about a year ago. Let’s take a look and see how the higher proof version fares.

Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year Bourbon, 53.5% abv (107 Proof), $45/bottle
As you might imagine, Old Rip Van Winkle (ORVW) 10 Year 107 brings a very similar flavor profile as the 90 proof version. It does so with a bit more punch and vigor however. The nose opens with toffee, maple syrup, rum soaked bananas, and rich, dark fruits (dates, figs). Things really shine on the palate, which is more concentrated and syrupy than its little brother. Toffee sweetness, caramelized nuts, coffee and cinnamon toast are most prevalent. The vanilla and toasted oak are prevalent throughout. With a splash of water more fruitiness emerges. ORVW 10 year 107 finishes with toasted oak, nutty toffee, and a warm hum of spices (cinnamon and clove).

Your chances of finding this one over a Pappy 15 is likely 3-4 times better. That’s only a guess, but I’d say that’s accurate based on my experience. The 107 proof point serves this whiskey well, concentrating the flavor and bringing more depth and force to the party. The price I found is certainly higher than it was last year, but in comparison to some other whiskeys in this range I still recommend it highly.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.1 (Superb/Outstanding)

33 Comments

  1. Ryan says:

    Hi Jason, I recently bought a bottle of this (only $40 here) as my introduction into the Van Winkle family, and I’ve had a few drams. I’m curious, how does it compare to Pappy 15? Are they vastly different animals, or is Pappy 15 kind of like a ORVW “step-up?” I’m curious because I was actually a bit underwhelmed by ORVW, despite it’s obvious high quality. It’s very enjoyable, but maybe I just need some rye spice to take it to the next level. So, I’m wondering if Pappy 15 is even a worthwhile pursuit for me, as it’s a real stretch on my whisky budget.

  2. Hey Ryan –

    I haven’t had ORVW in a while so I can’t comment on it vs the 15 (and certainly not the new 15). However… I think the next level that you’re missing on ORVW is actually age. There’s something great that happens to wheaters as they get older. At least my 2 cents.

    Maybe the Pappy isn’t worth it, especially given all the what-have-you involved in scoring a bottle, but something like a Parker’s Heritage wheater might be up your alley and more easily found…

  3. Michael says:

    I’ve obtained 20, 15, and Lot B this year. 23 was commonly available but too dear…by far. And I think most like the 20 as much if not more….

    The Lot B was 51 dollars. It was the best dollar for bourbon I’ve ever spent. The 20 is wonderful but 130 dollars. If it cost 200 it would be worth it, because it is priceless in my opinion. The best bourbon I ever want to taste. The 15 also, but too hot for the flavors to shine. And I mean shine…Like they do in the 20….but also the Lot B. Damn I am embarrassed to admit how fast it went. But it was cheaper than Blantons around here. They simply are in different leagues of taste. Blantons used to be my favorite. Now I realize how terribly overpriced IT is.
    I was really hoping the the Old Rip would be 30 dollars, but I never found any! But at $45, it better be almost as good as Lot B. And it sounds from what you guys say, it isn’t.

  4. Andrew says:

    @ Ryan — I think Jason has proven with the variety of his reviews that there are plenty of good bourbons/whiskeys out there at a variety of price points. If the ORVW is not to your taste profile and you like rye, you might try the Rittenhouse Rye. Similar limited distribution and so will give you the same challenge as PVW in finding a bottle but at a much lower price point.

    http://sourmashmanifesto.com/category/reviewsratings/rittenhouse/

  5. Ryan says:

    Hey R.C. and Andrew, thanks for the comments.

    R.C., I’m sure I’ve heard Jason say the same thing about wheaters. I guess that 10 years isn’t enough to do it, which is surprising to me.

    Andrew, I wasn’t saying I need a straight rye – I love bourbon – but what I was trying to say is that I felt like ORVW is missing “something.” Since I don’t have much experience with wheated bourbon, I was thinking that maybe I am just not a wheated-bourbon guy, and maybe the “something” is just the normal rye-recipe.

    Anyway, what I get out of both your comments is: no need to be Pappy-obsessed just because everyone else is! If what ORVW is missing to me is just more age (and more money), then maybe it’s something I should just not worry about. I would hate to spend $70 and be underwhelmed… Thanks.

  6. Todd Clingman says:

    I understand the idea of age with wheaters as I struggle with OWA sometimes. But it does improve with some air, and a blend of OWA and Weller 12 is very good. That being said, it still doesn’t measure up to ORVW 10/107. I got quite a few in the summer, and they have been excellent. I enjoy the difference between the 10/107 and the lot B, it is a great choice to have. Yes, the 15, old or new, is superior, but not exactly an everyday pour for most people. The Weller blend brings the differences of proof and age together nicely as an affordable daily drinker. I have found the newer 10/107s to have more in the way of spice than the older ones. As hard as it may be, drink some and let the bottle sit w month or two, the changes are a noticeable improvement.

  7. Ryan – this a bit of a cliche, but it’s true. Taste is obviously subjective. There is really no way for me to tell you that paying the $70+ for Pappy will be worth it for you. I think it’s clearly one of the best bourbons on the planet, but it would be up to you to ultimately decide if it’s worth the leap. I advise people to stay in their budget. Like you and very good website, I am big on value. To me there is tremendous value in a bottle of Pappy 15. Yes you pay for it, but when you consider how much whiskeys can cost – I feel it should be classified as a great value.

    The ORVW 107 is CLEARLY a descendant for sure in my mind, but there’s something transformative in wheated whiskey. I don’t think it happens at 7-10 years, but I think it starts in the 10-12 range and begins to down slide after 15 or so years. Consider it ONLY a theory of mine based on what I taste and absolutely zero scientific fact.

  8. AaronWF says:

    Ryan, give your bottle of ORWV a few weeks to breath; I really think it gets monumentally better the longer it stays open. I think 10 years is plenty of time for this stuff, and to my palate, the ORVW 10/107 far outshines the Lot ‘B’.

  9. Tim (Reg Chumpington), I agree with your wheater assessment re: age. That’s the biggest difference to me – more dimension, more savory flavors, more layering. Cheers.

  10. Michael, thanks for the comments and the thoughts. I think the 107 is right there with Lot B. I definitely believe it to be every bit as good. Very close.

  11. Ryan says:

    Thanks again everyone for their comments! Jason, I hear you about taste being subjective. But, I thank you for still answering my question anyway. It’s a shame that wheaters can’t be great until they get old and expensive! I think it’ll be one of those I have to wait until I can get a dram off someone to try, or get a bottle for a gift. Given that ORVW at this point is only a “maybe buy again” for me, I can’t justify dropping the big bucks on Pappy, when there’s so much else out there to try.

    Aaron and Todd, very interesting that both of you mentioned letting the ORVW sit! Very unusual. I will try it though. I’ll take my time with it, and hold off on judgement. Luckily I got a nice bottle of scotch for Christmas that’s keeping me occupied at the moment ;-)

  12. Ryan, as a rule of thumb, I never judge the first pour from a bottle. It’s a meet and greet only with that first pour for me. These bottles are 90-100+ proof alcohol with a smidge of air in there. Mentally I picture a back draft type scenario whereas the rush of oxygen immediately starts a raging fire. The results can be a shade “off” from the true bones/guts of the whiskey. It’s trapped in there and needs to get out. From that point things always get better for me. In short – the first pour I don’t feel is usually an accurate representation of the whiskey itself.

    I’m expounding on Theory, and not scientific fact, left and right today, but this is nine times out of 10 the case for me. If you ever taste a whiskey and it tastes disjointed (you can clearly taste where the sweetness stops, the oak begins, the alcohol punch, etc vs. a cohesive, well integrated sip) and it was the first pour from the bottle, that COULD be a primary reason.

    And finally Ryan, I don’t mean to discount young wheated whiskeys. As an example, I am often criticized about my thoughts on Old Weller Antique 107, a whiskey that I realize has tight relationship to whiskeys I rate far higher (Pappy, ORVW). The seeming hypocrisy there is not lost on me. For me OWA 107, has a big rush of front end flavor and just falls flat off the “cliff” from there. The proof out runs the bourbon. This is a common theme I see with younger wheaters. That however is MY thoughts and is not meant to sway or alter others opinions over a whiskey (OWA107) I am in the minority on. Most love it. I think the Special Reserve (90 proof) version is better.

    Finally, young wheaters might fit someone else’s palate well vs. older stuff. Everyone has their faves. I just want to clarify that just because I feel this way in general terms (about age and wheated bourbons) doesn’t make it so.

  13. Yep, I call it ‘F.N.D.D.’, ‘First Night Disappointing Dram’. I found a bottle of 2000 Evan Williams SB, and the first dram seemed way to woody for my tastes. Now, I love it, and it continues to improve even after a month. I’ve had the same think with single malt scotch (Balvenie), ryes, even Irish blends (bushmills 1608). I do sometimes get a bottle that stays the same from when I first open it (Stranahan’s). I’ve had some that have seemed to go down hill and get less interesting as well, but not often.

  14. Ryan says:

    Jason, you’re right that we should be careful about generalizing about wheaters or anything else. The only wheaters I’ve had are ORVW107 and Makers Mark. What I found is that ORVW is much like MM, only better. Yet, despite the higher quality and delivery, it still doesn’t wow me in any way. I feel like something that “good” should wow me. Since it doesn’t, that makes me think I’m just not a wheat guy. I certainly know that some other people will love ORVW, and even MM. I enjoy them both, they just don’t do anything magical for me like a lot of other whiskies do.

    Personally, I love the first pour, and I don’t generally find my opinion changing too much afterward. I feel like after a half hour in the glass, the new bottle effect has worn off, and I generally nurse a glass for a good hour or two. Anyway, I’ve had ORVW a couple times now, and the problem wasn’t any sort of disjointedness, it was just the absence of any “wow factor.”

    Thanks for the discussion, I love it! Really helps to better understand all that whiskey has to offer.

  15. Nate Cleveland says:

    Again, I’m hijacking a thread to talk about another whiskey…

    Chris, as a Colorado boy, I love the mention of Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey! I think it is one of the great new American whiskeys. It’s been a little hard to forecast what will happen with Stranahan’s – bought by Proximo Spirits this year, then their master distiller Jake Norris left – but I think it is a very good and unique whiskey. Would LOVE to see an older version of it.

    Jason, have you had this? What are your thoughts? Any chance of a review?

  16. Tom says:

    I generally agree with the 10 year wheated expressions being underwhelming compared to some with age. With that being said, I agree with Regular Chumpington about the Parker’s heritage 4th release 10 year, since it was one of my favorite bourbons from last year. This is an exception compared to many of the other examples since its a limited release and they had the opportunity to pick the very best casks to work with, but it goes to show that there’s room for 10 year old wheated whiskies. And even though its a higher price, the cask strength makes it feel like you’re getting more for your money.

    I’m amazed how much some retailers are over charging for the pappy expressions to take advantage of the current hype. It’s a shame since it makes them even less accessible to those who haven’t had an opportunity to pick up a bottle and are on a budget. Jason, I agree that the 15 year is the best value for the quality, and in my opinion, the current release lives up to the SW juice without a doubt.

  17. Time will tell with Stranahan’s. I was at the distillery about a month and a half ago, and things were looking good. They had recently installed another wash still, and had also installed some new larger fermentation vessels. They just released there special ‘Snowflake’ bottling about a week ago. I spotted the special barrel of it when I was one the tour (Syrah barrel? can’t remember). And you probably heard about the deal they signed with Breckenridge Brewery. So I guess we’ll see. I imagine their new owner is thinking about expansion. They own the entire block that the distillery is set on, so they certainly have room. As was brought up in the discussion about Beam buying Cooley, these big guys don’t want to mess with the ‘Goose that lays the gold eggs’. So, hopefully, things will only expand, improve, and maybe even get cheaper. I’ve only been able to do a real nosing/tasting on batch #75, so I have no idea If the quality has been effected. I’ve had the older stuff, but on ice a while ago at a friends house and wasn’t paying to much attention. The bottle I have (#75) is excellent. Love it. They have at least up to batch #77 that I have seen. thought about getting a bottle, but picked up an ’10 George T Stagg instead:)

  18. JDW says:

    Hey Ryan,

    There is a huge difference between the rowdy upstart ORVW 10 Year 107 and the elegant Pappy 15 Year. While the ORVW is edgy, even punchy, the 15 Year is much richer, rounder, and cognac-like. You might try the Pappy 15 at a bar and decide for yourself whether you want to purchase a bottle. To give wheaters a square deal, you might sample last year’s Parker’s Heritage (superlative), Old Charter 10 Year (only $20 in WA) or the OC 13 Year Proprietor’s Reserve. Very Special Old Fitzgerald is another superb wheater. Enjoy!

  19. Steve says:

    I recently was able to find several bottles of both ORVW 10/107 and PVW 15. I have to say the ORVW 10/107 is really nice, one of the best bourbons I have tried so far. Wife and I are saving the first PVW 15 for January 17 at 10 pm, which is the season premier of the third season of “Justified” which is not only one of the best shows on television, but also a showcase for Kentucky bourbon!!

  20. JWC says:

    Old Charter is not a wheater. A more accessible (at least in Texas) and affordable but very good wheater is Weller 12 yo. As others have noted, all wheaters are better with aeration and, in my opinion, a little bit of water – brings out other flavors and makes the bourbon richer and rounder.

  21. JWC says:

    Steve, did you see the episode of “Justified” where one character makes a big deal about PVW and then mixes it with coffee? I would have shot the SOB on the spot for either being THAT pretentious or stupid.

  22. Steve says:

    JWC,

    Yeah, we saw that! Rest assured we won’t be mixing our PVW with anything!

  23. woodisgood says:

    Eagerly awaiting your next post, Jason! Looking forward to your thoughts on the latest Saz 18.

  24. Woodisgood, the Saz18 will be up soon. Cheers and thanks for visiting and commenting.

  25. Ryan Wainwright says:

    I have referenced many of your reviews and I agree with them all on the Van Winkle line.I look forward to one one the 23yr. and 13yr. rye which has been the only one to be elusive for purchase.

  26. Thanks Ryan. I hope to hit up both soon, but so far I don’t have any on hand. Perhaps later this year. Cheers!

  27. Colonel Angus says:

    I’m a big fan of the entire Pappy line. I have to say that the 20yr is very smooth and but the 23yr is damn near perfect. Just too pricey!
    I stay away from Colorado Whiskey. They know nothing about fine bourbon!

  28. Bmac says:

    I am slightly confused about “breathing.” I have read on forums where people state that when the level of air in the bottle exceeds the volume of alcohol in the bottle, the spirit starts to deteriorate. Apparently, many are so fanatical that they fill their bottles with marbles to maintain a higher level of alcohol volume in the bottle.

    However, I have noted that many bourbons significantly improve with air time. When I first cracked open my W.L. Weller 12yr, I found it to be rot-gut. 6 months later, it’s scrumptious and I am going to stock up. Another example is the Van Winkle 12yr LOT B. It tasted terrible on the first dram. Then within minutes I poured another and it was perfection.

    It’s perplexing to say the least. Can anyone shed some light?

  29. Bmac, I’m not chemist but I liken it to ripening of fruit. A less ripe banana doesn’t taste as good as one that’s perfect. But an overripe banana isn’t so great either. There’s no doubt in my mind that whiskeys evolve a bit in the bottle after opening. There’s a point for some where a specific whiskey is better and that might be different for the next person. I realize that’s not a lot of light shedding, but those are just my thoughts.

  30. Chris says:

    I really enjoyed this bourbon a lot. Great nose, and a great balance. There is something to a well aged wheaten bourbon. I think it’s an excellent value, and I would highly recommend it. I highly recommend any whiskey in the Van Winkle line. Excellent and very enjoyable.

  31. Chris says:

    Just tried the ORVW 107, all I can say is Excellent. I really enjoy the Pappy/OVW line. I really enjoyed the ORVW 90 Proof, But the 107 is so much more concentrated. “If you can find a bottle, I’d Highly recommend picking one up”. I enjoy drinking new and different Bourbon Whiskeys all the time, and enjoy then so very much. But, I keep on coming back to the Pappy Lineup. If I could buy stock in a company. It would be the Pappy Van Winkle Brand. Keep it up fellas. EXCELLENT! Great everyday Bourbon!

  32. M says:

    Wow! I am fascinated by this thing call “bourbon.” One question from a self-proclaimed newbie to PVW and ORVW has sparked a thread of varying opinions, helpful knowledge and insightful reviews. I love experiencing the growing enthusiasm for something so simple, yet so complex. Indeed, taste is subjective. All I can speak to is a gaggle of my own experiences and being a relatively new discoverer of this eighth wonder of my world I cannot find one single negative thing to say about these ministers of mash who are the Van Winkle family and their inspiring wares of whiskey. The 15 is my favorite, hands down. Not only is it amazingly textured and complex, but it is the definition of value. Agreed, paying over $50 for a bottle can put some pressure on the monthly budget, but it is oh so worth it. Upon first sip (neat or, as I prefer, with a splash of distilled/filtered water) you will feel as though you’ve just been slapped upside your head with a realization that you’ve never tasted anything like this in your life. I could not have fathomed the folds of flavors vindicated by this vintage. I have found this age and those near to it to be the sweet spot for bourbons, whiskeys and scotches. Having said that, I just opened a 10 year. At around $30-$35 a bottle it’s a no-brainer. Buy as many as you can get your greedy little phalanges on. I had only tried it once a while ago. I recall being a bit indifferent at the time. What the H was I thinking?! This is amazing stuff! Throw a splash of water in there and it’s nectar of the gods. It opens up quite nicely. Maybe I had just snobbed it up with too much of a good thing in the 15 and 20 just before I tried it for the first time. I’m glad I gave it another shot, cause this is my new go-to; inexpensive and worlds apart from anything you’ll find in it’s price range. Happy hunting, my friends. It’s well worth a few phone calls to some proprietors out of state. Heck, make a road trip out of it. You will not be disappointed. If by some momentary instance of insanity it doesn’t exceed your expectations just let me know. I’ll promptly procure the remaining portions. Slainte’!

  33. Fred says:

    I just miraculously scored 2 bottles of ORVW 10/107 for 35 bucks each. When I saw 1 on the top shelf of my favorite liquor stop, I grabbed it and ran to the front. The bottle wasn’t marked and I asked the owner “how much?” expecting something astronomical, since a recent review of pricing for this stuff goes all the way up to $699! He started poring through his pricing manual and couldn’t find it so he let it go for 35. I asked if he had any more, and to my surprise, he came back with another bottle. I almost fell over. I have had this bourbon in the past and liked it a lot. I will say this-While 35. is a great price for this bourbon, it’s not nearly worth the prices some folks are charging (and Paying) I can’t seem to find the particular bottling designation or any other info on the bottle other than the usual stuff. I found your comments about breathing interesting. It’s funny how I feel that some whiskies, especially blends tend to taste stale and flat after they have been opened for a while. I will think about that when I open this bottle and start to imbibe.

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