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Issue 14 - The spirit of independence

Whisky Magazine Issue 14
February 2001

 

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The spirit of independence

Damian Riley-Smith visits the home of Julian Van Winkle III, a nam dedicated to producing quality bourbon and adhering to traditional, family values.

Waiting more than a decade for a bourbon is the exception rather than the rule. Yet for the Van Winkle family it has become their trademark. There is no full production distillery, the 'family' is currently Julian Van Winkle III and he is an independent bottler.

The name Van Winkle has been associated with bourbon whiskey since 1893 when Pappy Van Winkle started as a salesman for W.L.Weller. A passionate yet quiet man, Pappy became as linked to bourbon production as the Browns or Samuels. He set out to become a distiller of the finest bourbon and within a decade had achieved this.

Van Winkle is now associated with the oldest bourbons in the world, some of the richest flavours in the taste spectrum and some of the most uniquely named products you can find. As Julian states: “At the moment aged whiskies are available and younger whiskies are more difficult to come by.” An unusual twist of fate and one playing to the Van Winkle's advantage.

The heart of the range is the Old Rip Van Winkle Bourbon; the Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve, both the 20 and 23-year-old are incredibly rich, soothing and almost cognac like in their sophistication; the Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye and strange bespoke incarnations such as Twisted Spoke Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey and 16 Years of Sucking Wood & Waiting, which is made exclusively for a biker's bar in Illinois.

Although not technically a distiller, Julian Van Winkle does own a distillery. In 1983 he bought the Old Commonwealth D...

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