Recently I've been able to try George T. Stagg, William LaRue Weller, Thomas H. Handy and Sazerac. I finally had the chance to try the 2015 Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye. While it might be the odd man out in the Buffalo Trace Collection, as an admitted rye fan, trying it meant I got to try one of my personal unicorns.
My first impression was more than a little off putting. With a strong almost rubbing alcohol smell my excitement subsided a little. After a few minutes of sitting, the smell of citrus fruit and vanilla gradually become apparent. Closing out was a scent of singed leather.
The rye taste was stronger with VWFRR than most of the other ryes I have tried. It wasn't unpleasant but more of a surprise. Instead of evenly distributed, it over matches the leather and oak flavors. Vanilla has a strong presence as it is exposed to the air for a few minutes. When I noticed the affect the air had on the rye I gave it a few more minutes. After 5 more minutes, the taste of pepper and a light cinnamon were easily identified.
The finish was strong and seemed to last a long time. Going through everything from the spices to vanilla and then to the leather, then ending with very little bitterness. This had to be one of my favorite finishes.
I was very disappointed with the nose of this rye and the initial taste as well. With a little patience and air, the 2015 Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye really opened up and became a satisfying rye. This was nice and for the price a winner. At a price around $69, retail I would say buy it. I would not however suggest paying the price on the secondary market that can reach as high as $950.