September 18, 2013

*** Exclusive Review: 2013 Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year --- The Prime Time Beast!!! ***

Pappy is in the House

Ok whiskey world, get ready to pitch your tents, change your diapers, and drain your bank accounts.  Bourbon season is officially upon us.  The next generation of the hottest bourbon of the decade is about to hit the shelves and your trusty pals at SmokyBeast have an exclusive sneak peak!

Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 20 Year, 2013 Edition

Friends in High Places (mountains as a matter of fact)

Where did we score this prime time beast?  Actually our new best buddy Anthony over at Pour Mt Kisco broke it out as a special surprise after our magnificent antique rye tasting from Beast Masters Volume 2.  It's here!  Yeeeee-haw.  Queue appropriate Honky-Tonk banjo soundtrack =>

Serial Number: B1305911:00M 
The Codes & Keys

How did we determine that this was in fact the newest, 2013 Pappy?  It's sometimes tough to see the serial number on these bottles so we ad-libbed with a flashlight and some creative photography.  You can see that it starts with a 13.  This indicates that it was bottled in 2013.  Exclusive sneak peak confirmed!!!  The next three numbers indicate the day of the year.  This was bottled on the fifty-ninth day of the year, in other words February 28th.  Presumably at 11:00am.  These bottles will be hitting the shelves soon, so get out your safari hats and let the hunt begin...

Update 9/19: Some helpful folks from the internet have doubted the accuracy of our most awesome sneak peak at this 2013 Pappy.  For reference, here is a note Anthony got directly from Mr Van Winkle himself attesting to it's authenticity.  It's actually referencing a second bottle with a similar code, but you'll see the idea.  (this is what we in  the industry call "breaking out the big guns")


B= Bottled at Buffalo Trace
13=bottled in 2013
059= the Julian calendar date of bottling
10:52= bottled at 10:52am
M= M bottling line at Buffalo Trace
Please let me know if you have further questions.


J. Preston Van Winkle
Marketing Manager
Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery
"…But Always Fine Bourbon."

Invasion of the Buffalo

Last week we went through a bit of history along with a top notch tasting of early 2000's Van Winkles.  We mentioned the fact that the Stitzel-Weller distillery closed in 1992 and Julian Van Winkle III contracted with Buffalo Trace to continue to produce bourbon for the Van Winkle brand.  Since the early 2000's, Pappy bottles have begun to mix Buffalo Trace and Stitzel Weller barrels.  2012, however, was the last year that any 20-year old Stitzel Weller bourbon existed.  That makes 2013 the first year that Pappy 20-Year is 100% Buffalo Trace bourbon.  Many are curious, will it measure up?  Will the flavor be the same?  Can the torch be passed?  Will the invasion of the buffalo conquer our cigar-smoking hero, or will the spirit of Pappy prevail??  As of today, only SmokyBeast can tell you, so let's get down to some drinking!

Tasting Notes

Nose:  Very rustic farm-y elements going on here.  It's got all the requisite big bourbon Pappy trademarks: vanilla, cocoa, buttery caramel, plums and raisins, coffee.  But there's also a musky grassy wheaty fresh character to it.

Body:  Big wood on the body.  Some dry cracking oak.  Also some lighter fruits coming out.  "Apple pie and candy apples!" says Josh Feldman of The Coopered Tot who joined us for the tasting.  It's a very tight and balanced body with *lots* of oak, wood oil, and sweet punchy fruits.

Finish:  It all comes down to the finish, and the new sauce definitely does not disappoint.  It's medium-length, no alcohol burn, and the pleasing spirit warmth floats perfectly on the rich woods.


Just to be sure (we're never ones to be less than thorough when it comes to whiskey), we ordered up a flight of the 2012 Pappy's that happened to be on tap at Pour.  We sipped the 2013 20-Year against each of the 2012 15-Year, 20-Year, and 23-Year.  A strange thing happened.  The new 20-Year tasted note-for-note the same as last year's 23-Year!  Just to be sure we weren't hallucinating (after all we'd just had three stellar ryes and sampled a bunch of other little treats from Anthony's bar), we handed Anthony the two tasting glasses blind.  "Super close" he concurred.

20 Is the New 23!!!

So this is really something special.  This year's 20-year tastes remarkably like last year's 23 (which by all indications is still Stitzel Weller juice).  If you loved the woody and sophisticated 23 from recent years, you're going to go nuts for this year's 20.  It makes us very excited to try the rest of the 2013 line.  Will the 15-Year taste like last year's 20?  We certainly hope we'll get to find out.

It's a matter of taste for sure.  Historically some people love the big sweet richness of the 15-Year, some love the crisp woodiness of the 23, and others feel that the 20 is the sweet spot between the two.  It will be interesting to see how all the reviews come in this year.  But we're sure glad we got the first taste!  You can be sure that the 2013 Pappy Van Winkle 20-Year is a top class bourbon.  Those lucky enough to score a glass or a bottle are in for a serious treat.

Thanks again to Anthony for the pour!



  1. My bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year displays serial number M2801122:47. Now, if you're correct in your assertion that your bottling was from the 2013 release because the serial number began with the numbers B13, that would mean that my bottle is either 85 years old or that it is from the future.

    I'm sorry to tell you this, but that bottle was probably not from this year's release.

    1. The numbers changed in 2012, so your bottle is not from the future nor is it from 1928, as cool and impossible as that would be. But thanks for the comment!

  2. Actually, the order of the serial codes has changed in 2013. So, this does appear to be a 2013 release...

  3. Your bottle is from 2011 (day 280, time 22:47.)

    1. This is from Sku (Steve):

      Sounds like you have it right:

      Your bottle is post-2012 so it's in the new number order
      B1305911:00M = 2013, 59th day, 11:00

      The other bottle noted in the comments is pre-2012 so the order of info was different, as you suggested:
      M2801122:47= 280th day of 2011 at 10:47pm.


      Steve (sku)

  4. Sku seems to be the expert at the moment.

    "UPDATE (March 2012)

    For the Spring 2012 release, it appears that the order of numbers has switched. In the comments below, a reader gave this example of a bottle code: b1204011:11k.

    I would interpret it this way.

    I'm not sure wht the letters are. The first letter used to represent the bottling line, but on these new numbers, there appears to be a letter at the beginning and the end, but I can make sense of the numbers. The first two digits are the year, so "12" means bottled in 2012. The second three digits are the day of the year, so "025" means the whiskey was bottled on the 25th day of the year, which would be January 25th. This would be consistent for the spring 2012 release. The last four digits are the time of bottling, in this case, 11:11."

    Let's get a hold of Senor Sku because this sounds like fun!

  5. Do you know if the Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 year old bottles also have serial numbers?

  6. my 20 year pappy purchased dec. 2103 from bevmo in socal was bottled in feb 2012. b1203812:50m