There’s a nice pop of sweet honey, licorice, peach, citrus, vanilla frosting, oak, cinnamon, and clove. The flavors are more peach and creamy vanilla forward, and less herbal and not all that earthy or vegetal. As a result of the lower ABV (most likely), the flavors are delicate and generally understated, but still interesting and with little heat to battle my senses.
After “chewing”, Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye has a similar honey, licorice, orange juice, canned mandarin orange, peach, honeydew, oak, clove, and cinnamon flavors. It’s become more citrusy and expands as I continue to “chew” through it, like an orange drink from my childhood with a splash of honeydew. This is very fruity, but not in the tropical way with pineapple and guava. I could be mistaken into thinking that it was a high rye or just a very fruity bourbon. Even at 13 years old, there isn’t much dry, burnt, dark chocolate, or tobacco notes, so it really lets the fruitiness run free. The flavors are great as-is, but the lower ABV unfortunately takes away from what could have been exceptional. Here’s the thing, lower ABV is not always a bad thing, as the 99 proof Widow Jane 12 Year Single Barrel bourbon I reviewed is explosively flavorful and magical. Still, Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye is a nuanced, refined, interesting, and welcoming whiskey that’s very easy and enjoyable to drink.
The fruitiness immediately transitions into a mix of honey, honeydew, oak tannins, licorice, and vanilla. The 13 years of oak aging show up a little more in the finish, fading into a long lasting mint, honeydew, and just a small chunk of the inner rind that makes it a tad vegetal. With “chewing”, the finish is more fruit-forward with citrus, peach, honey, clove, licorice, a little oak, and a smidge of alcohol tingle since I let it sit in my mouth for a while. It’s a very classy and refined finish.