Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year bourbon is the lowest Van Winkle on the totem pole. Normally, it will run you around $40, but because it says “Van Winkle” on it, odds are you can’t find it anywhere. The Old Rip and the Van Winkle Lot B are the Weller equivalent of the Weller Antique 107 and the Weller 12, with the only difference being the age statement on the Old Rip and the fair assumption that Weller Antique is much closer to seven years or younger.
Old Rip (ORVW) will no longer come in both 90 and 107 proof. It will just be 107 proof, and starting in 2013 ORVW will no longer come in the stumpy bottle. From now on, every Van Winkle will come in a standard, slim bottle. If you were a fan of the 90 proof Old Rip, just pop over to the proof formula post and proof your own 90 proof Old Rip.
In my opinion, the Old Rip bottle is the best looking bottle on the market. It has some beautiful calligraphy, the age statement on the shoulder, and a gold wrapped stem like some of those Very, Very Old Fitz bottles. It does have a twist top, which cheapens it a bit, but the only real problem with a twist top is that it can lead to long term evaporation if you are a bottle hoarder.
Nose: The nose of ORVW is strong and rich. There is a bit of alcohol up front on the sniff, which indicates that ORVW doesn’t hide the alcohol as well as some other higher proof bourbons. It has a great sweet nose, with a camel corn, some vanilla ice cream and honeyed fruit.
Sip: ORVW has a nice, wheated profile that hits perfectly with the 107 proof. Honey, vanilla, butterscotch and maple front loads a great, sweet profile. A bit of ripe, dark fruit hides between the transition, and in the back is a simple cinnamon and baking spice combo that wraps up a simple, but enjoyable sip.
Swirl: ORVW has something to offer after a few minutes. The sweetness of the wheat comes through and everything equals out where no flavor is overpowering the others.
Final Grade: B
ORVW has an appropriate amount of rich wheated flavor for the price. The proof seems to be just right, and it has a whole new flavor profile available if you add just a few drops of water. As far as the Winkle line goes, it is no Pappy, but it beats Lot B in my eyes. Though the popularity of all things Van Winkle has swept this modest offering into a much higher level of popularity than the bourbon deserves, it is still one of the better wheaters on the market when you can find it.
Drink this, not that: Grading ORVW by itself without the hype, it is a good bourbon, but nothing mind-blowing. If you are curious about the profile, just try some Weller 107. It is approximately three years younger, but it will get you in the ballpark of ORVW’s profile. As of now, Weller 107 and ORVW even come from the same stock of Buffalo Trace bourbon.
Larceny is Heaven Hill’s equal to the Weller and ORVW. Larceny puts together a great profile, and is in the same price range as Weller and ORVW.
Setting the wheated category aside, there are way better bourbons out there than ORVW. I know it says, “Van Winkle” on the bottle, and we should all be crazed to find it, but when the bourbon is in the glass, bottles like Elmer T. Lee, E.H. Taylor Single Barrel and Small Batch, and even simple pours like Wild Turkey Rare Breed are more enjoyable to my palate than ORVW.