Yardbird's Pappy Van Winkle: Does This Beach Eatery Have Best Bourbon?

Categories: Booze Hound
Tasting flight of Van Winkles.
Yardbird Southern Table & Bar carries the entire line of Van Winkle products -- including their premium rye.  We met with beverage manager and in-house bourbon professor Allegra Angelo to drink a flight of Van Winkle.  As we sat down on the outside patio, strangers came by. Lots of them. Drawn by the bottles that many people recognize but few have encountered in person. One man, who acted like he had just seen his favorite celebrity, came over to the table. "Is that Pappy Van Winkle? And you're drinking it?" There's certainly a mystique. But what's behind that mystique? Here's what we found:

Old Rip Van Winkle 10yr
10 Year, 107 Proof
Rated 94 by the Beverage Tasting Institute

The youngest of the group, Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year is sweet, smooth, and fruity.  The nose has hints of sweet orange. The distillers add just a touch of well-water before bottling, making this bourbon as close to barrel proof as possible.

Van Winkle Special Reserve
12 Year, 90.4 Proof
Rated 98 by the Beverage Tasting Institute

This medium-bodied bourbon is also known as the "nectar".  It's a honeyed whiskey with some richness and sophistication, but lacked some of the character that bourbons tend to have. It's a good sipping bourbon, with a lot in common with fine spirits.

Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve 15yr
15 Year, 107 Proof
Rated 98 by the Beverage Tasting Institute

The most "masculine" of the flight, this bourbon had a rich tobacco nose and rich herbal notes.  Strong yes, but not overpowering -- this bourbon packs a lot of bold flavors.

Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve 20yr
20 Year, 90.4 Proof
Rated 99 by the Beverage Tasting Institute

The highest rated bourbon in the world, this 20 year-old bourbon had a distinctly earthy nose, like it was plucked from the ground rather than a barrel. The taste is multi-layered. First we got mossy notes, than tasted the earth that we smelled. We even got mushroom, loam, leaves. This is a bourbon to be savored and contemplated.

Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve 23yr
23 Year, 95.6 Proof
Rated 99 by the Beverage Tasting Institute

Though the 23-year shares the same distillation as the 20-year, they couldn't be farther apart. This bourbon is sweet and buttery, with strong butterscotch and vanilla tones and a very long finish. It ranked as our favorite -- hands down.

Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye
13 Year, 95.6 Proof
Rated 95 by the Beverage Tasting Institute

The rye for people who don't normally enjoy rye whiskey. Normaly, rye is just too "rough" for some drinkers, which is why it's used in so many classic cocktails, yet is rarely enjoyed neat. This rye is aged 13 years, while most ryes are aged only about four years. The result is a complex blend of sweet and spicy notes with hints of cocoa, pepper, and nutmeg.

In conclusion, the Van Winkle line lives up to the hype. Where many bourbons are "too rough" (think Wild Turkey) and others are "too domesticated" (think Maker's Mark), the Van Winkles are "just right". Sure, they're expensive. But unless you've attained rock-star-chef status, they're not meant to be guzzled on an every day basis. If you, however, appreciate a good, thoughtful, hand-crafted spirit, you won't be let down.

And when you think that a Red Bull and vodka can set you back $20 in some douchebag nightclub -- enjoying a little "Pappy" seems like a downright solid choice for your discretionary dollars.

Follow Laine Doss on Twitter @LaineDoss and Facebook.

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Location Info

Yardbird Southern Table & Bar

1600 Lenox Ave., Miami Beach, FL

Category: Restaurant

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Kaveh Vali
Kaveh Vali

Darn, Pappy also got a mention on the show Justified... I'll be back there mid March.. I'll have drink for you bro..

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