Old Rip Van Winkle 10-year; Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery; Frankfort, Kentucky; $1,500*+/btl
Where to begin?
Oh, I know. Tell the story! Okay, well, you see, I have this friend who's really into whiskey. He has one of those fancy certifications that says he can taste whiskey and tell you whether or not it's actually whiskey with something close to 100% accuracy. I've done a few podcasts with the guy (Whiskey Wonder Podcast), and we have quite a good time, mostly because we're really just drinking whiskey and talking about it. It's fun.
My friend has a friend — a coworker, actually — and her husband won the lottery! That's right, he won the lottery. No, not that lottery, the Idaho State Liquor Lottery. You see, some whiskies are so painfully difficult to get that a given state may be allocated just one or two bottles, especially a backwoods, redneck state like Idaho. We've only got $17 between the 1.5 million of us, so Mr. Van Winkle, Sir, only sends us 1 bottle in a given millennia. In order to get that bottle, you have to write your name on a piece of paper and wait for it to get drawn out of a hat, along with a bunny rabbit. If both things happen, you win!
So, yeah, my friend's friend won. Well, he sort of won. You see, what you win is the first right of refusal. You can buy said bottle of Old Rip Van Winkle, or you can pass and let the runner-up have a shot at it. The smart person mortgages their house and takes the bottle, because by the end of the week it will have doubled in price! And here's the neat thing: You pay the $80 MSRP, not the $1500 secondary market price. So you get it cheap, and then you can drink it or sell it to someone with too much money in their pocket, and then buy yourself a lot of very worthy whiskey.
Get online, I dare you, and look up the price of this stuff. If you can find one, a bottle will set you back minimum $1500! And, no, it will not be washing your dishes.
So, this friend of my friend was incredibly generous and loaned him about 2 ounces of the stuff. I say "loaned" because I'm pretty sure it came with the caveat that my buddy owed a major favor, like if he ever gets elected president he'll arrange for a multi-million dollar bank transfer. We got about 2 ounces of the stuff. A little flask of nectar worth some $200 on the open market, and we got to try it. In fact, we talked about it on my friend's Whiskey Wonder Podcast, Episode 24. It was the first time tasting for both of us. Yes, we were Old Rip Van Winkle virgins. My cheeks are flushing. To think that we got to try the very same stuff the rich give their children for their 16th birthday drunk-bash!
So, what does this millionaire's beverage taste like?
I like to be honest when I drink whiskey, because sometimes the stuff is really good and I want to shout about it, and sometimes the stuff is really bad and I want to toss it over my shoulder. Old Rip Van Winkle is good. Good enough to talk about, but not good enough to shout about. Why? Well, for starters the stuff is really expensive. Too expensive for the common man, and way too expensive for this average, ordinary, everyday Ken. At $1500 plus per bottle, it's very hard to justify. I mean, I could buy 15 bottles of the 5-star Westward American Single Malt Stout Cask and have money left over for a nice dinner. And Westward's astonishingly good single malt is superior in every way except one. Old Rip Van Winkle is uncommonly smooth. So smooth, in fact, that you could spread it on toast! Maybe too smooth?
As for the flavor profile, my buddy and I were taken by surprise with notes of snickerdoodle! Yeah, it's October-pumpkin-spice-level stuff. The kind of whiskey a rich girl would buy going into that weird October pumpkin thing that lasts far too long. Now, don't get me wrong. Old Rip Van Winkle is good stuff, and super smooth, it's just that it doesn't have that whiskey-kick I was expecting. I was reminded a bit of Southern Comfort and American Honey, both very good fortified whiskies that are very smooth and easy to drink (and both were favorites of mine for many years — something like gateway whiskies before I discovered the good stuff). Now, I'm not talking flavor profile, here, I'm talking smoothness. There was no bite in there at all!
My biggest issue with Old Rip Van Winkle is the lack of drive I felt when I tasted it. It was delicious whiskey, but I couldn't get over the gingerbread-cookie feeling of it. Seriously, it did remind me of those fortified things. There was just no "oomph" to the stuff. I guess what I really need to do is get my head straight with the $80 MSRP, rather than the $1500+ market price, and then maybe I wouldn't be so critical. At $80, I would call it a good buy and a decent sipping whiskey, but at $1500 it's just a novelty most people will never be able to try. In fact, on the podcast I likened it to owning a Ferrari versus test-driving a Ferrari. I said that our little sip of the stuff was a bit like a poor man going to Vegas where you can pay a few hundred bucks and take a 6-figure super car out for a couple of laps. When you get done, you think, "Well, that was fun. Now what?"
And that's how it ended. "Well, that was fun. Now what?" With the party over, I'm looking back on something I first tried back in September of 2020, right in the middle of the giant poo-fest we were all struggling through. It was a nice treat, a rare opportunity — and one I won't soon forget. Still, I left that night knowing that I had gone in believing in something mystical, and left with a feeling of "Meh." There's so much hype around the stuff that it's very difficult to try it knowing how much it costs, and then not be let down by my own honesty. And, honestly, it's not worth it. It's barely worth $80. And, although the MSRP is $80, I'm not going to list my pricing that way, because unless you win the lottery, you ain't getting a bottle of this stuff for less than $1500.
* Price as I have it listed is after-market. Rarity makes the stuff hard to find in my neck of the woods. Retail is $80-$140, but finding it at that price is a matter of luck.
Old Rip Van Winkle 10-year
Who is this guy?
I'm just an average, ordinary, everyday Ken, and nothing more. I like wine, whiskey, and beer. I write when I'm bored (and to prove it I've published three books). I like to garden, work with wood, and laugh with family and friends. Ken's Bar is an expression of my enjoyment of adult beverages of all shapes and sizes, but especially whiskey. My tasting notes are as much about stories and connections with people as they are about fluffy, snobbish adjectives. I've tasted a lot of whiskey (including the costs-way-too-much Rip Van Winkle stuff) and decided to start writing about it. Or something. So, sit back and read. If you can.
How do I rank?
Cost per Bottle:
$ - $0-$25
$$ - $26-$50
$$$ - $51-$75
$$$$ - $76-$100
$$$$$ - Over $100
* - Swill. Dump it out.
** - Mix it with coke
*** - A good sipper
**** - Straight from Heaven.
***** - Heaven called and wants its whiskey back!
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