Thus, a history of the “Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery” begins – surprisingly – with the revelation that no distillery with this name ever existed. The story of Van Winkle bourbons is actually two stories. The first is of people in the Van Winkle family line. The second is of a distillery called Stitzel-Weller. Research from multiple sources has produced the intertwined narrative below, edited for clarity:
The diminutive Julian P. “Pappy” Van Winkle Sr. (all five-foot-six-inches of him, or roughly 1.35 Adams) had been a traveling salesman for whiskey wholesaler W.L. Weller since the age of 19. He and a partner purchased the A. Ph. Stitzel distillery, the source of Weller’s bourbon. A merger of the two businesses resulted in the construction of the Stitzel-Weller Distillery in 1935. Pappy passed away in 1965, with a lifetime of bourbon drinking and cigar smoking not impeding his progress to the ripe old age of 91.
On the nose: A topnote of acentone dominates the nose. This smells young, but high-quality. Tons of fruit: orange peel, kumquat, watermelon juice. Orange creamsicle. Goetze’s Candy Caramel Creams.
In the mouth: Starts with a bright, slightly bitter burst of tangerine. Barrel char and a metallic note are evident at midpalate. There’s a round ripeness that re-emerges, along with caramelized sugar. This is densely flavorful. Finishes bright and clean, with a wisp of tannic oakiness. Very good bourbon