[In anticipation of this fall’s high-end bourbon releases, we dusted off this one Stephen had squirreled away in his locker in the Malt Cave.]
A disclaimer before the review: Let’s face it. The Van Winkle Special Reserve, 12 year old “Lot B” is an excellent bourbon, but it’s not all that, and it’s hard to find. For what it costs, there are plenty of equally good bourbons on the market—although some of them might be hard to find, too. So, stripped of hype forthwith follow our impressions.
You can nose the Van Winkle Special Reserve, 12 year old “Lot B” from across the room, especially if the room you’re in is a hot attic during a summer thunderstorm, and even more especially, if the attic is filled with wax fruit, vanilla candles, ripening prunes, and a Yankee candle storing up 15 years of angst and overly-critical self-disappointment. It’s the smell you smell in an anxiety dream—You’re naked at WhiskyFest, talking with John Hansell and Jim McEwan!—just before you wet the bed. That, and the efflorescences of freshly-ground cinnamon sticks and the sharp tang of pig micturations.
On the mouth, it’s yummy. Eating apple cobbler with vanilla ice cream, while sitting in a Greyhound Bus Station in Singapore. (In other words, it’s a *very clean* Greyhound Bus Station.) Dark cherries being nibbled by Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer on a rooftop in Dubai. A mutant sea urchin that’s been crossed with bing cherries by a mad self-proclaimed Sushiologist. The tank is lit by a Japanese paper lantern liberally sprinkled with crushed garlic powder, bits of cheesecake, and crumbled Ming vases.
The finish comes on more and more at the tip of the tongue, like a word you’d forgotten, now remembered, but are stuttering over, producing an ostinato in your mouth. It stays dusty, like the dust (not crop dust!) between the awns of wheat; a true hallmark of bourbon.
The Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 year old “Lot B”, 2012 edition is the albino rhino–There just aren’t many albino rhinos (unless you believe the urban dictionary definition). Good luck finding the Van Winkle Special Reserve, 12 year old “Lot B” (or any other Van Winkle expression) in the wild; but if you do, you’ll know you’re enjoying A Winkle in Time.