Is Pappy Van Winkle 23 Worth The Price (And Hype)? We Dig In

Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 23 Bourbon is pretty much the most sought-after whiskey in the world right now. The classic wheated bourbon has been on a meteoric rise over the past decade or so, creating a hype that’s damn near unmatched. People line up for days for a chance to buy a bottle at its retail price of $299.99. There are endless raffles for the small allotment. The secondary price has, in some folk’s opinions, gone out of control. It’s a whole scene!

Pappy 23 is like the rarest Supreme drop, the coolest NFT, and that one-off Wu-Tang album made for the pharma-douche, all rolled into one simple bottle of bourbon. But can any whiskey — bourbon or not — ever live up to those levels of hype? Moreover, is any whiskey worth spending half a year’s college tuition on?

Since I’m lucky enough to have access to this level of whiskey, I set out to answer those questions. For this taste test and review, I sampled bottle F7088 at Justins’ House of Bourbon in Lexington, Kentucky. I had a neat pour in a mini Glencairn. After the first couple of noses and sips, I added a few drops of water to open up the pour and let it aerate for a spell.

Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Bourbon Posts Of The Past Six Months

Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 23 Year Bourbon

Pappy Van Winkle 23 Bourbon
Sazerac Company

ABV: 47.8%

Average Price: $6,100

The Whiskey:

This wheated expression spends a long 23 years resting in new American oak. That age means that there’s still some old juice from Pappy’s previous home, the Stitzel-Weller Distillery, in the mix. Not every barrel makes the final cut. Only the “honey barrels” — the best of the best — are selected for blending, proofing, and bottling. The barrels that don’t make the cut are blended out into Weller expressions, generally Weller 12.

The Bottle:

The bottle is a classic cognac bottle. It’s clear, allowing you to see the amber juice within. The label has Pappy smoking his cigar and bottle number. It’s truly iconic at this point in bourbon history and almost unmissable on any bar shelf.

Tasting Notes:

The nose draws you in with a sense of an apple orchard with cherry and plum trees woven throughout as cherry bark, orange blossoms, salted caramel candy wrappers, and mulled wine soaked oak staves ebb and flow. The nose coalesces around a mix of dry applewood and cherry tobacco leaves stuffed in a very old soft leather pouch with a hint of dry and stringy cedar bark layered in with a dusting of soft nutmeg and black licorice.

The palate delivers on the promises of the nose with the caramel taking on a buttery edge, leaning toward a toffee cream silkiness, as dark cherries and overripe, bruised red apples lead toward peach stones, pear stems, and a hint of cinnamon-infused cider. The mellowness really takes hold on the mid-palate as the woody nature of the sip leads to a mix of those mulled wine oak staves, an old cigar humidor, a hint of bitter and almost over-roasted espresso beans, and a final flourish of dark cherry spiced tobacco leaf with a mild chewiness.

Bottom Line:

This truly does stand out for the first nose and sip to the last. It’s one of those bourbons that part the clouds, exposes the code in the matrix, and makes you say, “oh, shit, that really is good.”

I don’t even care that this word is overused, this whiskey is crazy smoooooooooth while offering some of the deepest flavor notes I’ve come across. It leaves you shaking your head at how accessible it is while having a seriously deep flavor profile.


100/100 — Yup, this is the real deal and does kind of standalone as a stellar yet classic bourbon for its MSRP price point. While it’s not reinventing the wheel or taking bourbon to new heights, it is probably the most classic example of a perfect bourbon on the planet earth.

Is It Worth The Price?


One more time…


This should cost $300 and tastes like it does. Spending $6,000 (or much more) on this is absurd. Moreover, that secondary markup is stopping people from ever experiencing the most classic example of bourbon there is. And that’s just a goddamn tragedy.

All of that aside, if you do come across a pour at a high-end bar or rare whiskey shop, buy yourself a pour (expect to pay upward of $200). That will be worth it just to have the experience for your palate and bourbon journey. Beyond that, don’t spend $6,000 on this bottle. It’s just not worth it, no matter how tasty.