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Pappy 15 vs Pappy 20: Head to Head!

Discover the differences between Pappy Van Winkle 15 vs Pappy Van Winkle 20 in this in-depth comparison and decide which Bourbon is better for You!

Pappy Van Winkle’s 15 Year Family Reserve

pappy-van-winkle-15
NoseCherry, honey, baking spice.
PalateVanilla, brown sugar, red fruit, chocolate
FinishToasty oak, cinnamon, brioche bread
Alcohol content107 proof (53.5% ABV)
How to drinkNeat

The nose is filled with sweetness, rich in cherry notes, honey and fine spice.

On the palate this bourbon explodes in rich flavors off the gate with great depth: notes of vanilla, brown sugar and chocolate.

Pappy 15 is incredibly tastyperfectly rounded, with an amazing mouthfeel, not insanely complex but with not a harsh or bitter element; this thing is a delicious dessert on glass.

Finish is flavorful, full of lingering sweet notes, a pleasant oaky note and with the right amount of heat. After tasting this bourbon I get why people have in such high regard Pappy Van Winkle’s releases.

This is the best 15 year old liquor and the best Pappy Van Winkle release, so you get an idea how good it is.

Learn how it compares to the Whistlepig 15!

There are a few facts worth knowing about Pappy 15:

  • Pappy’s mash bill is unknown as the distiller does not disclose the amounts of grains used in the mix.
  • Pappy is aged for 15 in charred new American oak barrels.
  • This whiskey is a real small batch offering as it is released twice a year, the main allocation in October/November then a bit in the spring.
  • Pappy Van Winkle is crafted at the Buffalo Trace Distillery located in Frankfort, KY.

Pappy Van Winkle’s 20 Year Family Reserve

pappy-van-winkle-20
NoseCaramel, oak, banana, vanilla, chocolate
PalateHoney, oak, apple pie, dark fruit, vanilla
FinishLong, baking spice, oak, apple pie
Alcohol content90 proof (45% ABV)
How to drinkNeat

Aroma is just as sweet as on the 15 YO but with a richer oaky note due to the additional aging.

Palate opens with balanced sweetness, a delicious baked apple pie flavor, rich in vanilla and an oaky note more noticeable than in the 15 YO.

The finish is long, remarkably smooth, with no harshness with a bit of oak on the tail.

Pappy 20 is so delicate on the palate, richer in oak than the 15 YO from nose to finish due to the extended time in the barrel, extremely rich and long on the finish full of sweet dessert notes and baking spice. Really, really good.

I wish it had a little more warmth and body as in the 15 YO, though, but quite good nonetheless proving that Pappy is not a hyped dram but the real deal.

Learn how the 20 YO compares to Pappy 23!

There are a few facts worth knowing about Pappy 20:

  • Pappy 20 is also a wheated bourbon.

  • Allocations of Pappy 20 are released twice a year, in the fall and a smaller one in the spring giving true meaning to “small batch”.

  • Received a score of 99 from the Beverage Testing Institute.

Pappy 15 vs Pappy 20: Price comparison

Prices are approximate and stated in USD:

WhiskeyPrice
Pappy Van Winkle’s 15 Year Family Reserve$1,700
Pappy Van Winkle’s 20 Year Family Reserve$2,500

Pappy Van Winkle 15 vs Pappy Van Winkle 20: Which is better?

Pappy 15 is the best Van Winkle

I prefer the 15 YO over the 20 YO for two reasons:

  • Pappy 15 has a much higher proof providing a bit of warmth that becomes quite pleasing making the pour more punchy. Even though the difference is substantial (107 vs 90) the 15 YO is not burny, though, it provides the right amount of heat you want from a dram.
  • Pappy 20 is much richer in oak from start to finish, something to expect from a dram aged for 5 additional years. Personally, I am not as fond of oak as in general I don’t drink spirits with so many years of aging as oak overwhelms other flavors. That does not mean that Pappy 20 is an oak-monster, but the oak note is way more noticeable than in Pappy 15; which is important for you to know.

Regardless of which you choose rest assured that Pappy Van Winkle is not a hyped dram as some I won’t mention; Pappy is no joke, Pappy is the real thing.

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