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Pappy 20 vs Pappy 23: Head to Head!

Discover the differences between Pappy Van Winkle 20 vs Pappy Van Winkle 23 in this in-depth comparison and decide which bourbon is better for You!

Pappy Van Winkle’s 20 Year Family Reserve

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

Caramel and fruity sweetness on the nose at first, followed by hints of banana, vanilla and chocolate. There is a fair amount of oak as you might expect from a 20 YO pour.

Palate opens with balanced sweetness, a delicious baked apple pie flavor, rich in vanilla and a rich oak note.

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, quite rich in oak 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 15!

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 Van Winkle’s 23 Year Family Reserve

NoseOak, vanilla, caramel
PalateOak, cherry, vanilla, baking spice
FinishOak, ripe fruit, old leather
Alcohol content97 proof (43.5% ABV)
How to drinkNeat

Nose kicks-off with a blast of oak, give it time to breathe and allow vanilla and caramel to emerge.

The palate is quite oaky and as you let it develop in the glass cherry, vanilla and cinnamon join the party. The mouthfeel is medium bodied a bit dry but has no burn or bad bite whatsoever.

The finish is long and not surprisingly is full of oak along some fruity and leathery notes.

Overall, it’s delicious, very tasty and as smooth and sweet as having cake on glass but high in oak and could use a high proof to be honest.

Quite good but it’s far from the best bourbons I’ve had and comes up a little short for me and for this price tag I demand perfection.

There are a few facts worth knowing about Pappy 23:

  • Pappy 23 as all Pappy releases use a high wheat content in the mash bill providing a comforting bready taste.
  • Aged for long 23 years in new, charred American oak barrels.

Pappy 20 vs 23: Price comparison

Prices are approximate and stated in USD:

Pappy Van Winkle 20$2,500
Pappy Van Winkle 23$3,000

Pappy 20 vs Pappy 23: Which is better?

Pappy 23 is too high in oak

  • Personally, I prefer Pappy 20 over 23 as it comes lighter on the oak letting you appreciate the beauty of its tasting notes better.
  • I feel that Pappy 23 is over-oaked lacking the punch I was expecting from Pappy’s top dram in terms of price.
  • Pappy is 23 is good, though and if you are crazy about oak you are gonna love it. But I prefer other tasting notes in my drinks besides wood.

Read my post Discover the Best Pappy where you will learn which is the best release from this brand.

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