If you’re a fan of bourbon or know anybody that even remotely likes it, the chances are good that you’ve heard the name Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery, or more specifically the Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve bourbon. The Family Reserve bourbon is some of the most sought after and highly prized bourbon in the industry, selling out quickly and fetching high prices on the secondary market. In November 2014, Drew Estate announced a partnership with Pappy & Company, the merchandising side of the bourbon brand.
The product of this partnership is a cigar that went through some changes, with the initial blend just being a cigar meant to pair with the bourbon and not aged in the spent bourbon barrels as initially suggested they would be.
- Cigar Reviewed: Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Fermented Cigars Robusto
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate
- Wrapper: Kentucky Tapa Negra & Mexican San Andrés
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Kentucky & Nicaragua
- Size: 5 1/4 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 52
- Vitola: Robusto
- MSRP: $13 (Boxes of 10, $130)
- Date Released: April 21, 2015
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Release1
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 2
The Family Reserve has a wonderful look to it, with great contrast between the two wrappers, separated by a label that looks almost exactly like a miniaturized version of the bourbon bottle with just a few minor changes. It’s solidly constructed, without much give to it at all. Besides a small section poking out behind the label where the two wrappers meet, it’s completely seamless. The aroma is quite unique, specifically the fact that you can smell the cigar even when it’s nowhere near your nose. While it seems a touch overwhelming at first, when you bring the cigar closer and start breaking down the different notes, it’s actually quite detailed. The first note is an overall musty, aged and charred wood note that reminds me of walking into one of those old buildings at a historical colonial site. When you start breaking it down, a huge tanned, old leather note pops up alongside the charred, aged oak, with some barnyard manure, vanilla, hints of cinnamon and just the lightest floral note. Each wrapper does have a slightly different aroma with the tapa negra wrapper having much more of a charry oak note, though the flavors have seeped over to the Mexican San Andrés wrapper portion, even though they are much lighter. Finally getting around to the cold draw, it is made up of more of the same charred oak, vanilla and leather and has a bit of a smoked brisket flavor on the finish.
The first third starts with a much more subdued profile despite having such a strong pre-light aroma. Charred oak, aged leather, vanilla and a little cinnamon are still around, but it’s more akin to a cigar’s profile than it was before. The burn is almost spot on even, and leaves in its wake dense, light gray ash that holds on firmly to over an inch. Each puff brings plenty of smoke and has a draw right in the middle of ideal. The profile doesn’t change much, with a continuation of the charred oak, old leather, vanilla and hints of other spices along with the cinnamon.
Moving into the second third the profile continues on as before. The surprising thing is for as strong as the smokey, fire cured tobacco flavors are, it’s quite a smooth profile. Around the halfway mark I’m feeling the strength of it however, already placing it at medium to strong. The burn continues to be quite even, with only a slight jagged bit lagging behind, but nothing that requires a touchup. The ash continues to be dense and holding on strong, leaving nice little rings in the ash as the burn line moves along. Charred oak and leather are growing in strength, as if they weren’t strong enough before, which leaves the background flavors of vanilla and spices a slightly buried.
The final third sees the transition of Mexican San Andrés to the part wrapped with capa negra barrel aged tobacco. As with the pre-lit aroma, the profile increases the charred oak again, making it quite a full profile. Strength has increased as well, leaving the final inch quite a bold experience. The burn in the final third has evened itself back up, though the transition between tobaccos leaves a bit of a flakey ash. Finishing up the cigar it ends as smoothly as a bold, strong cigar can, which is to say it doesn’t get hot or harsh.
- I think this cigar had the longest pre-light notes section I’ve written for any review.
- You can find videos of the cigar’s creation process on Drew Estate’s Pappy Van Winkle site.
- While the cigar uses the fire curing method that the Kentucky Fire Cured line uses, it’s a significantly different profile.
- Because of the numerous changes the cigar went through, quite a bit of delay happened between pre-orders opening up and the actual shipment of the cigar. Because of this Drew Estate offered samplers of Liga Privada No. 9 to those who placed pre-orders.
- The cigar’s aroma is quite strong. Strong enough to the point where I actually wouldn’t keep these in a humidor with any other cigar.
- The cigars are exclusively sold through the Pappy & Company’s site.
- The cigars for this review were sent to halfwheel by Drew Estate. halfwheel also purchased a box of cigars.
- Final smoking time averaged around an hour and fifteen minutes.
Much like the Kentucky Fire Cured line, this cigar will probably have quite contrasting receptions by consumers. It’s a very bold and very different profile from what your average cigar offers, and as such it won’t be for everybody. As a huge fan of bourbon—or whiskey in general—I thoroughly enjoyed it. The aroma from the cigar is quite strong and it’s apparent from the time you take it out of whatever container it was in. For me, that aroma was quite pleasant, and it translated nicely into the lit profile. Construction excellence only added to the enjoyment of the cigar, not having to do a touch up or relight once. These are relatively expensive cigars for sure, with the price tag for a robusto being generally higher than most other cigars of that size, however it’s a unique experience that I can easily suggest you try for yourself.