Bite Size Review: Pappy Van Winkle Tradition
When I think of Kentucky, I imagine the finest horses grazing on rolling, verdant hills, a laid back and hospitable people and America’s own whiskey nectar: bourbon. Of course, not all bourbons are created equal. In fact, like most things we enjoy in life, there’s always the top shelf, the pinnacle – the one percenters. The Van Winkle family is considered part of that elite group. Try their 23-year Family Reserve and it will displace almost $300 from your wallet. Um, if you can find it.
Jonathan Drew has a special relationship with the family and set out to honor their heritage with a limited release of premium cigars as exclusive as Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon. Released in the fall of 2017, the Tradition was originally blended by Willy Herrera seven years earlier in 2010. The line featured 4 vitolas that hit store shelves and 3 “special sizes” that were reserved for special DE events. Interestingly, the original toro vitola (6”x50, reviewed here), is no longer offered. According to the DE website the vitolas offered include the Coronita (4”x46), Robusto Grande (5.5”x54), Belicoso Fino (5.0”x50) and the Churchill (7”x48). They still offer the Lonsdale and Corona, but only if you’re lucky enough to attend one of DE’s special events or can find them at select retailers.
The $23 price tag got our attention, and while I have yet to try some PVW bourbon, $25 bucks for a US cigar without Davidoff, Opus X or Padron on the label, better be special. Presentation is a good start with nice labeling and an oily Snickers bar-colored wrapper. Firm, veiny and a little lumpy the Tradition is off to the races with fragrant caramel, wood and cocoa powder. The draw is excellent, but I notice just before I light there is a leaf along the seam that is coming up. I break out my handy cigar glue and get it back in place. No harm, no foul.
The Tradition comes to life with a zesty profile of spice, black pepper, oak and coffee on the finish. Transitions feature mostly woody profiles but offer smooth, rich intonations of oak, maplewood, sweet bread and chocolate. She produces copious amounts of smoke. Balance is excellent throughout but complexity wanes into the first transition; however, the blend is tasty. You can see early on how this would pair well with any bourbon.
The Tradition burns well and combustion is pretty spot on, but ours required one touch up for a weak spot late in the smoke. She struggles to hold a 1” ash and it seems to fall without even being bumped. The Tradition finishes as well as she starts never becoming hot, harsh or bitter. Yes, the cigar is limited, the blend is solid and construction, save for the loose leaf and weak ash, is very good. Is it befitting a >$23 tag? Only if it comes bundled with a sample of PVW 10 year. There are cigars out there that pair nicely with many libations, are more complex and more distinctive – at half the price. Keep a few to splurge if you actually have the opportunity to enjoy some of that unique PVW bourbon. – In Fumo Pax!
Did you Know: This blend was one of several original blends Willy Herrera crafted to get the job at Drew Estate. It would later be selected by Julian Van Winkle and become the Tradition.
- Profile: Medium-Full
- Vitola: Toro
- Length/ Ring Gauge: 6.0″ x 50
- Purchased: B&M
- Origin: Nicaragua
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro
- Binder: Indonesian
- Filler: Dominican, Nicaraguan
- Cutter: Colibri V
- Lighter: Colibri Firebird
- Price: $23.60
- Humidor Age: 5 mo.
- Box: 10
- Other Vitolas: Coronita [4″x46], Robusto Grande [5.5″x54], Belicoso Fino [5.0″x50], Churchill [7.0″x48]
Build: Semi-oily; some tooth; lumpy; lightly veiny; firm throughout; Snickers Bar Oscuro wrapper; struggles to hold 1″ ash and ash very weak. Had to glue down a leaf edge.
- Wrapper – Caramel, baked bread
- Foot – Cocoa powder, caramel and wood
- Cold Draw – Green tea, caramel
- Initial: Spicy, light pepper, oaky and baked bread; toasted nuts on retro; coffee finish becomes woodier; woody caramel intonations on inhale; noticeable hints of sweetbread;
- Transition: More savory; woody profile with oak and maplewood; latte finish; uptick in spice in nose and on palate; light nuttiness on inhale; hints of caramel on retro.
- Transition: Woody profile with more chocolate and coffee intonations; spice reduced; becomes more earthy with notes of baked bread on retro; rich with espresso finish.
Balance: Very good
Touch ups: 1
Weaknesses: Complexity wanes early; leaf repair; high price for what you get
Recommend: 2. 5-packer
- Go-to (boxworthy)
- 3rd stringer (keep 1 on hand)
- Smoke a banana instead