The nose is burnt sugar, like a creme brulee crust. The palage has that perfect balance of candy and oak (the "enchanged candy forest") that I'm used to in more recent Stitzel-Wellers. There's also a slightly earthy note, like a good Cognac. The finish is dry and spicy. This tastes remarkably like Pappy 15 and tasting side by side with a 2008 Pappy 15, they were shockingly similar.
Wide range of opinions on this one, though I really don't think any of us would refuse drinking another bottle! Personally I think it's tasty stuff, certainly good, but there's some oaky bitterness to it that can at times be way too much. It is fairly similar to the Pappy 15 we pulled off the bar to compare to it (gotta check codes on that one), but there are noticeable differences. This has more bitter wood (undesirable) but also more complexity (bonus).
Extremely deep red amber color. I really wanted to love this one, but the oak was too much for me. I got more rustic elements again with grass, wheat, and some sweet oak on the nose (bitter oak on the palate). The finish is on the dry side and satisfying. On a stand-alone basis I may have liked this slightly more, but it was hard for me to handle the contrast between the 8 and 12 years (which I generally prefer) and the 15 and 18. [10/18/13]
Retaste: I enjoyed the nose a lot the second time around, heaping vanilla, dry sugar. My opinion hasn't changed much on the palate. B. [9/26/14]
This nose gave me sugared cashews and glazed peanuts with an underlying white chocolate edge. Maybe not as sweet as that picture gives, but like dipping your your already chewed cinnamon toothpick into a syrup made of the three sweeteners above and chewing. The resulting smell is what I get. Ok, no double dipping, but thats what I get so there is some oak here.
Palate is a bit dry and bitter, and when comparing it to the 12yr VVOF's, this reduces the score a bit. Not too oaky to me, but much more evident than the younger VVOF's. Still some enjoyable sweetness (light molasses and caramelized sugar), though it doesn't last as long.
Did the experience raise my score? Possibly, but I'm sticking with my notes. A- (90)