Monday, October 5th, marked the American release of the Woodford Reserve Baccarat Edition. I’ve always been a fan of the Kentucky-based brand, so hearing about this new, very-pricey (we’ll get to that), super-exclusive expression left me intrigued. And, thanks to the perks of my job, that state of curiosity was soon converted into actually getting to taste the stuff.
The partnership between Woodford Reserve and fine crystal maker, Baccarat, is aimed at celebrating the connections between Kentucky and France. Woodford Reserve is located in Versailles, Kentucky — named after the city in France where royalty did their drunken cavorting. The original name of the project was Woodford Reserve Lafayette (honoring both the French general and the Kentucky city). But then came a twist. The North American sales director for Baccarat, which operates out of New York, visited Kentucky and toured Woodford Reserve’s distillery with his family.
On this tour, the guides pointed out cognac casks that were being used to finish the juice destined to become the Lafayette bourbon. This, in turn, compelled the director to inform his Parisian headquarters about this exciting expression. Baccarat promptly reached out to Woodford Reserve about taking part in the bottling, and the rest is history.
So what’s so special about this whiskey to excuse its $2,000 price tag?
Well, some of that cash is certainly attributed to the spirit. It’s Woodford Reserve Bourbon, finished in no-less-than-three-year-old XO cognac casks from France. But a whole lot of the cost comes from the bottle — which was handcrafted with Baccarat crystal and transforms into a decanter when the whiskey is gone. It takes five days to make each bottle; the stopper is also made by hand.
So far, only 2,000 bottles were made. The expression and its future are contingent on demand and, assuming it outpaces supply, the timeline on which the crystal can be made. Check my tasting notes below.
Woodford Reserve Baccarat Edition
Distillery: Woodford Reserve Distillery, Versailles, Kentucky USA
Suggested Price: $2,000
The bottle design is the signature Woodford Reserve silhouette and is engraved in gold with both the Woodford Reserve and Baccarat logos. It is presented in an iconic Baccarat red box and includes a handmade crystal stopper ornamented with Woodford Reserve’s initials. This is a collectible — targeted to fans and brand loyalists — but it’s also meant to be enjoyed.
Aromatic caramel and butterscotch hit the senses before you even take that first sip. The palate captures the best of both worlds — since the cognac and whiskey have a commonality when it comes to complexity and balance. Hints of dried fruit and slight spiciness tickle the tongue, while the robustness of the French and American oak shines through without being overpowering.
You won’t experience a lingering finish, but it has a creamy mouthfeel that I most certainly welcome.
Woodford Reserve calls this their way of “elevating American whiskey globally.” Personally, I’m not a fan of the hefty price tag, but I get it. It’s the Baccarat crystal you’re ultimately paying for.
As for inside the bottle, at the end of the day, it’s still the tried and true Woodford Reserve that I love — with a nice added depth from the cognac finish.