Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Brown-Forman. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
How does 750mL of Woodford Reserve end up costing $2,000 (list price, before the secondary fan boy market gets ahold of it)? When it’s inside a decanter that took a trained-for-fifteen-years French artisan five days to make.
This is the magic and expense of the Woodford Reserve Baccarat Edition, your same old buddy Woodford Reserve, finished for three years in XO Cognac barrels. A Baccarat executive was in Lexington, KY, chatting with Woodford Master Distiller Chris Morris, legend has it, when he learned the distillery planned a Cognac-rested version. The team back at Baccarat “thought it was so neat” that they suggested a partnership: our decanter, your whiskey.
I’m sure they made Woodford Reserve feel special, but this is not the first time Baccarat has made this proposal. You can get loads of super-premium spirits in their crystal decanters, from a Remy Martin Louis XIII Cognac to The John Walker, an extra-old version of Johnnie Walker Blue Label.
What’s so great about a Baccarat decanter? They start out with a hand-blown (well, mouth-blown) basic form, and then many of the facets are free-hand cut before being shaped, ground and polished. As an apostate sculptor, the very thought of free handing such irrevocable cuts makes my stomach tighten. The crystal blowers, cutters, engravers and gilders are all different positions, and Baccarat employs the highest number of award-winning “Best Craftsmen” in France, more than any other French luxury House.
To earn ‘meilleur ouvrier de France’ [best craftsman of France], one must study and perfect their craft for years, and then produce something amazing in their field at the behest of the judges, as well as over the costs of the project themselves. Once awarded, the artisan is allowed to use the official logo on their stationery and keep their title for life. There’s even a pin: an understated MOF bronze medallion.
In 2019 a similar Woodford Reserve format was released but only available in the luckiest of international duty-frees. That decision caused somewhat of a kerfuffle. This new edition is available here in the native land of bourbon.
Tasting Notes: Woodford Reserve Baccarat Edition
Vital Stats: Woodford Reserve Baccarat Edition Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is 90.4 proof and made from 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley. Its total age is undisclosed but it spends three years in XO Cognac barrels. Find a bottle for $2,000 for 750mL in extremely limited quantities nationwide, including at the distillery.
Appearance: This whiskey is a very clear, medium copper that coats the glass and slowly forms fat tears.
Nose: First off on the nose, it’s eggnog, then as I continue to inhale, that eggnog is made with turpentine. Somewhat more expected banana skin volatility is in there, too, along with brown sugar, a dusty dirt road and rubber erasers.
Palate: The palate is surprisingly peachy, the body mouth coating but light and very dry. Almond cookies bloom on the mid-palate and the proof makes my lips sparkle. The finish is long and pleasantly tannic with a whisper of sandalwood. Sampling in the Baccarat glass yields more spice: allspice and black pepper.
Woodford Reserve Baccarat Edition is a good whiskey that I wish I’d tasted totally blind so the blingy hype didn’t get in the way. The cognac finish does add a certain yummy je ne sais quoi. I’d love to enjoy more of this by the fire, but I’m not blowing my annual whiskey budget to do it.