First Look: Woodford Reserve Baccarat Edition

Woodford Reserve has released a product in the United States only seen before in the global travel retail market – Woodford Reserve Baccarat edition.

For the last year and a half this luxury bottling has appeared in airports from Heathrow to Shanghai, LAX to JFK, and Mumbai to Frankfurt. Now some 2000 bottles will be released in the United States to general retailers and bars, consisting of 16 casks batched together. The cask finishing process lasted three, four, and five years for different casks after the traditional maturation process for Woodford Reserve.

This product is finished in French XO cognac barrels, sourced from multiple producers.

According to Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Chris Morris, Woodford Reserve finsihed products always follow three simple rules:

  1. Only Woodford Reserve is used as the base whiskey, entered into the secondary barrel at the usual 95-98 proof as the regular offering.
  2. No new flavor barrels – barrels are chosen to highlight and intensify the regular Woodford Reserve flavor profile.
  3. If you can’t taste the Woodford Reserve in the finished product it’s not a finishing, it’s a coverup.

Morris began to experiment with barrel finishes in the late 1990s with Brown-Forman, first in their Scotch portfolio before moving into finishing Kentucky bourbons. In 2006 Woodford Reserve released a chardonnay finished bourbon, the first of its kind. This led to even more experimentation, including their highly popular pinot noir finished and eventually double oaked.

Courtesy of Woodford Reserve

Woodford Reserve Master Taster and Assistant Master Distiller Elizabeth McCall points out that one of the reasons Brown-Forman can experiment with so many different types of barrels, both primary and secondary, is that they own their own cooperage.

McCall reports that a regular Woodford Reserve barrel has wood staves that are seasoned nine months, then toasted 10 minutes and charred for 25 seconds.

The Baccarat edition of Woodford Reserve, after aging the typical period of 5-7 years in a regular barrel, is then transferred to a French XO cognac barrel.

This cognac finish was selected before the Baccarat partnership to symbolize the historic ties between Kentucky and France that stem from the pre-Revolutionary frontier days. The partnership with Baccarat came after a U.S. representative of Baccarat, who is originally from Lexington, toured Woodford Reserve and learned of the project.

The MSRP of this Woodford Reserve Baccarat Edition bottling is in the $2000 range. At at least one bar at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, a pour of the whiskey inside goes for $350.

There has also been a cocktail recipe designed around the connection between France and Kentucky:

Courtesy of Woodford Reserve

It takes five days to make the Baccarat crystal bottle for this special release. While the crystal is leaded, Baccarat is reported to have a proprietary process that prevents the lead from leaching into the contents inside the bottle.

While this bourbon may be hard to find, it’s a great keepsake for the person who wants a memorable reusable decanter of heirloom quality.

Cover image courtesy of Maggie Kimberl

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