The most expensive Woodford Reserve ever released is finally available in the US

Fans of Woodford Reserve may want to save up for an ultra pricey version of the Kentucky bourbon that is finally coming to the general American market.

The Baccarat Edition, previously only available to overseas travelers, is the most expensive Woodford Reserve ever released, with a suggested $2,000 price tag.

And the bad news is that it tastes pretty good.

Woodford Reserve launched the Baccarat edition last year in duty-free shops in airports around the world at $1,500.

Master distiller Chris Morris said that sales there have been a huge success, so they’ve gone ahead with the full-scale launch, despite the upheaval caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

And, regardless of the price tag, bottles are selling here too: At least three have sold in Kentucky this week, Morris said.

It’s available at the distillery gift shop in Versailles, Kentucky, and will be online at later this month.

Partnership with Baccarat

The release, part of a partnership with the French maker of luxury crystal products, will be an annual one, with a limited amount for sale.

One reason for the limitation: Baccarat can only make so many of the fancy bottles, which take five days for a single artisan to complete, Morris said.

“This takes Woodford Reserve to the next level with a luxury presentation,” he said.

Where can you taste Woodford Reserve Baccarat?

About 2,000 bottles are available around the country this year, mostly at fine retailers. But a few will end up in bars.

How does it taste?

What makes this whiskey so special? It’s aged for three to five years in 30-year-old XO cognac casks from France, giving it a finished flavor that enhances Woodford Reserve’s fruit and spice characteristics.

The result, according to the tasting notes, is “a balance of crisp American and French oak notes, complex fruit character, subtle spiciness, and a creamy confectionery finish.”

Journalists were sent small bottles of the bourbon to sample during an online tasting led by master taster Elizabeth McCall.

“I get a lot of red apple, pepper, apricot, mint, clove and even leather,” McCall said. The cognac enhances Woodford’s bold notes of dark chocolate and dark caramel, she said.

How the whiskey came to be

The whiskey has been in the works at the distillery for some time, and was originally going to be launched in May.

The release was timed to coincide with the Kentucky Derby, which Woodford Reserve sponsors. But COVID upended all of that.

Still, with barrels of the stuff aging away in Kentucky, they decided to go forward.

Because though $2,000 for a bottle, even a crystal decanter, seems like a lot for a Kentucky bourbon product, it’s peanuts in the world of international luxury, where top-shelf spirits can go for half a million dollars, Morris said.

It wasn’t always meant to be a $2,000 bottle.

Originally, Morris said, it was glass, and they planned to call it something like the “Lafayette” or “Marquis” edition, highlighting the historical link between Kentucky and France.

But with the Baccarat partnership came certain expectations.

“It was probably always going to be the most expensive bourbon the market … but ‘Baccarat’ gives you permission to go beyond,” he said.

And that elevated the brand as a whole. Over the last year, the company watched as customers, targeted by airport ads, were drawn in to look at the bottle, then “settled” for a lower-price version.

“It has a great halo effect,” Morris said.

And if you are lucky enough to be able to afford one of the top-end bottles, his advice: “Drink it, of course,” he said. Save the decanter and fill it with Woodford Double Oaked.

“If they don’t drink it, shame on them. It’s so good.”

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