Spirit Of The Week: Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby 150th Baccarat Edition

First look: The Kentucky whiskey maestros release their rarest and most expensive bottle ever.

(Woodford Reserve)

Back in January, the rare and fine Woodford Reserve “Double Double Oaked” Bourbon was tapped as a Spirit of the Week. Now to celebrate the distillery’s longstanding partnership with the most famous Thoroughbred horse race in the world, the Kentucky Derby, Woodford Reserve pulled out all the stops for the rarest and most expensive whiskey ever made in the brand’s nearly three decades of existence. 

(Woodford Reserve)

“Since we are the presenting sponsors of the Kentucky Derby and are the first and only official bourbon, we started planning for the upcoming Derby well in advance,” Master Distiller Elizabeth McCall says of their limited-edition, thrice-barreled whiskey: Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby 150th Baccarat Edition.

“We knew that we wanted to create something magnificent, that consumers have never experienced in whiskey before.”

Of course the crew from Woodford Reserve have released Baccarat Editions using Cognac casks before, but what makes the Kentucky Derby 150th Baccarat Edition different is the third and final aging—done in what they dub a “couture” barrel.

(Woodford Reserve)

“For this third ‘couture’ barrel the oak was seasoned in the Derby Day Winner’s Circle at Churchill Downs, absorbing the microflora of this sacred space,” McCall reveals of this singular barrel. That uniquely touched wood was then taken to the Brown-Forman Cooperage from which they built two barrels, both heavily toasted and lightly charred. 

“This third barrel enhances the sweet aromatic notes in the whiskey,” continues the talented  Master Distiller, noting how the heavy toasting brings out the sweetness of the oak to the surface, while the flash char lightly caramelizes those wood sugars. “The Derby 150th whiskey has a rich flavor profile of warm toasted oak, bold baking spice, butterscotch caramel, and dried dark fruit. It is truly a treat for those fortunate enough to taste it.”

Located in Versailles in the heart of Kentucky’s famed horse country, Woodford Reserve’s connection to Thoroughbred horseracing is well cemented. For McCall, the most famous such race in the world holds its own special memories. 

(Woodford Reserve)

“The Kentucky Derby is one of my favorite Kentucky traditions. I have attended the Derby at every level, from the infield, wearing cut-off jeans and a tank top to the luxury suits, and it’s always fun no matter where you are,” she shares. “There are so many things I love about Derby Day itself: getting dressed up, the headgear, that first sip of my mint julep Derby morning, the horses, the people watching, and of course the Woodford.” 

Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby 150th Baccarat Edition Bourbon comes bottled at 45.2% ABV (90.4-proof) in a handmade crystal decanter that took five days to create at the glassware maestro’s headquarters in Baccarat, France, further packaged in bespoke leather case made in Scotland. Only 150 bottles were made, and it will go on sale starting March 28 with a price tag of $15,000.  

Follow Deputy Editor Nicolas Stecher on Instagram at @nickstecher and @boozeoftheday.