A First Taste of Woodford Reserve’s New $15,000 Kentucky Derby Release

The Kentucky Derby 150 Baccarat Edition is out this month, and it's only available to a select few

A close-up of the new Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby 150 Baccarat Edition
The new Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby 150 Baccarat Edition used a wholly unique barreling process.

Woodford Reserve is commemorating the upcoming 150th running of the Kentucky Derby with a bottle worthy of the winner’s circle. Announced Monday, the Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby 150 Baccarat Edition is the rarest whiskey in the brand’s 27-year history, and the 150 bottles start at $15,000.

This limited-edition whiskey has rested in three casks: the original bourbon barrel, a cognac cask and a couture barrel whose staves were seasoned in the Kentucky Derby Winner’s Circle. Presented in a handmade crystal decanter created by Baccarat, each bottle arrives in a bespoke case with leather from Scotland. To pay homage to the garland of roses, given each year to the winning horse, Baccarat infused the decanter’s crystal stopper with 24K gold, which features a rather striking red color.

Meet Elizabeth McCall, Woodford Reserve’s New Master Distiller
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“We had to do something truly elevated to celebrate this monumental milestone,” said Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Elizabeth McCall during a small media event in New York in mid-March. “We had some unique ideas. Do we make unique barrels and put them on a horse trailer? Do we build a warehouse at Churchill Downs to age the whiskey? Lots of legal reasons why we couldn’t do those.”

Instead, Woodford Reserve’s team aged wood for their barrels at the Derby’s Winner’s Circle, starting in late fall 2022. They later took the seasoned wood to the whiskey brand’s own cooperage and built custom barrels (heavily toasted, lightly charred). From there, they added their Cognac-finished release for about a year. Note, due to the process, it’s technically labeled as an “American whiskey” instead of a “bourbon.”

A close-up of the new Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby 150 Baccarat Edition; Master Distiller Elizabeth McCall at Churchill Downs.
The new Derby release (with the Derby trophy, not included); Master Distiller Elizabeth McCall.
Kirk Miller/Brown-Forman

The winning owner of the 2024 Kentucky Derby, held on May 4, will be presented with a decanter during the Garland of Roses ceremony. Additionally, one bottle is being donated by Woodford Reserve (the presenting sponsor of the Derby) to charity: the Backside Learning Center, which assists families who work on the backside of Churchill Downs, caring for the thoroughbreds (the center will auction this rare bottle to raise funds for its programs).

So, can the common folk get one? Bottles will be offered at some Kentucky retailers, the Woodford Reserve Distillery’s gift shop (starting March 28) and on the company’s website (though customers have to pick it up at the distillery on one of two days).

How does it taste? We got to try a small sample (admittedly, not in the ornate packaging). It’s full of red fruit, honey, caramel, citrus and oak spice. It’s, unsurprisingly, delicious and decadent. But maybe don’t use it for a Mint Julep.


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