How much are you willing to pay for a bottle of whiskey that doesn’t have “Pappy Van Winkle” or “Michter’s 25 Year Old” on the label? Louisville’s Rabbit Hole Distillery hopes you won’t hesitate to stumble upon the fourth release in its Founder’s Collection, a cask-strength bourbon finished in French oak. But maybe it’s worth thinking about at least once.
First of all, this whiskey is very good, even delicious, so let’s get straight to the tasting notes. The palate is rich with dark chocolate, espresso and a bit of candied cherry. This is followed by strong tannic notes that teeter on the edge of becoming overwhelming, stopping just short. On the finish you will find lingering flavors of old oak, a puff of smoke and a savory barbecue sauce.. In other words, this is a complex, high Kentucky rye bourbon that has acquired plenty of flavor after 15 years of aging. A total of 10 casks were selected from rabbit hole private collection of founder Kaveh Zamanian and these were given a final knockout by finishing the bourbon in new French oak barrels.
This is arguably more than a finish, as the whiskey has been blended and put into these new casks for another full year. According to press notes, the wood for these barrels comes from the forests of Nevers and Allier in central France, and it has a medium to tight grain that makes this region so attractive to winemakers who use it for cooperage. Nevallier was bottled at cask strength of 115.8 degrees, which is warm but welcome as this liquid does not need to be sweetened. There are 1,115 bottles available, each sequentially numbered and housed in a wooden box.
“With Nevallier, I sought to explore how bourbon could be transformed by French oak, and the result is a whiskey that is completely unique from other whiskeys I have produced,” Zamanian said in a statement. “Nevallier pushes bourbon beyond its traditional boundaries and I hope this one-of-a-kind spirit will broaden the perception of bourbon among those who deeply appreciate fine whisky.” No argument there, it’s a great bourbon and whiskey lovers should feel lucky if they get the chance to try it. But is it worth its $895 price tag, or nearly double what you might find for sale online? After all, you can find a bottle of Knob Creek, IW Harper, or Widow Jane aged for at least 15 years for around $150 to $200. No French oak finish on these, which of course affects the flavor (apparently in a nice way in this case), but you see where it’s at.
Bourbon prices are inflated, and there are so many options, it’s hard to justify spending so much on a whiskey like this, regardless of the limited supply and secondary maturation process. If the high price isn’t an issue for you, get a bottle and you won’t be disappointed. But if you’re thinking about the price of gasoline and avocados lately, move on. And don’t worry, you’ll find something just as good at a fraction of the price.
Buy now $900
What our score means
- 100: It’s worth exchanging your firstborn for
- 95 – 99 At the Pantheon: A trophy for the firm
- 90 – 94 Great: An enthusiastic wink from friends when you pour them a drink
- 85 – 89 Very Good: Delicious enough to buy, but not special enough to seek aftermarket
- 80 – 84 Good: More of your everyday drinker, strong and reliable
- Below 80, it goes: Honestly, we probably won’t waste your time and ours with this.
Every week, Jonah Flicker tastes the hottest and most interesting whiskeys in the world. Check back every Friday for its latest review.