Whiskey Review: Bardstown Bourbon Phifer Pavitt Reserve Bourbon

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Bardstown Bourbon Co. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.

The comingling of aged whiskey and wine barrel sounds like a great idea because who doesn’t love brown booze and bold wine? It’s worked for ages with Scotch finished in sherry barrels, so why not try it with bourbon? Angel’s Envy and Barton did just that to their bourbons with long rests in port barrels, and Woodford Reserve has enrobed its bourbon in used Sonoma Cutrer cooperage to round out its whiskeys. All accomplished the trick to delicious effect.

But we’ve all had others (which we won’t name or bash) that didn’t turn out so hot. A mismanaged wine barrel hung sour edges and musty aromas on the whiskey or bludgeoned it into the background. Other wine-barrel-finished whiskeys left me thinking its makers thought, “We’ll this wine barrel to mask our bad booze.”

So it was with some apprehension that I drove from Louisville to Bardstown, Ky., in February to taste the new Bardstown Bourbon Co. Phifer Pavitt Reserve Bourbon. Nothing against BBCo., which is a terrific spot on the Bourbon Trail and a cutting edge distiller of three dozen unique mashbills and a growing number of collaborative projects. I also knew nothing about Phifer Pavitt Winery, which says lots about my near-abandonment of wine for whiskey in the past decade–and perhaps the lack of funds to buy truly excellent wine.

That all changed when winemaker Suzanne Phifer Pavitt and BBCo. master distiller Steve Nally led a group tasting of her cabernet sauvignon and the George Dickel bourbon he chose for this project. Phifer Pavitt’s Napa Valley wine was extraordinary: a jammy, dark fruit bomb of zinfandel on the nose, and expansive cabernet sauvignon boldness on the palate. The Dickel bourbon was solid on its own: 9 years old, bold but sweet with creamed corn and caramel notes. The mashup which followed was a show stopper.

Bardstown Bourbon Phifer Pavitt Reserve

Bardstown Bourbon Phifer Pavitt Reserve (image via Bardstown Bourbon Company)

Tasting Notes: Bardstown Bourbon Phifer Pavitt Reserve Bourbon

Vital Stats: 9-year-old, 110.2-proof George Dickel bourbon finished 19 months in Phifer Pavitt Reserve cabernet sauvignon barrels; finished cask strength proof of 107. Mashbill: Corn 84%, Rye 8%, Malted Barley 8%. SRP of $124.99 for a 750ml bottle.

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Appearance: Gleaming deep copper to auburn; swirling produced thin legs

Nose: Caramel, honey, milk chocolate, raspberry jam and oak

Palate: toasted oak, raisins, dark chocolate, currants, cooked cherries, sweet corn and caramel; mouthfeel is lush, finish is short, but not unpleasantly so. Someone needs to make a candy out of this.

The Takeaway


This is an outstanding whiskey created for thoughtful drinkers who want to sip, dwell and discuss. (But since we were treated to decadent New York sours using this whiskey with a Phifer Pavitt Reserve cabernet sauvignon float, cocktail it if you like and ignore those who say you shouldn’t. I don’t recall a better example of that drink.) This is one of the best examples of a wine cask-finished whiskey I’ve tasted, a sipper whose complexity lies in the unity of a superb wine and a delicious bourbon. I can only hope there are more iterations of this quality level to come.

User Rating 3.08 (40 votes)