Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link in this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
Since bursting onto the whiskey scene in 2020 with a stated mission to create a ‘premium collection of rare expressions previously unavailable’, the World Whiskey Society has been an impressively prolific source of a wide range of whiskey styles and expressions from around the globe. In the three years since their first release, the independent bottler has been the driving force behind some thirty or so unique expressions, involving drams from Japan, to Scotland, to faithful old Kentucky Straight Bourbon.
To do so they have utilized a dizzying array of differently sourced single barrel offerings and innovative barrel finishes to create an enviable collection of limited edition bottlings.
One of these releases, bottled this past December, is a selection of 12-year-old Kentucky Straight Bourbon that’s been sourced from the famed Heaven Hill Distillery. It was finished in Armagnac casks, adding an exuberant dried fruit component. According to the bottle, the mash bill is 74% corn, 18% rye, and 8% malted barley, which is interesting if for no other reason than that I don’t recognize that mash bill from any of Heaven Hill’s other offerings.
In fact the only bourbon I’ve encountered with that mash bill at all is the recently revitalized Cream of Kentucky (It has been rumored–but I could not confirm–that when former Four Roses master distiller Jim Rutledge bought the brand several years ago, he sourced from Heaven Hill, so we could be looking at the same stock here, though that is pure conjecture at this point.)
World Whiskey Society co-founder Alex Kogan hand selected the barrel himself and finished the whiskey in Gascon Black Oak Armagnac casks for 16 months. Bottled at 96 proof (which, interestingly, is the same proof of most Armagnac releases), this bourbon is boisterously aromatic and bursting with flavor. Part of World Whiskey Society’s ‘Reserve Collection,’ the Armagnac-finished bourbon is a limited edition of only 885 gorgeously crafted bottles.
Designed to evoke the Gothic architectural style of the cathedral at Notre Dame, the bottles are as expressive as the juice they contain. The bold, ornate design, coupled with the rarity of the bourbon, should pique the interest of collectors, and at $200 a bottle it is not too prohibitively expensive to make for a nice gift to the whiskey lover in the family. It should be noted, however, this bottle is sold out at the Society’s website, so you’d have to track it down through some other means.
Tasting Notes: World Whiskey Society 12 Year Armagnac Cask Bourbon
Vital Stats: 96 Proof (barrel proof); Mash: 74% corn, 18% rye, 8% malted barley; Age: 12 years; Size: 750ml; Price: $200; Production: Limited Release 885 bottles.
Appearance: burnished copper to deep gold
Nose: The Armagnac influence comes through pretty clearly on the nose, with a prevalent japanese plum aroma undergirded with a hint of eucalyptus, followed by subtle traces of stewed pear, clove, and a floral note I couldn’t quite place. A short time in the glass gave way to prominent notes of dried fig and raw almond. After about an hour everything coalesced into an appealing bouquet of apple pie.
Palate: The armagnac influence really dominates up front here as well, creating a grape-forward, rounded mouthfeel that is back-loaded with vanilla and baking spices. The finish, though disappointingly brief, leaves a semi-sweet chocolate impression with some leather and just the faintest hint of caramelized banana.