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 is hoping you won’t think twice about dropping close to a grand on the fourth release in its Founder’s Collection, a cask-strength bourbon finished in French oak. But maybe it’s worth thinking at least once about it.
First things first—this whiskey is very good, even delicious, so let’s jump right into 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 lurch to the borderline of becoming overpowering, stopping just short. On the finish you’ll find lingering flavors of old oak, a whiff of smoke and some savory barbecue sauce. In other words, this is a complex high-rye Kentucky bourbon that has picked up a lot of flavor after 15 years of maturation. A total of 10 barrels were selected from Rabbit Hole founder Kaveh Zamanian’s private collection and these were given a final flourish by finishing the bourbon in new French oak barrels.
This is arguably more than a finish, as the whiskey was blended and put into these new casks for another full year. According to the press notes, the wood for these barrels came from the Nevers and Allier forests in central France, and it has a medium to tight grain that makes this area so appealing to the winemakers who use it for cooperage. Nevallier was bottled at cask strength of 115.8 proof, which is hot but welcome because this liquid does not need to be watered down. There are 1,115 bottles available, each numbered sequentially and housed in a wooden box.
“With Nevallier, I set out to explore how bourbon could be transformed by French oak, and the result is a whiskey that is completely unique in relation to the other whiskeys I have produced,” said Zamanian in a statement. “Nevallier nudges bourbon past its traditional borders and it is my hope that this one-of-a-kind spirit expands the perception of bourbon among those who have a deep appreciation for fine whiskey.” No argument there, this is an excellent bourbon and whiskey fans should feel lucky if they get a chance to try it. But is it worth its $895 price tag, or the nearly double that you might find it for sale online? After all, you can find a bottle of Knob Creek, I.W. Harper or Widow Jane aged for a minimum of 15 years for somewhere around $150 to $200. No French oak finish on these, which of course affects the flavor (apparently in lovely ways in this case), but you see where this is going.
Bourbon prices are inflated and there are so many options out there that it’s kind of hard to justify spending this much on a whiskey like this, no matter the limited supply and secondary maturation process. If the hefty price tag isn’t an issue for you, pick up a bottle and you won’t be disappointed. But if you’re thinking about how expensive gas and avocados have gotten recently, move along. And don’t worry, you’ll find something just as good at a fraction of the price.
What Our Score Means
- 100: Worth trading your first born for
- 95 – 99 In the Pantheon: A trophy for the cabinet
- 90 – 94 Great: An excited nod from friends when you pour them a dram
- 85 – 89 Very Good: Delicious enough to buy, but not quite special enough to chase on the secondary market
- 80 – 84 Good: More of your everyday drinker, solid and reliable
- Below 80 It’s alright: Honestly, we probably won’t waste your time and ours with this