Owned by the same company behind historic brands such as Very Olde St. Nick (VOSN), Rare Perfection was another brand started by Marci Palatella to capitalise on the growing demand in Japan for ultra-aged bourbon. As Julian Van Winkle III’s agent in the Japanese market, Palatella sourced stocks from Old Commonwealth distillery in Lawrenceburg, KY., before transitioning to also bottling sourced stocks from Even Kulsveen at the KBD (Willett), and a variety of other sources, when Van Winkle started producing whiskey in partnership with Sazerac. Famed for sourcing amazing older whiskies the brand quickly gained popularity in bourbon and rye enthusiast circles. However, as demand for aged stocks of bourbon and rye skyrocketed across the board supplies for Rare Perfection, and Palatella’s other brands, dried up and so for many years the brand lay dormant. Frustrated with being unable to source the ‘magically intense barrels of yore’ in 2015, Palatella purchased a tobacco farm in Bardstown KY and transformed it into a small craft distillery with a visitors centre. Named the Preservation Distillery, Palatella’s dream of bringing back brands such as VOSN and Rare Perfection had become a reality and with production beginning in October of 2017, the team at Preservation reignited their efforts to source amazing barrels for these historic brands whilst their own whisky matures. The distillery produces 100% bourbon, rye, and malt whiskey using locally-sourced grains that are distilled using a pot still in 1 – 3 barrel batches. Today the Preservation Distillery produces brands such as Wattie Boone & Sons, Cowboy Little Barrel, Rare Perfection, and Very Olde St. Nick.
Released in late 2019, Rare Perfection 14-year-old, like other sourced brands from Preservation Distillery, is wrapped up in layers of mystery and intrigue as to its source and what’s inside the bottle. Rumour has it that the barrels used for Rare Perfection 14 and the 15 year old bottling were found in a warehouse in Canada after new owners had purchased the warehouse. Being mutual friends with Marci Patella, Preservation Distillery got the call about the casks, sampled their contents, and purchased the lot to be bottled under the Rare Perfection brand. The whiskey itself, although technically a Canadian whiskey, was distilled from a four-grain bourbon mashbill including corn, rye, wheat, and malted barley, by a now-shuttered distillery before being entered into new-charred oak. It was then aged in a single-story warehouse which maintained very low temperatures all year around with the result being a whiskey that has had very little interaction with the wood and therefore bears a very light colour. The label simply states that this whiskey is an ‘overproof’ offering, which is a historic term indicating that it has been bottled at over 100 proof, and that it originates from Canada, alongside the traditional Rare Perfection label stating:
‘Privileged to have discovered this extraordinary small batch treasure of fourteen year old Canadian whiskey. True to our philosophy, we entrust every odd barrel be bottled at an optimal age and proof. Rare Perfection. Share these hidden gems as we find them, & experience some of the most remarkable spirits life has to offer. Rare Perfection. Each miniscule batch no matter nationality, chosen for uncommon character, a rough elegance, and long-lasting smack in the finish, leaving even the cynical drinker shaking his head, asking for another pour. Drink well, friends, and enjoy.’
Name: Rare Perfection
Age: 14 y.o.
Proof: 100.7 Proof
Type: Canadian whiskey
Mash bill: Undisclosed 4-grain bourbon mash bill consisting of at least 51% corn
Producer: Sourced and bottled by Preservation Distillery, Bardstown, KY
Nose: The nose opens with faint toffee, white pepper, and earthy baking spices. As you keep nosing it some soft grain notes emerge through the sweet toffee alongside bold vanilla bean.
Palate: The palate opens with a syrupy mouth feel and a strong combination of caramel, bitter oak, and a very big hit of vanilla, these notes develop into toasted marshmallow before a touch of earthy grain, citrus peel, and faint syrupy sesame emerges. As you continue to chew the vanilla note returns, bringing with it that whisper of bitterness from the oak and grain.
Finish: The finish opens with some lingering spice, sesame, and grain notes from the palate before the alcohol and the vanilla emerge and leave an aftertaste of vanilla and faint bitter oak.
This is a very interesting whiskey for something that originates from a four grain mashbill and was aged in the cold Canadian climate. It’s light and sweet at the start and dark and earthy at the back with deep robust flavours throughout. The nose is really nice and well balanced and the palate follows suit, although that sesame note did throw me a bit as I wasn’t expecting it. This I assume is from the whiskey and the oak not having interacted very much as it matured in the cold depths of Canada. It tastes both fully mature and a touch young at the same time with lots of vanilla in the middle. Drinking this it reminds me of a fine brandy or something similar that has come from a solera system where old and young stocks mingle throughout the maturation period and is again no doubt down to the unique maturation conditions it spent its 14 years in.
There’s no doubt that this is an interesting whiskey and is very much unlike anything I have open in my cabinet at the moment. The combination of maturity and youth brings a bright grainy edge whilst maintaining strong flavour and is no doubt the result of oak and whiskey not interacting due to the conditions that the casks were stored in. This whiskey is nothing like what I would expect from an American whiskey but therein lies the beauty of it because it stands out in my collection. How this goes in a cocktail I don’t yet know but I’m sure that the combination of the almost herbaceous bitterness at the back of the palate and the thick toffee and vanilla sweetness in the front would bring a complexity to whatever you mix this into.
Try or Buy?
This whiskey isn’t cheap and reflects the whiskey market we’re in today where age comes at a premium. As such, I’d recommend trying and getting a taste of this before committing to a bottle, because the profile is quite unique and you would want to be sure you can appreciate it before spending your money.