I first bought a bottle of this in 2000 and it took me the next two years to finish it off. Luckily I kept my notes since the bottle in the pic was a replacement I purchased last year and is still sealed. This is the first review I've made from my tasting notes and there are only a few that I'll do like this but since I have the notes and do own the bottle I don't feel too bad about not having a glass of this in front of me as I type.
This, the original Distiller's Masterpiece (there is a 2nd edition 20 yo Port finish one also), was the brainchild of Booker Noe of Jim Beam and Alain Royer of Fussigny Cognac. Noe was a bourbon legend not only for his Booker's single barrel, one of the first ultra premium Bourbons but for his almost 60 years in the business. Alain Royer is one of the few new innovators amongst Cognac distillers. His cigar blend Cognacs and experiments with aging in charred oak went pretty much against the grain of the old steadfast Cognac distillers. Owners of Distiller's Masterpiece can also order a free personalized name tag for their bottles but I don't know if this is still in effect since they were released over 7 years ago now. I believe that the Cognac finish Distiller's Masterpiece was only the second bourbon to get a 5 star rating from "The Spirit Journal" after the A.H. Hirsch 16 yo.
While technically not a bourbon due to additional aging in cognac casks, this certainly expands what a bourbon could be. The nose is a superior mixture of apple and caramel but this only hints at the blast of licorice, maple, apple, caramel and huge amounts of oak wood that hits your tongue on the first sip. The Cognac finish, which like any other "finish", was so unusual in spirits 1999 and especially bourbon, is obvious the moment you put glass to mouth. Totally unlike any other bourbon you may have ever tasted. There is an underlaying smoothness above and beyond the natural smoothness of aged bourbon itself. The finish of this is long, really long, obscenely long with caramelized apples fading into an oaky leather with a touch of anise after what seems like minutes after the swallow.
While certainly not for everyone, due now to very limited availability and high cost this can be considered a classic of the distiller's art and in my opinion one of the finest spirits ever made in America. If anyone is seriously interested in buying one PM me and I'll see if I can find one for you.
Edited by AVB, 02 April 2009 - 05:42 PM.