Editor’s Note: This whisky 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.
James Baldwin, Ray Bradbury, Joseph Heller, and Ursula K. Le Guin, are seminal American authors, with each possessing a mastery of the English language the likes of which I will never know. These authors span diverse styles, tempos, subject matter, and concepts with their writing but they have one very fun pop-trivia in common. They all have stories which were first published in Playboy magazine. The saying, “I’m only picking up a copy for the articles,” holds a little water. A little.
We shouldn’t judge a magazine by its cover, even if the cover is Playboy.
As a lifestyle brand, Playboy has continued to evolve since the passing of Hugh Hefner. I can’t say I’ve kept up with what the brand is doing, and I’m honestly a little surprised it’s still around. However, the bowtie bunny silhouette persists and, as of 2021, has entered the high end spirits game. Rare Hare is the brand name for the Playboy Spirits division. The company originally launched a tequila, and last year released a 17-year bourbon which we reviewed.
This year they released Lucky Bastard, a 30-year-old Canadian whisky finished for 120 days in Pineau Des Charentes casks. Pineau Des Charentes is a fortified wine made by blending the French region’s grape juice with young eau-de-vie Cognac, and it imparts a sweetness as well as vanilla flavors to Lucky Bastard. The name “Lucky Bastard” allegedly pays homage to Playboy’s legacy in gaming.
“This whiskey was made with the collaboration of expert blenders, cooperages, and wine makers,” said Rare Hare Spirits’ Alex Moore at the time of its launch. “We tasted weekly and chased flavors using whatever methods regulations allowed. This required close attention to the weather and changing between sunny or shaded parts of our facilities.”
Moore is described as watching over the finishing process. “Extensive aging requires particular care to prevent over-oaking of a product. As with cognac, aging something for so long takes special attention to design and intention. It’s not a product you throw in a barrel and forget about.”
Rare Hare partnered with SIP, a spirits investment group, who “provided an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the spirits sector for the creation, incubation and growth acceleration of early-stage businesses.” SIP identifies Angel’s Envy, Heavens Door, Rare Hare, and Stolen as brands they work with. Together the pairing has brought three offerings to fruition for Rare Hare so far: 1953, a 17-year bourbon; Lapine, a 60 year cognac; and Lucky Bastard, which I’m reviewing here.
Playboy is a polarizing brand. I am not intending to speak about anything outside of the whisky sample. Whether you’re a fan or not, you likely have an opinion about them.
Rare Hare Lucky Bastard is an impressive whisky at 30-years. That is old whiskey. To buy that stock and finish it in French wine casks is a gamble. Whiskey, as it ages, can become temperamental and unwilling to respond to change the way younger whiskeys do. As it soaks up the oak for successive years, the flavors mature and evolve – suddenly adding a new sugary wine cask can throw the delicate ecosystem out of whack.
You have these deep earth notes with the oak and suddenly there is bright sugary fruit and a new barrel. This delicate whisky may now have to clash with a totally new flavor which hasn’t had time to fully mellow and maturate into the existing liquid. It’s a risk, and what it tells me is the master blender found a whisky and wanted to push it.
Nothing wagered nothing gained, I guess.
What I know is, like the incredible list of authors who published with Playboy, this whisky has potential to be a real surprising bright light for the brand. At the same time, like the hundreds of authors we forget were first published in Playboy, this whisky might remind us we actually bought the magazine for the centerfold. With that, we turn to the glass.
Tasting Notes: Rare Hare Lucky Bastard 30 Year
Vital Stats: 30-year-old Canadian whisky finished for 120 days in Pineau Des Charentes casks. 89 proof or 44.5%. 30-years old. SRP $599.00
Color: Apple juice
Nose: This whisky is bright and immediately shows off its sugary side with green grapes, crisp apple, flowers, and clove honey. The after aroma is sweet wine, but more of a white wine like Riesling and not a darker cognac. It is entreating to the nose and only the subtlest hint of alcohol is present.
Taste: This whisky evolves throughout the tasting. We start off with a creamy mouthfeel and buttery taste of beach-wood, walnuts, and coconut water. As it rests in your mouth it brings out the wine influence and a chili pepper spice to round out the mid palate with something bitter.
As the finish grows on the tongue you find rum sugars mixed with dark semi-bitter chocolate and coffee grounds. The finish is distinctive but bitter. The hold is of medium length, enough to enjoy it after it’s gone.