By Michael McCarthy By Michael McCarthy | September 7, 2022 | Food & Drink
Rare Hare 1953, an ultra-premium 17-year aged bourbon, enters the market with a limited release of a mere 1,953 bottles in the United States.
Rare Hare 1953 is aged 17 years and finished in XXO cognac casks.
Several years ago, not long after launching Bob Dylan’s widely lauded and pricey whiskey known as Heaven’s Door, Marc Bushala, the CEO of Spirit Investment Partners, received an interesting phone call.
It was from Ben Kohn, CEO of PLBY Group, owner of the Playboy brand.
“He told me they admire our work and wanted to get into the spirits business,” says Bushala. The two discussed Playboy’s brand equity in the United States versus China, where the company has a 97% recognition rate among consumers. China also is the leading spirits market in the world. The two CEOs figured that’s where they should focus the launch of a spirits brand.
Rare Hare is 111 proof, with notes of grande Champagne, along with candied fruit and spices.
COVID-19, however, changed the direction of their planning, and the two CEOs hit pause. It turns out the hiatus offered a revised take on branding—ditching the Playboy name and bunny ears for the bottle—and creating a spirit that was scarce and decidedly upscale. The duo also agreed the United States should be the initial foray for the spirit, a rare whiskey. And so only 1,953 bottles of Rare Hare 1953, a nod to the year Playboy launched, were recently released in the States; another 1,953 bottles were released in Europe and Asia.
“We wanted this to be a portfolio of limited releases that are super hard to find,” says Bushala. “That’s interesting from a consumer experience, since people love collecting and want to try what’s new. And this is an incredible whiskey with a vintage quality to it.”
The 17-year Kentucky bourbon, finished in XXO cognac casks from the Champagne region of France, offers subtle notes of grande Champagne and fine Champagne grapes with hints of candied fruit and spices. It’s 111 proof and packaged in a commemorative box.
“I really do love the taste profile,” says Bushala. “You truly taste the nuances, including caramel and vanilla. And you’re picking up some notes of fruit that you get from the cognac finish. I love that. It’s completely different from any other whiskeys I’ve tried.”
What’s also different is the bottle itself, a gorgeous vessel that recalls a throwback European design. “As we came up with the finishing touches of the release, we wanted the bottle to echo the shape and feel of cognac bottles rather than traditional American whiskey bottles,” says Bushala. “So, you’ll find it’s shorter with rounded edges, which fit nicely into overall branding, package design and liquid innovation.” Each bottle is individually numbered, and each custom box arrives with near-field communication, or NFC, technology. The NFC chip gives the bottle’s owners access to Rare Hare Society exclusive offers on travel, events and private barrel releases.
Yes, there are more limited releases planned, marking a new era for the indomitable bunny.
Photography by: PHOTOS COURTESY OF RARE HARE