photo credit: WoodfordReserve.com
WOODFORD RESERVE BOURBON
Age: 6 – 7 years old
Woodford Reserve Distillery: Brown – Forman
Master Distiller: Chris Morris
Is there really any need for a Woodford Reserve review? If you haven’t tasted Woodford Reserve yet, you have been hiding under a rick house. In my experience as a bartender, this whiskey is oftentimes a bourbon drinker’s introduction to the world of America’s Spirit.
Woodford Reserve is the product of one of the oldest distilleries in the country. Chris Morris, Master Distiller at Brown-Forman, explains the history of the operation and where the name ‘Woodford Reserve’ comes from:
Our distillery site is on its 4th name over 200 years of distilling activity. From 1812 until 1838 it was the Elijah Pepper farm, grist mill and distillery, one of thousands like it scattered over Kentucky. Pepper’s son, Oscar, built our current distillery building in 1838 and named it after himself, The Old Oscar Pepper Distillery. His son, James, sold the operation to Labrot & Graham in 1878. It operated on and off under that name for 126 years.
Our parent company, Brown-Forman, purchased the distillery and renamed it, “Woodford Reserve”, after the county in which it is located – Woodford County, Kentucky. It follows the Scottish single malt distillery tradition of naming the distillery after its location. – Chris Morris
Since 1995, Brown-Forman has produced the pot still bourbon that we know as Woodford Reserve. The mash bill and processing methods have changed a little over the years, so this review may not reflect the character of older bottles. When Woodford first got started, it was a single malt variant of Old Forester. That affected its character, changing it from a candy shop to a ‘pot still-ish’ character (hows that for snobbish descriptors!)
WOODFORD RESERVE BOURBON TASTING NOTES
We know that all bourbons are created from the same six sources of flavor. What makes Woodford Reserve different is the way that Master Distiller Chris Morris expresses each of those flavors. It is rumored that Woodford is crafted with more than 70 different flavor variables taken into consideration.
Lets start with the nose: The first thing that I notice is how reserved Woodford is (see what I did there?) The nose takes some time to come forth, but when it does you know you have a nice whiskey in your glass. The expected oak and rye are there, along with fruity new-make: green apples, green pears, and banana. The sugar and spice shop is there as well – caramel, vanilla, and cinnamon.
The mash bill for Woodford Reserve features a high percentage of rye: 72% corn, 18% rye and 10% malt. This is evident in the first sip, when the fruit nose and spice intermingle in a warm and flavorful whiskey. Mid way through, I get mixed fruit jam and the cinnamon that I picked up in the nose.
Woodford is only 90 proof – not hot at all. In fact, the burn barely registers at first sip. Could be because Woodford Reserve is triple distilled and has the lowest proof upon entering the barrel where it matures for at least six years.
The finish is the only downside to Woodford Reserve. If you know me, you know I like a pleasant finish that lasts. That’s what separates A- bourbons from A+ bourbons in my book. The combination of low proof and triple distilled and aged mellow leaves the finish light, tingly, and mildly metallic.
Woodford Reserve is a proper introduction to bourbon for new drinkers, and is a great old standby for daily sippers or neighbor visits. Experienced bourbonites will look for (and miss) the strong personality that some other ‘A grade’ bourbons possess, but that doesn’t discount the quality of the bourbon. For that, we give Woodford Reserve an B+.
The ONLY reason that Woodford Reserve scores a B is that it lacks character in its finish. This is purely subjective, but I like bourbons that have features that stand out. Woodford is tasty. Woodford is smooth. Woodford is made to please. I cant see anyone going wrong with picking up a bottle or two!
The Woodford Reserve price is around $39 for a fifth in most places, so you should be able to indulge on a budget. Get Woodford Reserve delivered to your home or office.