Thursday, March 12, 2020

Woodford Reserve Batch Proof 123.6 Bourbon Review

Barrel-proof whiskeys are in vogue and have been gaining in popularity over the last few years.  Some major players are Elijah Craig Barrel Proof (Heaven Hill), Stagg, Jr. (Buffalo Trace), Rare Breed (Wild Turkey) and Small Batch Limited Edition (Four Roses).  What many folks may be less familiar with is Woodford Reserve Batch Proof

Batch Proof started off three years ago as part of Woodford's Master's Collection, essentially an experimental product line from Master Distiller Chris Morris and Assistant Master Distiller Elizabeth McCall.  The 2018 version was 125.8°, the 2019 version was 123.2°, and now, for 2020, it is 123.6°.

Woodford does things a bit differently than many other distilleries. It starts with a mash of 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley. They use limestone water obtained at the distillery itself. Nothing unusual with that so far, but it is the next steps that matter:  It uses a six-day fermentation process, which is longer than the industry average of three. It is triple-distilled using a blending of whiskeys from both pot and column stills. Entry-proof is also lower than average, brought down to 110° before poured into new, #4 charred-oak barrels.

Aging at Woodford is done in heat-cycled warehouses. If you're unfamiliar with that term, in the winter, they heat the inside of the warehouse. When it reaches a pre-determined temperature, it is then cooled by venting out all of the heat. Think of it as artificial seasons meant to cause additional interaction of whiskey and wood.  

Woodford Reserve carries no age statement but is aged a minimum of four years. The price of Batch Proof is $129.99 for a 750ml bottle.

So, how does this special release taste? Let's #DrinkCurious and find out. But, first, I'd like to thank Brown-Forman for sending me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.

In my Glencairn glass, it appeared as a deep but hazy chestnut color. It left an ultra-thin rim that just stuck to the wall like glue. I left the glass alone and the rim didn't generate legs.

The first smell to hit my nostrils was dark chocolate. It was soon joined by sweet, dried fruit. Beneath the fruit was a soft note of wood and, then, mint. If there was ethanol, it fell off entirely as I let it rest. Just as I thought I found everything, a cherry bouquet tapped my senses.  When I inhaled through my lips, I found cherry vanilla.

The mouthfeel was very thin and required help moving it around my mouth. Despite the 123.6°, there was absolutely no "burn." I discovered a mix of cocoa and brown sugar on the front of my palate. Mid-palate was a marriage of clove and dark chocolate. On the back were leather, oak, and caramel.

A finish of oak, chocolate, and caramel was very pleasant, and I wished it was longer-lasting. Don't get me wrong, it lasted, but it was something I wanted to go on and on.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  I enjoyed the hell out of Woodford Reserve Batch Proof. There were some delicious notes and I wish my 50ml sample was, say, a 200ml sample. But, as much as I savored it, that $130 price tag is hefty. The standard Woodford is about $36.00. As such, that's about a 3.5 multiple for barrel proof. When I consider the competition (Rare Breed, Stagg Jr., and Elijah Craig), they don't command that hike.

If I was a huge Woodford fanboy, I'd say this is an absolute must-buy. However, the competition is excellent and I didn't find Batch Proof to be a stand-out compared to them. With the exception of Wild Turkey, the rest are limited edition offerings, just like Woodford. I'd have a tough time justifying $130 on this and believe it is fair to offer a Bar rating. Try it before you buy it. Cheers!

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