Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Woodford Reserve Straight Wheat Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

If you've never been to Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, Kentucky, you're missing out. It may be one of the most beautiful campuses I've had the pleasure of visiting. Nestled in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by horse country, views abound and it seems like a very intimate, almost romantic setting.  Woodford is owned by Brown-Forman, one of the larger beverage conglomerates in the world.

Master Distiller Chris Morris and Assistant Master Distiller Elizabeth McCall are certainly innovative. They both embrace uniqueness, which is something I appreciate:

"The idea is to create new and different things with an artisan's touch. Things nobody's ever done before while maintaining the essence of Woodford Reserve that everyone loves." - Chris Morris
"Woodford Reserve is a brand that was built out of pure passion. Every person who touched it was united in building something great. It's all the pieces that make Woodford so unique and special, from the liquid to the bottle, our home place, Woodford County, and all the people that touch it." - Elizabeth McCall

Today I'm reviewing Woodford Reserve Straight Wheat Whiskey. Does that mean this is a wheated Bourbon?  No, not at all!  Wheat whiskey is a legally-defined category, with the requirement of a mashbill of 51% or more wheat as the primary ingredient. From there, it shares many of the requirements of Bourbon or American Rye:  It must be aged in new, charred oak containers, must have an entry proof of no more than 125°, and cannot be distilled higher than 160°.  To be considered straight, it must be aged at least two years and have no additives other than water. 

Wheat whiskeys are not rare, but they are unusual for American distillers. In Kentucky, the only other major distiller offering wheat whiskey is Bernheim from Heaven Hill.  Both are what you'd consider "barely legal" with mashbills hovering around that 51% mark. There are other distillers using much heavier wheat content, such as W Wheat Whiskey from 45th Parallel in Wisconsin and Dry Fly out of Washington state, both of which I've reviewed.

Woodford's version is distilled from a mash of 52% wheat, 20% malted barley, 20% corn, and 8% rye. It carries no age statement, but since that's the case we know it is at least four years. Woodford typically uses a #4-level char on its barrels and its rickhouses are temperature controlled. The final product is 90.4° with a suggested retail of $34.99.

I know I've thrown a lot of information at you, now it is time to get to the tasting notes and review. Before I do that, though, I'd like to thank Brown-Forman for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Time to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn Glass, this wheat whiskey appeared as a bright bronze color. It left an incredibly thin rim that generated fat, fast legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine. 

Nose:  Flowery aromas kicked things off, followed by nutmeg and cinnamon.  As I continued to explore, I smelled baked apple and pear, oak, cherry, and vanilla.  When I inhaled through my lips, there was pear and astringent quality.  Astringent is not something that you'd typically find in wheat whiskeys, at least not in my experience. 

Palate:  Woodford offered a thin and dry mouthfeel, sort of like what you'd expect from a Sauvignon Blanc wine.  At the front, the dominant flavor was oak. That was followed by white pepper in the middle. Try as I might, I couldn't find anything on the back.

Finish:  It wasn't an overwhelmingly warming whiskey, and it left a short-to-medium length finish of dry fruit and oak. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Generally speaking, I have a deep respect for Woodford and what they try to do. They have some expressions I really enjoy and few that I'm not a fan of.  In the case of its Straight Wheat Whiskey, this falls in the latter half. The best thing about this whiskey is the nose. It has an attractive price tag of $34.99, it wasn't bad whiskey, but I also didn't consider it something that grabbed my attention. You may find it more interesting than I did, and as such, this one takes a Bar rating.

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

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