Showing posts with label Woodford Reserve. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Woodford Reserve. Show all posts

Monday, September 26, 2022

Woodford Reserve Distillery Series Honey Barrel Finish Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

I’ve always been impressed with the ingenuity of people who can repurpose things. It doesn’t matter if it is an entertainment center converted into a bar, a ladder made into a bookshelf, or a wheelbarrow that gets a new life as a planter. To me, it is fascinating (and, frankly, I’m jealous that I can never think of those things).


Distillers have done the same thing for many years. Bourbon and American Rye can only be aged in brand new barrels, and many find new life in other countries where whiskeys (and other spirits) can be aged in vintage oak. More recently, those barrels have wound up at breweries, wineries, coffee estates, and beekeepers, where their products are kept and take on the qualities of what’s stuck in the wood.


What’s fun is when a distillery sends off a barrel, it is used to store something else and then returns to that same distillery to become a finishing barrel. And, that’s how we wind up with today’s Woodford Reserve Honey Barrel Finish review.


Honey Barrel Finish is part of Woodford’s Distillery Series, an annual release of experimental whiskeys where Master Distiller Chris Morris and Assistant Master Distiller Elizabeth McCall have some fun with their creative juices.


“One of the best parts of my job is being able to experiment with new ways of making Woodford Reserve. It’s been rewarding to work with a honey producer here in Woodford County to create this unique Distillery Series expression and support local business and agriculture.” – Chris Morris


This release begins with a standard, used Woodford Reserve Bourbon barrel sent off to a local honeybee farmer in Woodford County, Kentucky. After the honey was aged, it was returned to Woodford Reserve and filled with properly-aged Woodford Reserve Bourbon for a short time.


Honey Barrel Release is bottled at Woodford’s usual 90.4° and is available in a 375ml package. It can be procured from the distillery gift shop and “select retailers” around Kentucky for $59.99.


Before you start scrambling to get your hands on a bottle, I’m sure you’d like to know how it tastes, and the only way to do that is to #DrinkCurious. But, first, I must thank Woodford Reserve for sending me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.


Appearance: I poured this neat into my Glencairn glass, and it appeared as a deep, dark caramel. One of the thickest rims I’ve seen stuck to the wall until it set free slow, thick tears.


Nose: The influence of the honey was impossible to miss as the aroma wafting from the glass. Butterscotch, vanilla cookies, and oak came next. I tasted coconut macaroons when I pulled the air in through my lips.


Palate:  From the stickiness of the rim, I would have expected a heavy mouthfeel. Nope. It was oily and thin. Bit O’Honey was the first thing I tasted, and as it turned out, was the entirety of the front. The mid-palate consisted of orange blossom, toasted coconut, and nutmeg flavors. The back exploded with allspice, clove, and dry oak.  


Finish: The oak became chewy, and the spice notes continued to build. The clove and allspice competed for attention. Then dark-roast coffee came out of nowhere. I sat there and waited for it to end, and it took several minutes to begin to fall off. Once it did, it dropped quickly.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Nothing is reminiscent of Woodford Reserve’s flagship Bourbon here. When you think of something with honey, you don’t often associate that with a big, bold spice bomb. Yet, that’s what Honey Barrel Finish gave, especially on the back and finish. All the sweetness was up front, and by the time I swallowed, it was nowhere to be found. If you’re searching for a Bourbon way off the beaten path, I believe Woodford Reserve Honey Barrel Finish will satisfy that desire. As for me, I wasn’t a fan on the first sip. But by the third, I found myself refilling my glass to enjoy this some more. I am happy to have this one in my whiskey library, and it earns my Bottle rating. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.



Friday, July 22, 2022

Woodford Reserve Batch Proof 118.4 (2022) Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

Woodford Reserve Batch Proof started five years ago as part of the distillery’s Master's Collection, essentially as an experimental product line from Master Distiller Chris Morris and Assistant Master Distiller Elizabeth McCall 


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 from right at the distillery. 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 being poured into new, #4 charred-oak barrels. 


“Barrels drawn from the first floors of our heat-cycled warehouses routinely possess lower proof presentations due the more relaxed angel share process found there. This batch had more of these barrels in its composition, and therefore a lower batch proof presentation than past releases.” – Chris Moore, Master Distiller 


Woodford Reserve carries no age statement but ages a minimum of four years. The price of Batch Proof is $129.99 for a 750ml bottle, which has remained the same for the last several years. The 2022 release weighs in at 118.4°. 


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


Appearance:  A deep, dark amber gave the impression of something aged far longer than the four-year minimum. A medium-thin rim created almost random, fat droplets that fell down the wall of my Glencairn glass.


Nose: This Bourbon was fragrant from across the room. Mrs. Whiskeyfellow was seated about ten feet from me and picked out notes. It was a fruit bomb with plum, dark cherry, elderberry, and blackberry. A puff of the air in my mouth tasted of thick, rich vanilla.


Palate:  An intense, oily texture greeted my tongue. Coffee, dark chocolate, and caramel formed the front, with flavors of dark cherry, orange peel, and elderberry on the middle. The back was black pepper, dry oak, and allspice.


Finish: Long and very warming, the coffee and dark chocolate held their own against the black pepper and allspice. Every so often, a kiss of caramel would poke through.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The nose was lovely, the palate had plenty going on, and overall, this is a good Bourbon. I’m hung up on the price. I said the same thing when I reviewed Batch 123.6 (2020). Batch 118.4 takes the same rating: Bar. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.



Monday, June 27, 2022

Woodford Reserve Toasted Oak Oat Grain Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


In the heart of horse country lies one of the most beautiful distillery campuses you’ll come across. Founded in 1812 as the Oscar Pepper Distillery, then the Labrot & Graham Distillery, Woodford Reserve is one of the flagship properties owned by Brown-Forman starting in 1941, then sold off in the 1960s, only to be repurchased in 1993. The Woodford Reserve brand was launched in 1996.


Since 2015, Woodford Reserve has been tinkering with unusual whiskeys. Some, like Double Double Oaked, have been released mostly annually. Others are one-and-done whiskeys.


“Experimenting with new ways of making Woodford Reserve is one of my favorite parts of my job. It allows us to explore new flavors with our bourbon.”Chris Morris, Master Distiller


Woodford Reserve Toasted Oak Oat Grain is part of the distillery’s annual Distillery Series release. It is made from fully-matured Woodford Oak Bourbon that was dumped into and finished in a new, heavily-toasted barrel for an undisclosed period—packaged at 90.4° in 375ml bottles, which is available at the distillery and “select Kentucky retailers” for $59.99.


I must thank Woodford Reserve for supplying me with a sample of this limited-release whiskey in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Let’s #DrinkCurious and taste what this is all about.


Appearance: Poured neat into a Glencairn glass, this whiskey presented as deep chestnut. It left a medium-thin rim that released fast tears back into the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose: This was an experience of mixed fruits and baked goods: oatmeal cookies, brown sugar, and cinnamon powder blended with plum and black cherry. As I drew the vapor past my lips, it was like a puff of cocoa popped in my mouth.


Palate: An oily texture greeted my tongue, and the front of my palate encountered a blast of spice that featured clove, big oak, and orange peel. I tasted nutmeg, brown sugar, and oatmeal in the middle, while the back offered cinnamon spice, chocolate, and char.


Finish:  The finish was medium-to-long and had flavors of clove, cocoa, chocolate, toasted oak, orange peel, and black cherry.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I’ve had oat whiskeys before and have yet to find one undesirable. I’m not sure what the oat adds, but whatever it is, I believe it should be included more often. Woodford Reserve Toasted Oak Oat Grain is an unusual pour, especially with the spiciness you don’t expect from this distillery. Is it pricey? Yeah, especially when you do the math and figure the 750ml cost. But it is also worth drinking, and if you can get your hands on a Bottle, just do it. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.


Monday, October 25, 2021

Woodford Reserve Chocolate Malt Whisper Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


Whiskey backstories are sometimes entertaining and something that becomes suspect as a tall tale. It seems that so many craft distillers have come into existence because their grandpappy's grandpappy's secret recipe that was tucked behind an old cupboard was discovered in the attic. Maybe not exactly, but they are usually darned close.


The big legacy distillers come up with their own romanticism. Woodford Reserve, despite its relatively young 25 years, falls under the legacy distillery category (mostly due to its parent company, Brown Forman). As such, when Woodford Reserve launched its Chocolate Malt Whisper limited-edition Bourbon and called it a happy accident, I was interested but not completely convinced.


The accident started with the distillation of the Chocolate Malt Rye, which became the 2019 Distiller’s Edition. As it is told, some of that distillate mingled with the next batch, carrying over chocolate notes.


“Sometimes unforeseen developments occur in the distillery that result in great flavors, this is one of those cases.”Master Distiller Chris Morris


The Straight Bourbon is the typical Woodford mashbill:  72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malt. Woodford is also triple-distilled, something unusual in American whiskey. It has a lower-than-average entry proof and, while it carries no age statement, it is typically around six years. Woodford chose a 375ml package and you can expect to pay about $49.99 for it. Availability is very limited, it is a distillery-only item in conjunction with select Kentucky-only retailers.


I’d like to thank Woodford for providing me a sample of Chocolate Malt Whisper in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. It is time to #DrinkCurious and vett this one out.


Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Chocolate Whisper was the color of brushed antique copper. It didn’t really form a rim, each time I tried, it would crash back into the pool, but it did leave sticky droplets where a rim would have been.


Nose: A fragrant aroma started with caramel and citrus, then introduced oak, and ended with a freshly unwrapped Heath bar. As I took the vapor through my lips, it was as if I popped a Queen Anne Cherry in my mouth.  


Palate:  The mouthfeel was as if a massive oil slick hit my tongue. The front of the palate was nutty with toffee and cocoa powder. As it moved to the middle, it became caramel, dark chocolate, and vanilla. The back featured roasted coffee, oak, and clove.


Finish:  Soft mocha initiated the experience, which then vanished. A second or so later, it came back in a tsunami of dark chocolate, black pepper, clove, and dark-roasted coffee, and that stuck around for several minutes.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This Bourbon was unexpected. By the name, I had the preconceived notion of expecting chocolate notes over everything else. The chocolate was there, but the coffee notes competed with it. What the coffee didn’t do was take over the entire tasting, and for me, that’s a positive.


Is Chocolate Whisper the happy accident that Woodford claims?  Only Woodford knows for sure. Is it a unique Bourbon? Absolutely. I also appreciate 375ml bottles being offered with this limited release for two reasons:  First, because it extends the availability. Second, it brings the price down to something affordable for many.


I enjoyed this Bourbon tremendously. It didn’t have a ton of complexity, but that’s not a negative. For $49.99, this is something you should snag off the shelf without a second thought, and that means it earned a Bottle rating. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.


Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Woodford Reserve Very Fine Rare Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


Woodford Reserve shouldn't need an introduction, despite being relatively new to the scene. Established in 1996 and owned by Brown-Forman, Woodford distills on what was the Old Oscar Pepper Distillery, founded in 1812, and whose distillers include Jim Crow and E.H. Taylor, Jr. In 1878, the distillery was then renamed the Labrot & Graham Distillery. The distillery was then shuttered in 1918 due to Prohibition, where it remained vacant until 1935 when it was rebuilt. In 1941, Brown-Forman acquired the premises and ran the distillery until the 1960s before it was mothballed and sold to a local farmer. No distilling took place for many years, and in 1993 Brown-Forman repurchased the property and rebuilt the distillery once again.

The Master's Collection came about as a means for Woodford Reserve to pay homage to the discoveries and innovations that have taken place by master distillers over the distillery's storied past. This is the 15th year of The Master's Collection, all of them slated to never be repeated, and will hit shelves on December 1st. It will be known as Very Fine Rare Bourbon and marks a new milestone where this and all future releases will focus on modern innovations by Master Distiller Chris Morris and Assistant Master Distiller Elizabeth McCall.

“The name Very Fine Rare Bourbon is a nod to the descriptors used by our ancestors to auction highly-aged Bourbon barrel lots. While Woodford Reserve will always honor the past, this Master’s Collection is about the present and future.” - Chris Morris

Very Fine Rare Bourbon carries no age statement, however, part of the blend contains the oldest Bourbon ever released by Woodford - 17 years - which is a nod to Chris being named Master Distiller back in 2003. I asked him what the youngest barrel was, and he replied 11 years. Additionally, he let me know there is at least one representative barrel for every year in-between except for 12. This Bourbon also will be the first time Elizabeth's name is on the hangtag. 

Very Fine Rare Bourbon is made from the same mash, the same 110° entry proof, the barrels rested in the same heat-cycled rickhouses, and when dumped proofed down to the same 90.4° as the standard Woodford Reserve. 

There were just shy of 300 barrels used in the batch, many of which were very short due to Woodford's average 18% per year angel's share. It will be available only in select US and global markets. Suggested retail for a 750ml bottle is $129.99, but your shopping experience may vary. When you go looking for it, don't bother seeking out the pot-still-shaped Master's Collection bottles of prior releases, that's been changed (you can see a photo below).

I'd like to thank Woodford Reserve for providing me a sample of Very Fine Rare Bourbon in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. It is now time to #DrinkCurious and discover what this Bourbon is all about.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this Woodford Bourbon is presented as the color of a yellow sunset. Yeah, I know, that's a weird description, but that's what it looked like to me. It created a thick rim and fast, sticky legs that took forever to make it back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  This Bourbon was very aromatic and fruity, so much so that Mrs. Whiskeyfellow, sitting across the room, told me it smelled delicious and inquired what I poured. Plum, cherry, berries, and citrus mingled together. Hidden beneath the orchard of fruit were chocolate and clove. What was shockingly lacking was I smelled no wood whatsoever. When I inhaled the vapor in my mouth, I found spearmint and vanilla.

Palate:  As the whiskey crossed my lips, the mouthfeel was oily and viscous. There was nothing in terms of alcohol burn. On the front, I tasted butterscotch and orange peel. Come mid-palate, flavors of plum, berry, and white chocolate continued the sweet trend. On the back, wood finally made an appearance. It was toasted oak, and it mingled with almond, leather, tobacco leaf, and cocoa powder.

Finish:  The finish began with oven-roasted walnuts, and the toasted oak, leather, and cocoa from the back palate carried over. Flavors of sweet vanilla and clove rounded out for what was a long, drawn-out finish.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Woodford Very Find Rare Bourbon provided me a complex nose, palate, and finish that I thoroughly enjoyed. Some folks may complain that a $130.00 whiskey with no age statement is not worth the price. I'm not in that camp - for me, age is just a number. What matters is the whiskey inside the bottle and if I taste value for the investment. I would drink this all day long and wouldn't feel cheated. The Bourbon earns my coveted Bottle rating, and I believe you'll agree. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try it
  • Bust = Leave It

Monday, October 12, 2020

Woodford Reserve Baccarat Edition Bourbon Review and Tasting Notes


When a whiskey costs $2000.00, most folks don't have that just sitting around waiting to be spent. To get the painful part out of the way, that's what a bottle of Woodford Reserve Baccarat Edition will set you back.

Before you roll your eyes and stop reading, let's talk about what it is.  It starts with the normal Woodford Reserve Bourbon, but, it has been aged an additional three years in XO cognac casks. I've had a handful of cognac-finished Bourbons and they're typically enjoyable, but usually, you're looking at a few months, maybe six, in the cognac casks. Three years is beyond the norm. Just like the standard Woodford flagship Bourbon, this one is bottled at 90.4°. Despite telling us how long it was aged in cognac casks, it carries no age statement. 

What makes this a $2000 bottle? A three-year finish isn't going to raise the price that much.  Instead, the $2000 bottle is, well, the bottle. According to Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Chris Morris, “Woodford Reserve Baccarat Edition is a celebration of history, a celebration of the connections between France and Kentucky -- and a celebration of the finest flavors of bourbon and cognac." 

If you're unfamiliar with Baccarat, it was founded by King Louis XV in 1764. It is located in Baccarat, France, and the crystal maker owns two museums. It started manufacturing stemware, window panes, and mirrors before developing the world's first crystal oven. 

The decanter itself took five days to create. For the record, it looks pretty slick.

How did Woodford do with this cognac-finished Bourbon? The only way to know for sure is to #DrinkCurious. But first, I want to thank Woodford Reserve for sending me a sample of the Baccarat Edition in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, the Bourbon presented as a dusty bronze color. It left a medium rim on the wall and created thick droplets that were glued until they became too heavy, then dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  Aromas of chocolate and orange peel started things off. Those were joined by nutmeg, dried cherries, and crème brûlée.  When I inhaled the vapor through my lips, the vanilla and orange peel stuck around. 

Palate:  The Baccarat Edition had a medium mouthfeel that offered no ethanol punch. The very first thing I tasted was vanilla. It wasn't just a little, rather, it was a vanilla bomb. I experienced difficulty finding anything else on the front, but that orange peel slid in before the liquid moved mid-palate. Then, very dark chocolate, cocoa powder, cherry, and apricot took over. On the back, it was an interesting blend of brioche, roasted coffee beans, dark chocolate, nutmeg, and salted caramel.

Finish:  A long-lasting finish of clove, French oak, dark chocolate, and salted caramel remained. The last note to fall off was the salted caramel.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Let's get real. I'm not paying $2000 for a bottle of whiskey. But, I did very much enjoy the actual whiskey inside and am curious if Woodford would offer a future release sans the crystal decanter. It was wonderfully balanced and might be one of the best things I've had out of this distillery. That would score a Bottle rating from me. If you find this at your local watering hole and it isn't prohibitively priced, try it. You'll appreciate what Woodford has done. Hence, it takes an overall Bar rating.

If you've got two grand to spend and you want a gorgeous decanter engraved with real gold, you can buy this limited-edition Bourbon from the distillery in Versailles, Kentucky, or at select retailers around the country. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy it
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

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

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Woodford Reserve Straight Rye Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

If you're new or relatively new to American Rye, you might be trying to get past the spiciness this category of whiskey has to offer. Similarly to getting used to peat in Scotch, rye's spiciness is something most people have to acclimate to fully appreciate.  Thankfully, many distilleries offer barely legal Ryes, meaning, they have the minimum or close to the minimum 51% requirement of rye content in the mash.

Many of the legacy distillers hover in this area because the idea is to have a product enjoy mass appeal. Woodford Reserve is no different. They're not targeting drinkers who want 95% or 100% rye content because most casual whiskey drinkers wouldn't become repeat consumers.

"Woodford Reserve Rye uses a pre-prohibition style ratio of 53% rye in its mash bill to pay homage to history’s original rye whiskeys, making spice and tobacco the dominant note among a sea of fruit, floral, and sweet aromatics, which yields a nice sweetness and overall balance. Our rye whiskey can deliver complex flavors – neat, on ice, or in a cocktail. A balanced rye makes a more balanced cocktail." - Woodford Reserve

Woodford Reserve's Straight Rye has a mash of 53% rye as stated above, however, the remainder is also important.  33% of that is corn, meant to sweeten the pot, and the last 14% is malted barley, meant to round things out and, of course, to aid in the fermentation process. It carries no age statement, but because of that, we know that it is at least four years old. Woodford Reserve uses new, #4-charred oak barrels for a majority of its products. Woodford does utilize climate-controlled warehouses where it tries to make the most out of cold winters and hot, humid summers. And, because it is straight, we know there is nothing added but water to proof it down to 90.4°.  Retail is about $34.99.

How does its Straight Rye taste?  It is time to #DrinkCurious, but first, I want to thank Brown-Forman, the owner of Woodford Reserve, for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this whiskey presents as a deep chestnut color. It left a medium-thick rim and generated watery legs that quickly dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  Despite being only 53% rye, rye spice was the first thing that hit my nostrils. It was joined by toasted oak, which was unexpected considering the heavy char level. As I continued to explore, I unearthed apple, honey, candied red fruits, and pecan.  When I inhaled through my lips, the pecan continued and was married to tobacco leaf.

Palate:  Things started off with a thin and airy mouthfeel. Generally speaking, American Rye starts off spicy. Well, this one didn't - it started off with sweet honey. The honey was then mingled with black peppercorn and rye spice. Come mid-palate, brown sugar and heavy mint dominated. Then, on the back, vanilla bean and pear completed the trip.  It was strange to have the flavors go sweet to spicy, sweet to spicy.

Finish:  While there wasn't a whole lot going on, that was offset by how long it lasted. Sweet vanilla, almond, and dry oak continued the uniqueness of the sweet to spicy cycle. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Woodford Reserve Straight Rye is a simple but interesting pour. There is nothing overly complicated about it, but weirdly unpretentious as it was, there was also nothing lacking. This is an easy sipper, it is very affordable, and not even challenging to obtain.  All of that is the recipe for a Bottle rating, and I believe this is one you'll enjoy.  Cheers! 

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

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Woodford Reserve Malt Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

I've really been enjoying malt whiskeys lately.  Sure, I've always had a thing for Scotch, it was my introduction to whiskey many moons ago. When I first tasted American malts, I was not a fan. I may have set myself up for disappointment though because I expected American malt to smell and taste like its Scottish and Irish counterparts. It took me a few years of continuing to #DrinkCurious to accept and understand that American malts were not going to be, nor were they designed to be, competitors to Scotch and Irish whiskeys.

There is also something to be said for quality. When American malts started to become a "thing" the quality was lacking. They were either harsh or under-proofed. It seemed like distillers were exploring what they could or should have been doing and, of course, using us as guinea pigs. 

Eventually, distillers seemed to have a better understanding of how to create malt whiskeys, both in the distillation and aging process. There are many high-quality American malts on the market. This is exciting because this is a fast-growing category.

When invited by Woodford Reserve to review their Kentucky Straight Malt, I jumped at the opportunity. The background on Woodford's whiskey is as follows: 

Coming out of Prohibition, the Federal Government approved four straight whiskey standards: Bourbon, Rye, Wheat, and Malt. These reflected the types of whiskeys produced in the United States prior to Prohibition.  While most people associate malt whiskey with Scotland, Kentucky has a pre-Prohibition history of malt whiskey production. Woodford Reserve Malt draws upon this heritage for inspiration.

It is triple distilled and made from a mash of 51% malted barley, 47% corn, and 2% rye. It was aged in new, charred oak barrels, just like Bourbon or Rye would be. Going with a barely-legal (meaning 51%) malt content in addition to the high corn, it is obvious Woodford is targeting Bourbon drinkers, and that's perfectly fine. This whiskey carries no age statement, but as a straight whiskey we know that's at least two years, and with no age statement, that means at least four. Bottled at 90.4°, Woodford plans to keep this as part of its core offering. The suggested retail is $34.99 for a 750ml bottle.

I'd like to thank Woodford Reserve for providing me this sample in exchange for an honest, no-strings-attached review. And now, let's get to it.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, the color appeared as a definitive orange amber. It was clear and inviting. It generated a medium-thick rim that stuck to the wall like glue. Eventually, gravity took over, and fat droplets worked its way back to the pool.

Nose:  From the moment I opened the bottle, this whiskey was very aromatic. As I gave it an opportunity to breathe, it continued to fill the room with sweet apricot and Honeycrisp apples. Once I brought my glass to my face, the fruitiness only got stronger, this time adding in raisin and dried cherry. Candied nuts came next, followed by toasted oak, then, finally, chocolate. When I inhaled through my lips, vanilla and honey rolled across my tongue.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was thin yet creamy. It was almost like clarified butter. At the front, it began with black pepper and oak. At mid-palate, things became fruity, with coconut and pear. On the back, it was a marriage of dark chocolate covered nuts. 

Finish:  The finish started off softly and then built to a quick crescendo of cocoa and oak. Pepper from the front of the palate returned to give it a nice, spicy thump. Overall, it was medium in length. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I absolutely loved the very complex nose. It was almost like someone blindfolded me, took an Irish whiskey and Bourbon, placed them side-by-side, and asked what kind of whiskey I had in front of me. The palate was less complicated, but that's fine.  Personally, I would have preferred the finish to last longer, but that's not a knock, rather, I was enjoying the flavors and didn't want them to end.

It is difficult to say Woodford Reserve Malt is atypical of American malt because the category is all over the place. However, it was very different from any other American malt I've had. Perhaps that was the influence of the corn. Regardless, I think Woodford has a winner here, with or without it being easy on the wallet. Awarding this my Bottle rating is a no-brainer. Cheers!

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

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!