American Straight Malt Whiskey
$26-40 US Retail
This is a well-executed, affordable, dessert-like whiskey. Full of sweet creamy notes.
Overall, this whiskey is quite one-dimensional.
Brown-Forman’s relatively small and eclectic Woodford Reserve Distillery has built its reputation on innovation. Situated in the country side of Versailles, Kentucky, Woodford distills using only copper pot stills rather than the large column stills typically employed for producing almost all of America’s bourbon. Woodford commonly experiments with different cask finishes, wood types, grain variants, and grain smoking and releases these expressions as limited edition or single-time releases. They’ve now added a rarely-seen American Straight Malt Whiskey to their continuous release portfolio.
As I’ve progressed in my own whiskey journey, I’ve gravitated more and more away from bourbon and towards single malt scotch. This is due to a variety of reasons, but one reason is that I’ve tried so many bourbons that it’s hard to find any that taste new, different, or exciting while also being reasonably priced and actually attainable rather instantly snatched up by flippers and resold at absurd prices. Thus, when I saw an American straight malt whiskey produced by a respected bourbon distillery at an affordable price, my interest was immediately piqued.
First things first, Straight Malt Whiskey is NOT Single Malt Whiskey. Single malt whiskey must be made from 100% malted grain. In Scotland, single malt whiskies are 100% malted barley. Ireland is the same. The majority of single malt American whiskies are also made from malted barley, but some craft distillers have made single malt whiskey from malted rye or wheat. In contrast, straight malt whiskey, like bourbon (at least 51% corn) or rye whiskey (at least 51% rye), must have a majority of the grain in its mash bill be malted. In Woodford Reserve Straight Malt’s case, the majority grain is malted barley, with corn and rye making up minority percentages of the mash bill.
As mentioned in the review of Woodford Reserve Straight Bourbon, the Versailles distillery does not have the production capacity to meet its needs, so its own spirit is supplemented with stock from the Brown-Forman Distillery in Shively, which also makes bourbon for the Old Forester brand. It is unknown whether the Brown-Forman Distillery makes anything other than bourbon to be bottled under the Woodford Reserve label. My guess is that the vast majority, if not the entirety, of the straight malt whiskey is being distilled on the copper pot stills in Versailles.
- Mash bill of 51% malted barley, 47% corn, 2% rye
- Aged in new charred American oak barrels
- No age statement (at least 4 years old)
- Bottled at 45.2% ABV (90.4 proof)
- This bottle is #3669 from batch 0010
Nose: Soft, simple, and malty-sweet. Vanilla cake batter, powdered sugar, white chocolate, and baked pears. Just a touch of green grape. While there’s no “counter-agent” to all those sweet notes, the aroma here is pleasant and not so sweet as to smell fake or cloying.
Palate: Sweet and malty arrival. Sourdough bread, cream soda, stale cake batter. As it develops, creamy marzipan and tapioca notes arrive alongside a hint of dry cinnamon, coconut milk, and toasted hazelnuts. Creamy mouthfeel. Like the nose, it’s simple but well executed.
Finish: Long! Intensifies for quite a few seconds before it levels off and eventually fades. Coconut cream, vanilla malt, and birthday cake. Quite warming in the back of the throat.
Buying Recommendation: Worth Trying A Pour (75/100). At the price I paid for it, I’d consider this a must-try whiskey. This whiskey has a simple elegance that is very easy to get along with. It’s a solid dessert dram that drinks more like a well-made blended scotch than a bourbon. It provides bourbon drinkers with a familiar-yet-different sweet and creamy American whiskey option, and provides scotch and Irish whiskey drinkers with an affordable, and in many cases tastier, alternative to many blended scotches and Irish blended whiskeys.