Class: Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Reviewers: Andrew Owen, Bobby Long
The Woodford Reserve brand has been around since 1996, but it is produced at an ancient (albeit renovated) distillery that has been producing whiskey since the late 1700's outside of Versailles, Kentucky. The distillery has changed owners a number of times, but has been continuously distilling since it was built except for two brief periods - one during Prohibition, and one in the mid-20th century when it was undergoing renovations. The distillery is currently owned by Brown-Forman (of Jack Daniels and Old Forester fame).
The Woodford Reserve bourbon line is marketed as something like a boutique version of Old Forester, and indeed early in its tenure it was often composed of honey barrels from the Old Forester distillery. By production capacity, the Woodford Reserve distillery is fairly small, and it is set apart from its Kentucky brethren by its exclusive use of copper pot stills rather than the more common continuous column stills that most other bourbon distilleries use.
To offset its production limitations, Brown-Forman boosts Woodford Reserve stocks with barrels distilled at the Old Forester distillery, so your bottle of Woodford Reserve bourbon actually likely contains bourbon from both the Woodford Reserve stills and the Old Forester stills. Both distilleries share the same mash bill as well. It is worth checking out Woodford Reserve's website for the gallery of photos they have of the beautiful distillery and grounds.
This bourbon, fully titled "Woodford Reserve Distiller's Select", is the entry level bourbon from the distillery, although it is priced to compete at a fairly premium level at around $40-45. The distillery also releases a more premium "Double Oak" bourbon, a straight rye whiskey, and several ultra-premium "Master's Collection" bourbons which experiment with different cask finishes or other peculiarities.
- Mash bill of 72% corn/18% rye/10% malted barley
- No Age Statement
- Bottled at 45.2% ABV (90.4 proof)
Nose: Wood forward. Very oak-heavy. Underneath the blanket of oak are much needed sweeter elements of vanilla nougat and malty caramel. Sweet red cherries and hints of rye spice – namely cinnamon and allspice, round things out. Underneath the wood, the nose is very sweet, creating what's all in all a pretty balanced and enjoyable aroma.
Palate: Again, wood forward, but even more so than the nose. However, on the palate the wood does not dissipate into those lovely sweet notes found on the nose. Instead, the wood starts to grow slightly astringent, while only revealing some thin notes of sweet vanilla, and a tad bit of barrel char. I'm disappointed that I cannot find any of the caramel or sweet fruits from the nose.
Finish: Dry vanilla, and bitter oak. Some vegetal notes appear, like green grass. Fairly short.
Buying Recommendation: Don't spend your money on it. I'm sorry; I want to like this bourbon, but I don't. What started as a very promising aroma totally disintegrated into an oaky mess on the palate and finish. Given my experience with it, I can't recommend you spend you money on it, although still give it a try if offered. To further exacerbate the problem, this bottle sits in a premium price category filled with other high quality options that I'd rather drink like Four Roses Single Barrel, Col. EH Taylor Small Batch, or Russell's Reserve.
*Here at WBSE, we sometimes drink the same whiskey (Surprise!) and we find that most often, two or three opinions are better than one (unless one of them is Greg's). We like to see how our own tasting notes compare with each other, and you will get multiple opinions on overall score! Everybody wins!*
Nose: Bold heavy oak, a hint of caramel and grassy corn notes, a tiny bit of vanilla and a more potent floral note. I also detect a strange plastic like note that fades as the dram rests.
Palate: Thin mouth feel. Oak is very forward followed by a flowery potpourri-like taste. It transitions into a bit of sweet oak, barrel spices, light vanilla and caramel, with just a hint of mixed fruit which is hard to find behind the big oak.
Finish: Corn and oak mix together with a mild dose of vanilla and caramel. The low proof makes for a crisp clean finish. There is some rich vanilla in there; if the finish didn’t end so quickly it could be really enjoyable.
Buying Recommendation: Don't spend your money on it. Now look I’m not saying this is terrible, in fact its not even bad, but the price put this in a more premium category. This is a solid but one-dimensional whiskey at a price meant for more complex pours. If you’re big on oak flavor then give this a try but at $40 there are more interesting things out there you can spend your money on.
The Rating Scale
At WBSE we use a true 100 point scale for scoring to allow whiskeys to further differentiate themselves (as opposed to a letter grade scale where 90% of whiskeys fall between 78-92). This allows you to more easily compare scores between different whiskeys. Here is how the scale breaks down:
1-49: Varying degrees of bad
60-69: Better than average
90+: truly exceptional
All thoughts and opinions expressed are original to the author of the review or article. We are in no way paid to express any specific opinion about any specific company or product.