Published on May 1st, 2013 | by2
In terms of age, the Woodford Reserve brand is entering the height of it’s teen years. The brand was introduced in 1996, by the Brown-Forman company. However, it’s roots and it’s distillery go way back. Nestled in Woodford Country outside of Versailles, KY the distillery itself was built in 1838, making it the oldest bourbon distillery in operation today. Currently named the Woodford Reserve Distillery, this distillery has gone through many previous owners and many name changes. Known to some as the Old Oscar Pepper distillery, and after that, the Labrot & Graham Distillery. In 2000 it was even established as a National Historic Landmark. To say this distillery has character would be an understatement.
With all this great history and lineage behind the Woodford Reserve brand, my hope is that they have brought along some great talent to help them craft a superb bourbon. After visiting their website, I really got the sense that they are fully committed to the idea of craft bourbon. Their company ethos is dedicated to creating craft bourbon and letting everyone know it.
According to their site all bourbon has 5 pivotal points where flavor comes from: Water, Grain, Fermentation, Distillation and Maturation. At each point Woodford Reserve injects their own personal flair to this process to make their bourbon unique from all the others out there. For me personally I think their triple distillation process is one of the most unique process in the bourbon industry. They have 3 separate stills, a different one that they use for each step. The distillate runs through the first still and comes out at 40 proof. Then onto the next step it comes out at 110 proof, and finally when it comes out of the final still its highest proof is 158. I know many distilleries will triple their product, but I’ve never heard of one using three separate stills in succession to achieve this.
Another unique step is the mash bill that they use. They use 72% corn in their recipe along with 18% rye and 10% malted barley. The high percentage of rye definitely adds a unique flavor to this bourbon and you’ll read more about that further down. I love that they put their recipe out there to let you know how they’re trying to set themselves apart.
Finally, my last thought before we dive into the review is the packaging. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you’ll know I’m a huge fan of great packaging. I believe Woodford Reserve has done a phenomenal job with their bottling. It’s nothing over the top and flashy. In fact it’s fairly simple and straight forward. There is no paper label on the bottle, it lets you see all the bourbon and it’s beautiful amber glow. The white print on the bottle has a great contrast once it’s filled with rich colored bourbon. The labeling is very clean, crisp, and minimal, it makes the bourbon the star of the show instead of the packaging. Alright let’s crack the bottle open and dive on it.
The first thing I noticed is that this Woodford Reserve has a bold nose. The moment after you treat yourself to a generous pour you can already smell the strength you look for with good bourbon. Although the nose is very strong, particular smells
are very subtle.
I’ve been told that sometimes you can search for a specific smell to the point of imagining things; kind of like seeing a mirage while wandering through the desert. Well you know what, most of the time those mirages are quite pleasant, much like the scents I eventually settled on. Vanilla was the first that I was able to pick up on in this glass of Woodford Reserve. Alongside the traditional hints of oak, I spent quite a bit of time to ascertain a tart smell that I came across. Eventually I began to recognize it as apple and cherry. Perhaps I wondered upon a ghost with these notes, but it sure did smell nice and made me want to hang out a little bit longer take it all in.
Texture and Flavor:
When you are looking for the mark of good bourbon, you have to appreciate great heat. Woodford Reserve
delivers just that! There was strong heat in the top of the throat and it lingers; take that Lunesta! Certainly
doesn’t hurt when you need to relax after a long day at the office.
The overall flavor is sweet with a little spice. The sweet flavor profile consists of vanilla, butterscotch, and honey. The spice is derived from the smoked oak flavor that sits on your palate ever so subtly. A great combination if I do say so myself.
There were subtle hints of spearmint and anise, which certainly doesn’t hurt when Woodford Reserve is used in a Mint Julep (more on that later).
The finish on this Woodford Reserve is excellent. Nice and crisp, the heat lingers on your tongue and builds into a crescendo and then fades out. Leaving your tongue with a sensation of needing another sip to satisfy it’s cravings. On the finish you’re left with a mouth coating that is rich and buttery. The tart smell that was in the nose also helps giving a refreshing finish to this tasty bourbon.
I’m a huge fan of Woodford Reserve. It may not have an ideal price point, but I believe it’s worth it. Personally I would like to see it in the $30-35 range (who doesn’t love lower price points?), but it’s very comparable to other bourbons in it’s price range. I think the overall flavor complexities in this bourbon are what really seal the deal for me. I love the fact that the heat from bourbon doesn’t go down into your chest as much as others because lets be honest, it’s not winter anymore and I don’t want to be drinking bourbon that gets me all warm and tingly on the inside in the middle of summer. Speaking of the seasons we have a world renown cocktail recipe for you!
Cocktail: Mint Julep
Alright folks, it’s the week of the Kentucky Derby so no messing around. Gotta give a shout out to the
Mint Julep. It’s the official drink of the Kentucky Derby and Woodford Reserve is the perfect bourbon
for this delicious cocktail. It’s a long day at the races and this refreshing cocktail will keep the nerves
away while you place your bets and watch your chosen horse breeze down the back stretch. A fair
warning, this cocktail takes time to prepare right but like most things you work hard for, the payoff is
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
12 sprigs of mint
3 ounces Woodford Reserve bourbon
1 sprig of mint
Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan and boil for 5 minutes; do not stir.
Pour over the 12 sprigs of mint in a heatproof bowl, gently crushing the mint with the back of a spoon.
Chill, covered, for 8 to 10 hours. Strain, discarding the mint. You may store the syrup in the refrigerator for several weeks, preparing individual juleps as desired.
For each serving, fill a silver, copper, pewter or stoneware julep cup with broken or crushed ice.
Add 2 tablespoons of the mint syrup and the bourbon and stir gently until the cup is frosted.
Garnish with 1 sprig of mint.