Woodford Reserve is a premium whiskey produced by the Brown-Forman Corporation which also manufactures other well known brands such Jack Daniel’s and Chambord. The distillery is located in Woodford County, Kentucky and is a National Historic Landmark. There are five main labels the distillery produces along with a few limited edition releases which we’ll get into later. Being a premium small batch Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey, Woodford Reserve prices hover in the $30-$40 range.
Although the distillery has not been continuously operational, whiskey production dates all the way back to 1812 when it was known as the Old Oscar Pepper Distillery. Later, it would become the Labrot & Graham Distillery. In 1941 Brown-Forman purchased and refurbished the property. The Woodford Reserve brand was released in 1996.
Today, Master Distiller Chris Morris and his Assistant Master Distiller Elizabeth McCall are responsible for the the art and science that make Woodford Reserve. Elizabeth may be newer to her position however she is not new to the company. Operating for 9 years in R&D she made the switch to Assistant Master Distiller in 2018. Chris’ career in bourbon began in 1976.
Woodford is making a point to protect the environment and preserve natural resources through their green practices. Firstly, according to their website, their vision is to recycles 98% of all materials used throughout operations. Secondly, they dedicate 10 acres of land for natural grass restoration. And thirdly, compost 97% of scraps on their property. In conclusion, more and more companies are going green and Woodford is one of them.
The Woodford Way
Woodford prides themselves on the quality of ingredients that go into their whiskies. There are five sources of flavor that are responsible for the characteristics of the finished product. As you probably guessed, grain plays a massive role in the overall flavor profile of the whiskey. However, there are other ingredients that might not be so obvious such as the water source or type of oak barrels the whiskey is aged in.
Let’s get into defining characteristics. Woodford’s grain recipe is 72% corn, 18% rye and 10% malted barley. The water is derived directly from the distillery and is naturally filtered through the limestone deposits that sit deep in the ground. Woodford’s fermentation process is longer than most which results in complex flavors and a rich smooth finish. The company distills in both pot stills and column stills to give an even more rare flavor combination. They source new white oak for barrels and even craft, toast and char the barrels at their cooperage. The barrels then rest in their heat-cycled warehouses until they are ready for bottling.
There are currently eight labels in the line that the company produces with five being mainstays.
The top three or most well known are the original Straight Bourbon Whiskey which shows perfect balance. The Double Oaked is a twice-barreled bourbon, and their Malt Whiskey which is marketed for bourbon drinkers.
They also make a pre-prohibition Rye Whiskey and Wheat Whiskey using a unique and historical recipe. The Baccarat edition is uses select XO cognac barrels for finishing. Morris sources the barrels which have seen three cycles before they are filled with the bourbon.
Their Master’s Collection incorporates old traditions with todays innovations. In Kentucky, a fermented grain mash is referred to as a “distiller’s beer”. Combining the term with the Irish style (the use of triple-pot stills) distillation process inspired Chris and Elizabeth to brew an Irish-style stout beer. The product released for the 2021 Masters Collection was named Five-Malt Stouted Mash.
Starting in 2015, Master Distiller Chris Morris has released 2-3 expressions a year of their distillery series. They have all sorts of creative flavors from toasted oak rye to exquisite cask finishes to a chocolate malt whisper released in 2021. These are a bit more difficult to find, so ask your local liquor store or head to their website for availability.
Woodford also distills some limited edition releases like their Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Batch Proof which is only sold in Kentucky. The distillery is an official sponsor of the Kentucky Derby and releases this batch once a year around the time of the event.
The Straight Bourbon Whiskey offers a nice balance of sweet, spice, wood and grain. The bourbon is rich and smooth with notes of toffee, caramel, citrus and cinnamon.
The Double Oak is complex and rich showing hints of dark fruit, leather, caramel, and dark chocolate.
Aged in new charred oak barrels, their Malt Whiskey is 51% malt shows complex flavors of dried nuts, coconut, brown spice and dark chocolate.
Made in the traditional pre-prohibition fashion using 53% rye, the dominant notes in this Rye Whiskey are tobacco and spice followed by mint, molasses and honey.
Full of floral and fruit flavors, this 52% Wheat Whiskey is a beautiful blend using a historical recipe. Its predominant notes are fruit cobbler, vanilla and baking spice.
The character of the Baccarat Edition is smooth and creamy. On the nose you’ll find cocoa, vanilla and clove. The influence from the cognac barrels is present on the palate with rich malt, oak and caramel flavors.
The Five-Malt Stouted Mash is decadent with malty, nuts, chocolaty aromas. The flavor shows toasted hazelnut and malt followed by cooked fruit and citrus peel. The finish lingers with milk chocolate.
What are some alternatives?
Since Woodford Reserve is considered a premium spirit, some comparable whiskies would be Four Roses Small Batch, Knob Creek or Maker’s Mark. You can enjoy all of them on their own or with a big cube or splash of water. They will also make great cocktails which brings us to our next section! Woodford Reserve Prices hover in the low to mid $30 range which is comparable to the other premium bourbons listed above.
Woodford Reserve Prices
As mentioned above, many people enjoy Woodford Reserve on its own but if you’re looking to spice things up, try it in a cocktail. Need some inspiration? Here’s a couple of our favorites to get you started!