Bourbon Breakdown: Woodford Reserve BourbonBy Stephanie Moreno
While many well-known Kentucky bourbon brands have been established for over a hundred years, Woodford Reserve Bourbon is a relatively new brand. Released by owners Brown-Forman Co. in 1996, it has made quite the impression in the whiskey world in such a short period of time.
Formerly known as the Labrot & Graham Distillery (among others), the Woodford Reserve Distillery is located in Versailles, Kentucky. One of the things that makes the brand stand out from other bourbons is that it is made from a blend of column-still and pot still bourbons. Also, it’s made from a high-rye bourbon mash bill recipe.
Of course, we should point out that Woodford Reserve makes other types of American whiskeys such as rye, malt and wheat whiskeys, as well as other experimental whiskeys. But we’ll save those for another day. To find out more about Woodford Reserve’s core bourbon bottlings, along with a couple of limited-edition releases, read on. We’ve also included some expert tasting notes to help you decide on your next purchase.
Introduced in 1996, the brand’s flagship bourbon is made from a mash bill recipe of 72% corn, 18% rye and 10% malted barley.
What to Know:
The rickhouses used to age Woodford Reserve are heat-cycled during the winter which helps speed up the maturation process. It’s aged for around 7 years and is bottled at 90.4 proof, which is a signature for the brand.
What our Experts Think It Tastes Like:
Vanilla, oak, charred orange, brown sugar and dried fruits with a long finish.
Avg US Price: $36
Fully-matured bourbon is re-barreled into deeply toasted, lightly charred barrels to finish aging.
What to Know:
The bourbon spends about a year in the secondary barrel before it’s bottled at 90.4 proof.
What our Experts Think It Tastes Like
Bing cherry, pumpernickel, vanilla, caramel, leather and sweet spice. Very rich and complex.
Avg US Price: $57
Master Distiller Chris Morris first introduced the annual collection in 2006. While the whiskey is usually a bourbon, the brand has released other styles of whiskey in this series.
What to Know:
Typically, Woodford Reserve will focus on one of five sources of flavor to highlight for this series: water, grain, fermentation, distillation or maturation. For example, the 2020 edition Very Fine Rare Bourbon focused on maturation and was the oldest whiskey released by the brand to date. It included bourbon barrels which were 17 years of age and which dated back to 2003. That year is significant for Morris as it was the first year he held his master distiller position.
What Our Experts Think It Tastes Like:
Significant amounts of cherry fruit and baking spices and dried herbs; a very nice balance between savory and sweet.*
Avg US Price: $322 (SRP $130)
Other Woodford Reserve Bourbon bottles to know:
The Batch Proof bottlings are made by selecting mature bourbon barrels and blending them into a batch. Then the bourbon is bottled straight from the barrel. Each batch will vary in proof and flavor as is the nature of such releases. But you can expect the bourbon to be bottled around 121-125 proof.
In addition to the Master’s Collection series, Woodford Reserve makes limited quantities of one-of-a-kind experimental whiskeys to be sold only at the distillery and select Kentucky retailers. Past bourbon releases include a Frosty Four Wood Bourbon, Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon, and Double Double Oaked which was so popular it has since been re-released a few times.
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