Woodford Reserve Master's Collection Very Fine Rare Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky, USA
Reviewed March 13, 2021 (edited April 11, 2021)
Nose: Oak, molasses, and a touch of vanilla. Big dark chocolate character - think 90%+ bars. Smoke and char, Virginia/Perique pipe tobacco in the tin. Clove and nutmeg. Figs, red apples, and some toasted black pepper. Just a hint of orange oil perfuming throughout, along with a touch of floral notes. While a big selling point here is the inclusion of older stocks, there's a good whack of sweet dusty corn and wintergreen in here. Kix and Corn Pops type sweetness. The blending here is, frankly, pretty artful. A great example of using oak and age to provide density and body, instead of relying on proof. Palate: While oak is a dominating note on the nose, it takes over on the palate even more. Char and smoke are definitely more up front. Molasses and vanilla are also evident, but again that oak doesn't give them much room. Clove and nutmeg alongside some good tannin content - the bitterness is here but in a more balanced fashion than I'd normally expect. The dark chocolate has pulled back considerably, revealing more of that new leather sense you get when walking through those stores in Florence. Dark fruits - figs, blueberries, raisins, prunes. Fresh ground black pepper this time around. And again, dusty corn is here. Mid and back palate focused, with a lot of midrange and some top end. I do wish there was more richness and depth, something that often only really comes as a result of proof. Medium mouthfeel with a drying quality. Finish: A blast of charred oak, black pepper, and that molasses come is. Fresh vanilla beans and cream - youre making crème anglaise but with a bit more vanilla than you're supposed to. The black pepper falls away, and on top of the oak some nugmeg shows up, along with star anise and apples. Almost like making hot cider and then drinking it chilles. This hangs out and gives you a medium long finish, with that dark chocolate coming in at the tail end, with that bitterness providing balance and contrast. Other notes: The level of execution here is impressive. Another great entry into the ranks of "bourbon with its pinky out", the blending here is artful. While touting some highly aged stocks (though without saying how much), I'm more struck by the overall balance this has. The combination of high oak with enough sweetness and traditional Woodford distillery character keeps this more than interesting. And doing so at a sub-100 proof point should be appluaded. I do wish there was more dark brown sugar density, but I certainly don't fault this on that metric. I try to avoid comparisons between distilleries but this fits a similar niche as the Wild Turkey Master's Keep Decades. Is this something for the proof hounds? No. Nor is it a vanilla bomb, and while there's plenty of oak character on tap this does not get into, say, Balcones territory. Instead this shows what's possible when you take folks with great palates, deep knowledge of available stocks, and a desire to execute a blend at a particularly high level. While I can't easily suggest getting a full bottle of this, I can easily recommend trying a glass. Or getting some of your friends to chip in on a full bottle together. Althouygh I have to admit I'm very glad I pulled the trigger here. Maybe you will be, too. Cheers!