Woodford Reserve Double Oaked
Bourbon — Kentucky, USA
Reviewed April 7, 2020
BACKGROUND: Woodford Reserve was born out of pure spite. In the early 1990s, Maker’s Mark President Bill Samuels, Jr. launched a controversial comparison ad campaign pitting his product against the Jack Daniel’s brand owned by Brown-Forman. The ad campaign was similar in intensity to the bitter Coke vs. Pepsi cola wars of the 1980s. In one ad, Samuels tracked down a man in Hattiesburg, Mississippi who was named Jack Daniel and wrote about how he preferred Maker’s Mark in a side-by-side tasting with the Tennessee Whiskey that carried his same name. The headline on the advertisement read “Jack Daniel Drinks Maker’s Mark.” After a series of other in-your-face marketing maneuvers by Maker’s Mark, Brown-Forman chairman and CEO Owsley Brown decided to return fire and wrote a memo to his executive team that said, “Somebody, please create a bourbon brand to compete with Maker’s Mark.” Thus, Woodford Reserve was born in 1996. Early Kentucky bourbon pioneer Elijah Pepper opened a distillery on Glenn’s Creek in 1812 and began producing the Old Pepper’s brand. Labrot & Graham purchased the distillery in 1878, and Brown-Forman acquired it in 1940. The beverage giant later sold it off in 1970 when demand for bourbon was nearing an all-time low. By the time that Brown-Forman repurchased the distillery in 1992, the grounds were overgrown, and the buildings were nearing collapse, but a $14 million renovation returned them to pristine condition and resulted in the Woodford Reserve production facility that many tourists visit today. While the basic Woodford Reserve offering first hit store shelves in 1996 - and remains one of the only triple-distilled bourbons on the market - the Double Oaked expression was introduced in 2012. It is produced by re-barreling Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select in a second deeply-toasted but lightly-charred virgin oak barrel for a little under a year. Double Oaked is made from a mashbill of 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley, and a 750 ml bottle retails for $54.99. NOSE: The nose offers pungent, candy-like sweetness, and my fellow Southerners will recognize that it smells EXACTLY like a rich and silky chocolate chess pie covered in caramel meringue. Married within the sweetness is some oak, as one would expect, and perhaps a skosh of leather. PALATE: The palate is a caramel and butterscotch bomb, almost as if you tried to see how many Werther’s Originals you could stuff into your mouth at one time. It is a wholly one-note palate, but it is a decadently enjoyable one note. FINISH: Some barrel flavor battles its way through the caramel on the finish, and some oak astringency pops up on the back of the tongue. While the buttery mouthfeel of the bourbon is quite nice, the finish is rather short with no alcohol warmth or hug of any kind. FINAL ASSESSMENT: It should be noted that this bottle was recently found forgotten and neglected in the back of my liquor cabinet and was most likely purchased around the time Double Oaked first appeared in 2012. I cannot determine what, if any, effect lurking in my cabinet unbothered for eight years might have had on the bourbon, but if my notes and assessment differ from yours, that might be why. Double Oaked is not a complex bourbon by any stretch, and the sweet caramel explosion that greets the palate is a bit much for it to become one of my daily sippers. With that understanding, though, it is a nice one to pull out from time to time when the mood strikes. Its relatively low proof and sweet but tame flavors also make it a good choice to serve to beginners who are just embarking on their bourbon journey.
Thank you for the history lesson! I paused the show I was watching while sipping this particular beverage to educate myself. I'm new to the game and do enjoy this. I look forward to further developing my palate to appreciate the upper echelons out there I'm sure you're currently delving into.
Great review! Now that I think of it, Woodford does taste like sweet, silky spite
I love the history. I've read quite a few books about the history of American whiskey, but most don't focus on recent history. So I was unaware of the backstory of Woodford's creation. Great story! Thanks for sharing.
I enjoy reading your posts —-always a great backstory. Thanks.