Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Seasoned Oak Finish

Age: 7-8 y/o +around 8 months “finishing

Proof: 100.4 (50.2%)

Maker: Woodford Reserve/Labrot & Graham, Versailles, Kentucky (Brown-Forman)

Woodford Reserve is (partially) made at a beautifully restored and quite old distillery in Versailles (ver-SAYLES) Kentucky, in Woodford county, west of Lexington.  The oldest building on the site dates to 1838.  Brown-Forman acquired it (for the second time) in 1994 and restored it into the beautiful tourist attraction it is now.

Standard Woodford Reserve is made of a combination of whiskey distilled on site in huge pot stills and whiskey distilled at B-F’s plant in Louisville, home to Early Times and Old Forester.  It is then aged at Woodford Reserve.  For their special annual Master’s Collection releases, they only use whiskey distilled at Woodford and do something interesting with it.  Not always good, but always interesting.

For 2009, they took a standard batch and after it was fully aged, they transferred it to barrels that had been lightly toasted (as opposed to the deep char used on standard bourbon barrels) after having been seasoned for an extremely long time.  Most bourbon barrel staves are seasoned (dried) outdoors for a few months before being charred and made into barrels.  The barrels used to finish this whiskey were seasoned for a few years.  This created a very unusual bourbon.  And a pretty good one too.

It’s dark, even for a bourbon.  Chestnut brown.  The nose is dry, dry oak, black walnut, with a hint of sweetness.  On the palate it continued dry, with a heavy wood influence, but in an unconventional way.  It’s tannic and chewy, like chewing on a damp oak stave.  In a good way, kinda.

The finish is dry, but not as heavy as one might expect.  Tannic, but never quite shifting into bitter.  This is a whiskey teetering on the edge.  But in an odd way, it achieves a nice balance.  My only real complaint is that it costs $90 for one bottle.  Luckily I was able to split one three ways with a couple other enthusiasts.

For a list of the upcoming releases visit Chuck Cowdery’s blog here.


Abrazo Del Toro Reserva

Grapes: 40% Tempranillo, 60% Garnacha (aka Grenache)

Region: Cariñena, Aragon, Spain

Vintage: 2005

Producer: Covinca S. Co-op

ABV: 13.5%

I am not ashamed to say that I buy a lot of wine at Trader Joe’s.  When it comes to fine French wine, I wouldn’t bother with TJ’s.  Their California selections can occasionally be good buys but are a hit or miss.  Where TJ’s wine department shines is with Italian, Spanish, and South American wines.  One of the most consistently good Spanish wine I’ve purchased have been on the Abrazo del Toro label.  The reserva is my favorite and there are usually plenty of 5 y/o+ bottles on the shelf at my local store. 

The wine itself is one Richie Blackmore would be proud of, color-wise anyway.  It’s a deep, smokey purple.  The nose has the slightly tart aroma of raspberry jam.  I’ve had the uncanny urge to spread this wine on toast.  In the mouth it’s smooth and easy to drink, but not shallow.  On the tongue it’s red raspberry, and red currant jelly, with a bit of wood at the end.  And all this for a lot less money than most quality Spanish reds.

Baby Bourbon?

As some of you know, my recent hiatus is due to the birth of my daughter Virginia on August 10.  We’re starting to get into something of a rhythm, and I have a few reviews in the pipe, so I hope to be able to start posting again soon.  So look for some more shortly!

Last Night

Sazerac Rye (Binny’s selection)

Age: 9 y/o? (standard edition c. 6 y/o)

Proof: 90 (45% ABV)

Maker: Buffalo Trace, Franfort, Kentucky (Sazerac Co.)

Rye whiskey was one of the first whiskeys made in the U.S.  It briefly took over from rum as American’s drink of choice after the Revolution cut the former colonies’ ties with the U.K.  Rye was long associated with Pennsylvania and Maryland, but sadly there are no major producers of rye left in either state, although the A. Smith Bowman distillery in Virginia does produce a rye available only in that state.

Sazerac is named for one of the first cocktails invented in the U.S., in New Orleans, to be precise.  It consisted of surgar, rye whiskey (or originally Cognac) and Peychaud’s bitters served in a glass that had been rinsed with absinthe.  Today, New Orleans is where Sazerac Co.’s headquarters still is, but their primary whiskey distillery is the large, historic distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky now known as Buffalo Trace (BT).  Although BT uses three different bourbon recipes, Sazerac is its only rye.  There are three editions of Sazerac Rye: Sazerac 18 y/o, Thomas Handy Sazerac (a barrel-proof version), and this one, nicknamed “Baby Saz” or “Saz Jr.”

It is a beautiful whiskey.  The color is that of a new copper penny.  There is possibly a little barrel char in the bottom of my glass, although that might be coffee grounds my dishwasher missed.  The nose reminds me of apple juice (not cider), with apricots, alcohol, and hint of wood.  In the mouth it is medium bodied, sweet, and rich.  Like a lot of youngish rye whiskeys I get hints of tropical fruit, like mango and papaya.  The finish is slightly dry, with a aweet and spicey cinnamon burn, then a touch of wood.  The finish is long, surprisingly long for a young whiskey. 

 This is a tasty, sophisticated rye.  Wild Turkey Rye, for instance, is more assertive and has more spicey rye character than Saz Jr., but Sazerac is hard to beat for a delicate sipping rye, or any other American style whiskey for that matter.