Review

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.

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