Woodford Reserve may be one the smallest of Kentucky’s distilleries, but it is certainly one of the best.
It is also one of the oldest, having first been established by Elijah Pepper in 1812. That’s a pretty impressive age and the distillery has learnt a lot in the centuries since then.
The distillery has a number of interesting features that make it stand out against its Kentucky neighbours, including 100-year-old cypress fermenters and a heat cycled barrel house, one of the only ones in the world.
This means Woodford take control of the atmosphere inside their stores, rather than allowing nature to vary the temperature. This allows them to create consistent Whisky that can be matured in more or less the same conditions as every barrel before it.
Woodford reserve has one many accolades for their drams and are in fact the official Whisky of the Kentucky Derby. Three of their most highly respected are the Distiller’s Select, Double Oaked and Rye.
The Distiller’s Select is a fantastic Bourbon that takes the lead as Woodford’s flagship Whisky. It is well rounded and full of flavour, a testament to just how good a well distilled and matured Bourbon can be.
As that flagship Whisky it is important that it carries a well-defined flavour profile and acts as a touchstone for other distillery releases. In essence, it must capture everything that is good and unique about Woodford. And it does just that.
This dram begins with a nose full of dried fruits and smoky spices. Raisins and apricots make a great first impression and are later joined by a softer citrus and orange tang.
This combines well with the tobacco and vanilla flavours that come through, allowing the orange to bounce off them.
It moves into a palate that is distinctly sweeter, as many Bourbons are. This one stands out amongst the crowd because it is excellently balanced and not overwhelming.
With thick, smooth chocolate and sweet caramel, it has a soft mouth feel. The sweetness is gentle but ever present throughout the tasting.
The citrus makes another appearance, this time with more spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg in tow. These mingle with each other but again they are excellently balanced.
The finish rounds off with a warming smoothness and wraps all the flavours together in perfect harmony.
The Double Oaked is also an exceptional dram and has won many awards for its great taste, including a double gold at last year’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
This dram has been matured in separate charred oak barrels, the second of which is deeply toasted with a light char. This allows all of the liquid to interact with the deep grooves of the wood.
This comes through in the nose, which begins with lots of deep, dark sweetness. It is filled with honey and caramel and the toasted oak forms the perfect undertone for these flavours to paly against.
There is also a hint of fruit and sweet nuts such as almonds and pecans. These go hand in hand with the oak and the barrel is summoned on first whiff.
On the palate these nuts and fruit become fully formed, with ripe apples and pears dipped in caramel and rolled in roasted hazelnuts coming to mind.
Again, the mouth feel is exceptionally smooth, mostly thanks to the liquid caramel that can be detected throughout
This is a rich and deep dram that fills the palate with flavours that intermix and mingle perfectly.
The finish gives the best example of how perfectly balanced this Bourbon is, with the caramel and apple having the final say.
Finally, we have the Rye. This is a flavoursome and interesting dram that takes its cues from the long tradition of Rye that has gone before it.
The nose is immediately spicy, with hints of rye and cedar wood coming through. These provide a delicious dullness for the sweetness of apples and almonds to jump on the back of.
These provide a mouth watering depth that is succulent and elegant. The apples and almonds combine wonderfully alongside the rye and cedar to gives us a well rounded nose.
The palate takes these flavours and pairs them with a grassier taste, with little hints of herbs and clover along the way. Again, these lend depth to the dram.
Thick, rich molasses and honey create a smooth mouth feel and add a healthy does of saccharine sweetness.
There is a subtle hint of spice in the background that can be traced back to the dram’s rye and cedar beginnings.
These is developed in the finish, the rounds off with a light spice and a long linger of sweetness.