Category Archives: Brown-Forman / Woodford Reserve

Woodford Reserve is a brand of premium small batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon. It is the oldest and smallest distillery in Kentucky that traces its origins to distilling in Woodford County in 1797. Woodford Reserve is produced by the Brown-Forman Corporation.

Chris Morris and Tim Laird Nosing the Cocktail Choices photo copyright Cheri Loughlin

Tasting & Mingling Flavors: Woodford Reserve Bourbon

Chris Morris and Tim Laird Nosing the Cocktail Choices photo copyright Cheri Loughlin

While visiting the Woodford Reserve Distillery in September of this year, Master Distiller Chris Morris and resident Chef, Ouita Michel, led a discussion of how flavors make their mark on the palate.  There was also Chef Ouita Michel of Woodford Reserve Bourbon photo copyright Cheri Loughlindiscussion on the right and wrong way to taste with personal opinions earmarking the discussion.

Chef Ouita pointed out that we are not born with a sense of how flavors carry through to description in food in drinks.  It is by creating palate memories through repeated taste and tasting many varieties of flavors that our memory creates a data base of words, flavors and tastes to call upon as descriptors. There are also certain flavors that enhance particular elements in other foods or drinks.  An example is how properly balanced salty country ham excellently enhances the maple flavor in the Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Maple Wood Finish.  Salt harmonizes with sweet.Woodford Reserve Shot Taster photo copyright Cheri Loughlin

Since there is discussion from time to time on the subject of how to taste or enjoy whiskey (neat, with water or on the rocks), it was particularly refreshing to hear a distiller, Chris Morris, comment, “No one’s wrong. You taste the way you prefer.”

To the flip side Chef Ouita said, “I think it is one dimensional to taste the spirit alone.” Her preference is to taste the spirit, taste with water and experience the spirit in conjunction with other foods to help create an echo for the memory to pull upon in the future.

A final thought on tasting; “One taste [of a spirit] is a snapshot. It’s not the movie.” – Chris Morris

In my opinion that means if you think there are spirits out there, whiskey or others, that just don’t suit your taste preference, try another within the category.  Don’t let one spirit sway your opinion.  Aged spirits vary by Tim Laird Chief Entertaining Officer at Woodford Reserve Bourbon photo copyright Cheri Loughlinyear, spirits vary by brand and recipes and each can take on new flavor depending upon the cocktail recipe and mixers you decide to combine the spirit with for an end result.

Speaking of cocktails, flavors and mixers…

Tim Laird, affectionately referred to as the Chief Entertaining Officer at Woodford Reserve Distillery, put together an informal cocktail challenge for the press attending the tour this same day.  The table contained spirits, fruits and mixers which highlighted some of the flavors within Woodford Reserve Bourbon.  We were let loose to take out best shot at creating something unique.  The recipe below was my submission.

Praline Pecan Pie – created by Cheri Loughlin

Praline Pecan Pie created by Cheri Loughlin photo copyright Cheri Loughlin2 measures Woodford Reserve Bourbon

1/2 measure Martini & Rossi Sweet Vermouth

1/4 to 1/2 measure Praline Pecan Liqueur

2 to 3 dashes Angostura Bitters

Freshly Zested Orange Twist

Place liquid ingredients in cocktail shaker with ice. Shake or strain according to your preference. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with fresh zest of orange twist.

This is my take on an after dinner southern dessert style Manhattan.  It’s full and lush while staying true to Woodford’s base flavor.  Aroma of orange zest captures the nose and plays on into the warming nature of sweetened pecans. Bitters give just the right hint of spice.Show Me the Money photo copyright Cheri Loughlin

By the way, this cocktail won the friendly competition, though my money was on The Imbiber, Dan Dunn, as a shoe in as most popular drink of choice.  He masterfully crafted a winning combination of popular ingredients; bourbon and cola. Definitely a winning combination for refreshment by many standards.

The Woodford Reserve Bourbon trip was sponsored in full by Brown-Forman.

Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon – str8upcocktails @ – ©2012 Cheri Loughlin-The Intoxicologist, All Rights Reserved. All opinions, reviews and spirits’ coverage are the personal opinion and decision of Cheri Loughlin.

Woodford Reserve Masters Collection Maple Wood Finish - photo property of Cheri Loughlin

Sampling a Masterpiece: The Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection

Woodford Reserve Masters Collection Maple Wood Finish - photo property of Cheri Loughlin

Woodford Reserve Bourbon is a small batch bourbon rather than single barrel spirit, meaning several barrels are tapped and carefully blended together to find the ideal Woodford flavor profile.  Every piece of carefully crafted aged stave that goes into the barrel, every day of maturation in the warehouse, every ounce of labor that sinks into the spirited liquid within the gleaming walls of the Woodford Reserve Bourbon bottle flows in graceful fluid movement from bottle to glass for complete fulfillment in every pour.

Woodford Reserve

Woodford Reserve Bourbon is the basis for each Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection spirit.  This is the springboard from which each receives its inspiration.  Nut, caramel, apricot seed, lilt of rose petals, tinge of dryness on the tongue due to lack of overly sweet.

Woodford Reserve Masters Collection - photo property of Cheri LoughlinWoodford Reserve Master’s Collection

The Master’s Collection honors the rich history of the Woodford County distillery with its innovation and discoveries.  A continuation of innovative thinking and creativity is continually bringing new ideas and flavors to the forefront.  Woodford Reserve Bourbon introduced ultra-premium bourbons to the market with the Master’s Collection Four Grain bottling and has continued to bring premium bourbon finishes to the forefront time and again.  Though these ultra-premium special bottlings are indeed rare and without repeat by the distillery, they should be savored and enjoyed rather than left to evaporated and deteriorate on a shelf for later generations.

Woodford Reserve Bourbon Master Distiller Chris Morris at Tasting Session - photo property of Cheri LoughlinThere are five flavor sources within the bourbon. Grain, water, fermentation, distillation and maturation.  Water is always continual.  Currently the distillation process for the Master’s Collection is also a constant.  From that point the Master’s Collection varies and finds distinctive paths for each flavor profile.

Four Grain

Uses different yeast than Woodford Reserve. Buttery, smooth, caramel, vanilla, butterscotch, subtle hints of cocoa

Woodford Reserve Masters Collection Tasting Samples - photo property of Cheri LoughlinSonoma-Cutrer Finish

Woodford Reserve Bourbon finished in California chardonnay barrels for approximately four to five months.  Subtle, sweet nose, chewy, hint of nut, buttery, vanilla

Due to strict rules governing what can and cannot be classified as bourbon, this particular finish is not classified as bourbon, but rather exactly what it says on the bottle: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished in California Chardonnay Barrels.

Woodford Reserve Masters Collection Tasting Mat - photo property of Cheri Loughlin1838 Sweet Mash

Darker in color and drier on the nose than Woodford Reserve, sweet on the nose, thick on the tongue, sweet, bit of dark chocolate notes.

Seasoned Oak Finish

100 proof. Only 70 barrels. Double Barrel Bourbon.

Dark rich color. Scent of clove in the nose, possibly cinnamon as well.

Rich chocolate, cinnamon, clove, molasses, full and lush. Surprisingly not too much burn with the higher proof.  Anise and orange come through in the final taste after a few sips.  The anise is extremely subtle.  This is an intensely delicious finish. Definitely my favorite of all the ones tasted.

Woodford Reserve Masters Collection Maple Wood Finsih Bottle Base - photo property of Cheri LoughlinMaple Wood Finish

In choosing the Maple Wood Finish more than a few ideas went into the final thought process.  But the ultimate conclusion broke down to a few key elements.  The people behind the creative process wanted to use native trees to the state and place the bourbon into custom barrels rather than add sticks to the lot for flavor.  Keeping a complex product simple and user friendly meant finishing Woodford Reserve Bourbon with something everyone knows; Maple.  The Brown-Forman Cooperage built the first Maple barrels for bourbon use for the Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection.  The flavor comes across complex, intertwines with the natural nuances of Woodford Reserve Bourbon and plays out well in the finish.

94 proof. 18,000 bottles available. $90 retail. Due to launch November 1, 2010.  The barrels have been toasted only, no charring. Caramel, chewy, grainy, nutty, medium finish, hints of blackberry and blueberry.  The Maple Wood Finish sips well as is, but also pairs extremely well in desserts, sauces, cocktails and savory dishes.

Woodford Reserve Master's Collection Maple Finish - photo property of Cheri LoughlinThis Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection rendition is also not bourbon, but rather in a class on its own: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished in Maple Wood Barrels.

After tasting the Maple Wood Finish I went back for another taste of original Woodford Reserve Bourbon.  Ironically the Woodford Reserve Bourbon stood up even better in taste value than I had imagined possible.  In some cases when tasting degrees of goodness the base flavor will diminish in perceived flavor attraction compared to the enhanced varieties.  Balancing the Maple Wood Finish directly side by side with Woodford Reserve Bourbon saw a marked improvement in the original spirit.  More flavor notes were brought to the forefront that had gone unnoticed before and the spirit retained equal polish.  Quite impressive.

Woodford Reserve Bourbon is most definitely excellent sipped neat or on the rocks depending upon your preference.  However Woodford Reserve Bourbon also mixes terrifically in cocktails as was demonstrated during several tastings and food pairings throughout my stay in Kentucky as guest of Brown-Forman and Woodford Reserve Bourbon.  More photos and recipe ideas from my visit will be shared on site soon.

All opinions, reviews and spirits’ coverage contained within are the personal opinion and decision of Cheri Loughlin, The Intoxicologist.