Woodford Reserve Distillery Series to Release July 30

Woodford barrels
Woodford barrels

All photos by Kevin Gibson.

Woodford Reserve played host to a handful of media this week to unveil the latest addition of its Distillery Series, with the focus on Woodford Reserve Double Double Oaked.

That’s right – if you’re a fan of the distillery’s Double Oaked, this is a version that spent an extra year in the second barrel, which is a new white oak barrel that is charred differently than the first to draw out different flavors. And if you double the time, you can hopefully double the character.

After a tour of the distillery and a barrel-toasting and charring demonstration, samples of the Double Oaked and its new sibling were brought out for tasting and comparison. If the Double is an eye-opener for the palate, the Double Double is an all-out awakening.

While the aroma and flavors essentially share the same characteristics, the Double Double takes a huge leap forward with the extra year in barrel, adding a deeper fruity character and spicier finish that lingers long after the Double would have taken its leave.

Its darker color distinguishes the Double Double immediately, and the aroma swirls with richness of maple, butterscotch, caramel and a smoky, inviting toastiness.

Master Taster Elizabeth O'Neill and Master Blender Chris Morris give a charring demonstration
Master Taster Elizabeth O'Neill and Master Blender Chris Morris give a charring demonstration

The nose sets up the palate fairly well, but mine was still startled by the depth of the bourbon. First on the palate is a rich, fruity flavor like black cherries and blackberries. Notes of clove and the expected smoky character give way to what I perceived as a spicy cinnamon mixed with a dark, rich chocolaty or even coffee flavor. The bourbon was tannic, giving way to a finish that was dryer and less buttery than the Double. In fact, it’s almost leathery – but delicious.

Master Distiller Chris Morris, who led the day’s events along with Master Taster Elizabeth O’Neill, called the new Distillery Series “a release of our creativity.”

And while a recent tasting in New York saw a bartender there create a cocktail using Double Double, O’Neill rightly referred to the forthcoming release as a “sip and savor” bourbon.

Indeed, I can’t imagine wasting a bourbon with this kind of profile by mixing it with, well, anything. It’s one that really needs to be enjoyed neat or, at most, with a single ice cube. And just wait – after a few sips, your throat will begin to feel like the barrel itself: well toasted.

We also were privy to tasting another Distillery Series product in Sweet Mash Redux, created using a modified fermentation process that utilizes a non-sour mash which results in a bourbon with a higher pH effect.  It’s a version of the distillery’s 2008 Sweet Mash Finish, which was part of its Master’s Collection series.

Woodford Samples
Woodford Samples

This one was on the other end of the spectrum, with apple and malt notes on the aroma, and much of the same in the flavor, but with a bit of cinnamon and clove spice, a bit of black pepper, vanilla, brown sugar, butterscotch and oak. The fruity, smooth bourbon fades on a quick finish that is a bit spicier than one might expect with the first taste.

Morris said it was like drinking a cinnamon apple Pop-Tart. Just call it breakfast bourbon.

Both of the Distillery Series releases are 90.4 bottle proof and available only in 375ml bottles. Cost is $50 per bottle, and they will be available only at the Woodford Reserve visitor’s center and select retailers in Kentucky while supplies last. The bourbons officially go on sale July 30.

Morris suggested four more releases will follow within the year.

“We have more neat things than we can possibly produce” on a large scale, Morris said. “We think of the Distillery Series as a reward for coming to Woodford County.”