Posts tagged ‘Woodford Reserve’

Woodford Reserve Rye Review

hemingway

This is a picture of Ernest Hemingway because everybody already knows what a Woodford bottle looks like, and Guy Clark’s “Hemingway’s Whiskey” is one of the best songs ever written on the subject of God’s chosen elixir.

Woodford Reserve is certainly one of the most recognizable bourbon brands on the market today.  However, their premium line of limited edition whiskeys (the “Masters Collection”) has not gained the notoriety or acclaim as other limited releases like Buffalo Trace’s “Antique Collection” or Heaven Hill’s “Parker’s Heritage Collection.”  So much so, that among even some avid bourbon drinkers, people are unaware that Woodford Reserve comes in any other forms than the unmistakable Woodford flat bottle.  I’ll try and remedy that here with some thoughts on Woodford Reserve’s recently released rye whiskey (although their “Masters Collection” whiskeys are worth checking out, too).

Woodford Reserve Rye is a refreshing find in and amongst the dearth of Indiana and Canada ryes that roam the liquor store shelves disguised in all manners of bottling.  Woodford Reserve rye is comprised of whiskey made at both their locations in Kentucky, Versailles and Louisville.   The mash bill is made of 53% rye, a relatively low amount of rye given the amount of 95% and 100% rye whiskeys hanging out in the whiskey aisle nowadays.  There is no age statement here, but my guess is we’re working with something around 4-6 years.  The particular batch I am reviewing today is Batch 021, and it is bottle at 90.4 proof (45.2% abv).

The nose is classic rye, with cinnamon, clove, cedar, and oak.  There is also some caramel sweetness present, as well as some blackberries.  The palate is a little thin, with some sweet caramel, cinnamon sugar, and black cherry.  The finish offers a rescuing crescendo, though, with oak and rye spice, cinnamon, caramel, and mulled apple cider.  The finish is medium-long, and is very drying.

If you’re a fan of rye whiskey, you’ll enjoy this one.  It works well in cocktails and stands beautifully on its own, too.  This is a genuine Kentucky rye whiskey with all the flavors you would expect in good balance, but it still brings that drying finish I’ve come to expect from Woodford Reserve bourbon.  To boot, it is reasonably priced for all occasions.  Well done, Woodford Reserve.  My grade: B+.  Price: $30-35/750ml.  Next time you’re in the mood for some Woodford, give rye a try.

Advertisements

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon Review

Kind of makes you want to drink a little bourbon, doesn't it?  getintravel.com

Kind of makes you want to drink a little bourbon, doesn’t it? getintravel.com

Every time of year is a great time of year to drink bourbon, and every part of the world is a great place to drink bourbon, but there is something special about a glass of bourbon in the cool autumnal months in New England. The leaves are painting the landscape vibrant oranges, reds, and yellows, and the breeze is crisp enough to warrant the type of warmth only bourbon can provide. Now that I’ve got the romance out of the way, on to the bourbon…

Today, I am reviewing a relatively new bourbon product from Woodford Reserve. About two years ago, Woodford Reserve released their Double Oaked bourbon (90.4 proof/45.2% abv), which starts its life as standard Woodford Reserve before it is transferred into heavily toasted (only lightly charred) barrels for a finishing period of approximately 9 months. The result is a quality bourbon, indicative of Woodford’s craft, but a bourbon that brings a slightly different flavor profile to the finished product.

On the nose, this bourbon is pleasantly sweet with marzipan, toffee, cooked apples, and a bit of cinnamon sugar. The palate is sweet, creamy and medium-bodied with a lot of butterscotch, caramel, toffee, marzipan, candied almonds, and apple pie. The finish is medium in length, with butterscotch and caramel hanging around for a good while. Overall, this is a very sweet inculcation of Woodford Reserve, but it is hardly cloying.

Overall, to my palate, the Double Oaked is a sweeter representation of Woodford Reserve. The rye content of the bourbon seems to get swallowed up in the flavor waves of toffee and butterscotch, which is hardly a bad thing. This bourbon is not quite my favorite style, as I tend to like sharper bourbon, but this is a soft, sexy, approachable bourbon that is soundly worthy of the Woodford name. My grade: B. Price: $45-50/750ml. This is a great bourbon for after a large meal because it is soft, sweet, and it just might be sexy enough to prompt a little lovin’.

Giving the Gift of Bourbon

Well, a lot of folks are starting to do their holiday shopping, and there are a lot of people who love to give and receive the gift of bourbon.  Whiskey shopping around the holidays can offer some great deals on holiday gift packages.  A lot of distilleries will issue box sets where you might get a 750 ml bottle with some glassware or some 50 ml samples of other products.  Even if you are just looking to treat yourself, holiday box sets are always good fun.

Woodford Reserve's holiday gift set includes two Woodford glasses.

Woodford Reserve’s holiday gift set includes two Woodford glasses.

Before I get into my recommendations for the bourbon lovers on your list, I need to issue two disclaimers.  First, if you are a bourbon lover like myself, that does not give you the right to supply others with bourbon in hopes they will give you half the bottle because they don’t like bourbon all that much.  Secondly, taste is personal, and your favorite whiskey might not be tolerable to somebody else. That said, do some research on the person you are giving the gift to and the bottles you are thinking of buying to give the best gift possible.  Of course, that is where I want to offer some helpful suggestions that won’t break the bank.

For the bourbon newcomer on your list:  This is the person on your list who has never had bourbon (or any other whiskey) before, but they have put bourbon on their holiday wish list.  Don’t get them anything over 90 proof, and don’t get them anything will do dense a flavor profile.  My main recommendation is Four Roses Yellow Label.  It is light, and it gives a good introduction to whiskey without it being too complex.  It is also a great value buy.  If you are looking for something a little fancier, try Basil Hayden’s.  It is also a light, well-balanced whiskey.  Both of these presents will leave the recipient craving another bottle of bourbon.

For the bourbon novice on your list:  This is the person on your list that has been getting into some starter bourbons of late, but he/she looking is looking to enjoy some craft bourbon.  My recommendation (if you can find it) is Elmer T. Lee.  It is a single barrel bourbon that is indicative of what bourbon should be.  It won’t break the bank, but it is a monstrous step up from Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark.  However, Elmer T. Lee is hard to find.  If you can’t lay your hands on that one, Buffalo Trace is a great alternative.

For the bourbon admirer on your list:  This is the person who has been casually drinking bourbon for a few years, and it is one of their favorite drinks.  This person is one of the easiest people on your list because they will probably like your gift.  That said, here are a couple of the quintessential craft bourbons that make great gifts.  Eagle Rare 10 yr. and Woodford Reserve are two readily available bourbons that always make great gifts.  If you can find it, Four Roses Single Barrel is a great offering if you are willing to spend a few extra dollars.

For the bourbon connoisseur on your list:  This is the person who loves bourbon, and gives a lot of thought and attention to their bourbon.  Among bourbon connoisseurs, there are a few whiskeys that you can rarely go wrong with.  If you find anything from Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection, Stitzel-Weller/Buffalo Trace’s Van Winkle Collection, Heaven Hill’s Parker’s Heritage Collection, or Four Roses Limited Edition Collection (and you can swing the bill), pick it up.  It is a rare occasion that I read a bad word about any of these bourbons, but they are all pretty hard to find.  That said, barrel strength bourbons are always a great gift for the bourbon connoisseur on your list.  Noah’s Mill, Booker’s, and Willett Single Barrel (barrel strength) are all great gifts to open and great bourbons to drink.

In case this guy is on your list...

In case this guy is on your list…

For the vain bourbon drinker on your list:  This is for that bourbon drinker that likes to sit in a smoking jacket with a $100 cigar while they enjoy their bourbon.  Hardly a value bourbon drinker, but for somebody like this, appearance is everything.  So, I would recommend a bourbon with a cool bottle and a long, uppity-sounding name.  My first recommendation is Willett Pot Still Single Barrel Reserve.  The bottle looks like you paid $100 dollars for it, but you didn’t even spend half that.  What is in the bottle is pretty good, too.  My other recommendation is the fancy horse-stopper of Blanton’s.  It is a solid, all-around bourbon that has a very distinguished bottle.

For the rye whiskey drinker (looking to get into bourbon) on your list:  This is for the rye drinker on your list that has mentioned wanting to get into bourbon.  I would definitely recommend a rye-heavy bourbon.  If you are thinking of a light, drinkable, full-flavored rye-forward bourbon, look no further than Russell’s Reserve 10 yr.  If you are thinking monstrous, full-bodied, intense rye-forward bourbon, look no further than Wild Turkey 101.  Both these bourbons are great choices for rye lovers.

For the Scotch whisky drinker (looking to get into bourbon) on your list:  This is for the Scotch (I’m thinking Speyside) drinker on your list who normally finds bourbon too heavy and sweet for their palate.  The bourbon to give to them is Four Roses Small Batch.  It is light, floral, and fruity, but it still possesses a lot of bourbon qualities.  Basil Hayden’s is usually a good gift here, too. Wild Turkey American Honey

For the liqueur drinker on your list:  The best bourbon-based liqueur on the market is Wild Turkey American Honey.  Hell, even I drink it every once in a while on a hot summer’s day.

Those are my thoughts on buying bourbon for the holidays.  If the person on your list falls outside any of these categories, leave a comment or shoot me an email at thedagupeir@gmail.com.  Let it Ride!

Top Ten Bourbon Bottle Designs

Like every product ever sold, bourbon depends on packaging.  Great bourbon deserves great packaging.  Of course, what defines a great bottle of bourbon is just as subjective as the bourbon itself.  I like an iconic bottle of bourbon that brings forth an air of confidence that the product inside is going to be good.  If that is properly balanced with a bottle that looks cool, then you’ve got the ingredients for a great bottle.  Now all that remains is to fill it with great bourbon.  With that in mind, I present my Top Ten Bourbon Bottle Designs.  (Note: I have not reviewed all these bourbons, nor I have I even tried all these bourbons.  I am judging primarily on the packaging.)

10. Maker’s Mark – The wax-dipped top of Maker’s Mark is probably the most iconic symbol in the bourbon world.  However, the rest of the bottle leaves something to be desired.  Nevertheless, any whiskey drinker recognizes the red wax as Maker’s Mark.

9. Buffalo Trace – The epic bison on the front makes for an epic packaging.  It also makes for an awesome logo for Buffalo Trace Distillery.

8. Old Forester Birthday Bourbon – I believe that Old Forester is one of the best value bourbons you can find.  However, Brown-Forman also produces the Birthday Bourbon, a higher-end version of Old Forester.  It comes in an old-fashioned decanter-style bottle that exudes class.

7. Rock Hill Farms – This single barrel bourbon comes in a sleek, square bottle with horses and forest landscapes decorating the bottle.  It is a bottle design that could inspire some fine bourbon-induced poetry.

6. Angel’s Envy – The Angel’s Envy looks divine, with its angel wings and massive size.  It seems to tower over almost everything else on the shelf at the liquor store.

5. Willett Pot Still Reserve Single Barrel – Speaking of tall bottles, there are few bottles taller than the decanter-style of Willett Pot Still Reserve.  It just looks awesome.  You can’t buy a bottle and not feel on top of the world.

4. Eagle Rare 10 yr. Single Barrel – This bottle is just plain epic.  It is tall and elegant, but the eagle on the front and the jagged edged label also makes it seem bold and rugged.

3. Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve (15 yr., 20 yr., 23 yr.) – All three of these bottlings are recognizable by the picture of Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle, Sr. on the front of the bottle.  He is puffing on a big cigar (and most likely drinking some good bourbon).  There are few things more iconic than a bourbon legend like Pappy.

2. Woodford Reserve – I love the simplicity of this bottle.  To me, Woodford Reserve’s bottle design says, “The bourbon contained herein is a great bourbon; it needs no embellishment.”

1. Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection (George T. Stagg, William Larue Weller, and Eagle Rare 17 yr.) – These three bourbons are consistently among the contenders for bourbon of the year, and there bottle designs are indicative of the quality.  The bottles are tall and powerful.  There are no fancy designs on the bottles, allowing you to see the perfect color of the whiskey.  Even more so than Woodford Reserve, the Antique Collection’s bottle designs say, “No frills needed, this is great whiskey.”  And judging from the only one I’ve tried (William Larue Weller), the bottles don’t lie.

These are my favorite bottle designs (I’ve included pictures below), what are yours?  Leave me a comment, and let me know if I missed any.

Bourbon Rankings (Taste)

I have had several people ask me to provide a ranking of the bourbons I have reviewed based solely on the bourbon.  Well, here are my bourbon grades.  Check out my grading scale here.

1.  Booker’s (A)

2. Four Roses Single Barrel (A-)

3. Russell’s Reserve 10 Year (B+)

4. Jefferson’s 18 yr. Presidential Select (B+)

5. Noah’s Mill (B+)

6. Rowan’s Creek (B+)

7. Maker’s 46 (B+)

8. Rock Hill Farms (B+/B)

9. Wild Turkey 101 (B+/B)

10. Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage 2002 (B)

11. Woodford Reserve (B)

12. Eagle Rare 10 Year Single Barrel (B)

13. Blanton’s Original (B)

14. Wild Turkey Rare Breed (B)

15. Four Roses Small Batch (B)

16. Knob Creek 9 Year Single Barrel Reserve (B/B-)

17. Elmer T. Lee (B/B-)

18. Basil Hayden’s (B-)

19. Buffalo Trace (B-)

20. Jim Beam Devil’s Cut (B-)

21. Elijah Craig 12 Year (B-)

22. W.L. Weller 12 Year (B-)

23. Willett Pot Still Single Barrel Family Reserve (B-)

24. Jefferson’s (B-)

25. Four Roses Yellow Label (C+)

26. Wild Turkey 81 (C+)

27. Old Forester (C/C+)

28. Knob Creek 9 Year Small Batch (C)

29. Old Grand-Dad Bonded (C)

30. Old Weller Antique (C)

31. Jim Beam Black Label (C)

32. Evan Williams Black Label (C)

33. Bulliet Frontier (C)

34. Berkshire Bourbon (C)

35.  Fighting Cock 6 Year (C-)

36. Kentucky Vintage (C-)

37. John E. Fitzgerald Larceny (C-)

38. Maker’s Mark (C-)

39. Wild Turkey 80 (C-)

40. Jim Beam White Label (C-)

41. Jesse James (D+)

Those are my bourbon rankings ranked solely on my tastes.  That’s the fun of bourbon, you might rank these completely different.  Which ones would you change?

Top Ten Foods to Pair with Bourbon

In honor of July 4th, a day when many folks will be eating a ton of food, I thought I should do a post of my favorite foods to drink bourbon with.  Of course, bourbon is a big, flavorful spirit that is certainly not in need of a food pairing.  However, it is July 4th, and bourbon whiskey is America’s native spirit, so why not try a few fingers of bourbon with some of good food?

Here are my favorite foods to pair with bourbon…

10. Peanuts – Of course peanuts are a beer companion.  However, I think they go well with certain types of bourbon as well.  I think peanuts go especially well with oaky bourbons, so maybe try a bottle of Rowan’s Creek next time you are shooting pool and munching on peanuts.

9. Apple pie (a la mode) – I find that the sweetness of an apple pie is bolstered well by a full-flavored bourbon with a lot of brown sugar and caramel flavors.  If you’re up for it, try a finger or two of Booker’s with your apple pie this evening.

8. Pistachios – Pistachios are another great beer companion that also works well with bourbon.  I like a big bourbon with my pistachios to compliment the big pistachio flavor.  Take it slow, and enjoy a long evening with friends, pistachios, and a bottle of Eagle Rare 10 year.

7. Fresh Peaches – Fruits are a great bourbon companion, and I have found that peaches have a delicate enough flavor to compliment bourbon well.  Peaches are a fantastic pairing with the subject of my most recent bourbon review, Jefferson’s.

6. Cheese and Crackers – Crackers are especially good for a bourbon tasting because they will clear the palate to ready you for more bourbon.  However, a light-bodied cheese with some crackers is a fine snack for the next summer evening with friends.  Like with peanuts, I usually like a big, oaky bourbon with my cheese and crackers.  However, a flavorful, rye-forward bourbon like Wild Turkey 101 also makes for a great evening.

5. Banana Bread – Banana bread has a tempered enough flavor profile to make for a very good bourbon companion.  I find that banana bread goes especially nice with a balanced, sweet bourbon.  This is where I recommend a bottle of my favorite value bourbon, Buffalo Trace.

4. Dark Chocolate – A few bites of a bitter dark chocolate can really set off some amazing flavors in the palate of a bourbon.  If you were to indulge in some Old Forester with some dark chocolate, you mind just find a whole new reason to love a great value buy like Old Forester.

3. Pecans – Of all the nuts that I have on my list, pecans are soundly my favorite to drink bourbon with.  They have a natural ability to compliment sweet flavors very well, which is probably why they top so many desserts.  Although I have only tried this pairing on one occasion, I was extremely pleased with the way pecans tasted as I was drinking William Larue Weller.

2. Cheesecake – Cheesecake is one of my favorite foods, with its soft, seductive flavors and texture.  It goes great with bourbon because it will not overpower the palate.  If you want to make your 4th of July a memorable one, I would highly recommend a slice of cheesecake and a glass of Woodford Reserve.

1. Steak – A nice cut of steak is my all-time favorite food to drink bourbon with.  For some reason, the savory flavors of a steak always seem to go right along with a great summer bourbon.  There are few things in life that I enjoy more than eating a good steak, and washing it down with a glass or two of Basil Hayden’s as the sun sets on a warm summer’s eve.

Of course, most of the time, I drink bourbon before or after a meal, not during.  However, if you would like to try some bourbon and food pairing, I think these ten foods are a great place to start.  Please comment and let me know which great bourbon foods I’ve left off my list.  Let it ride!

 

Bourbons for Beginners

Since I’ve been blogging about bourbon, several people have asked a very good question, “What bourbons should I try if I have never had bourbon before?”  Obviously, part of the answer to this question depends on what you normally drink; I would not recommend certain bourbons to folks who usually drink wine, whereas other bourbons definitely cater to wine drinkers.  Of course, like any beverage, the bottom line is whether or not your senses enjoy the whiskey.  With that caveat in mind, here are my suggestions for entry-level bourbons.

Bourbons to start with under $20:  Four Roses Yellow Label, Old Forester, Evan Williams Black Label, Jim Beam White Label.  Chief among this list is Four Roses, because of its great combination of drinkability, flavor profile, and value.

Bourbons to start with between $20-$30:  Buffalo Trace, Elijah Craig 12 year, Wild Turkey 81.  Out of this group, Buffalo Trace is probably the best demonstration of a medium-bodied, well-balanced craft bourbon.  Elijah Craig is a solid bourbon to start with if you are looking for an older, more oaky bourbon.  Wild Turkey is a good start to bourbon if you want to try a bold and spicy flavor profile.

Bourbons to start with over $30:  Woodford Reserve, Basil Hayden’s, Four Roses Small Batch, Blanton’s Original Single Barrel.  All four of these bourbons are very good and very drinkable.  Basil Hayden’s is very light-bodied for a craft bourbon, which makes it a great craft bourbon to start with.  If you are seeking a bourbon with a little more body, look no further than Woodford Reserve.  Be careful, though; a bottle of Woodford Reserve could very well make a bourbon enthusiast out of you.

Overall, I usually recommend that people try lower proof bourbons to begin their bourbon journey, because lower proof bourbons tend to be more drinkable.  As you drink a few bourbons and learn to appreciate the whiskey a little more, then you can start to branch out and try all sorts of great bourbon whiskeys.