Thursday, April 5, 2012
New Whisky: Woodford Reserve Double Oaked
You may notice I don't do too many reviews of a single whisky or beer. I guess I lack the confidence in my sensory vocabulary. Whisky reviews can get very flowery and specific, like the SNL sketch where they name all of the notes in the wine, "cloves....peppery....burnt rubber....a garbage man..." But I thought I'd give one a try anyway. Woodford Reserve is made by Brown Forman, the folks behind the #1 whisky on the planet, good old Jack Daniels. Woodford is one of the original "boutique" bourbons. Like Jim Beam's small batch collection, it was aimed at a growing number of drinkers who care a bit more about what is in their glass, and the image that goes with it. Original Woodford Reserve is generally priced just over 30 bucks, still affordable but expensive enough to feel that it's a luxury. They have only had one regularly available product since their inception in 1996. Now, like with Maker's Mark before it with their introduction of Maker's 46, you will find a new Woodford product on the shelves, Woodford Reserve Double Oaked. Still exactly 90.4 proof, this bottle will run you $50. So what's in the name? The whisky spends time in two barrels, the first the same that original Woodford rests in, then a second which was "deeply toasted before its light charring." Without pretending to be Mr. Wizard, charring is one of the ways distilleries can play with the flavor of a bourbon; the different levels of char can affect the sugars in the wood and resulting flavors in the bourbon. Woodford's website does not give a ton of details about this process, there is simply a cheesy 1 minute video with some nonsense about "doubling the maturation and exposure to the oak." I'm sure as this product is tasted and reviewed more intense bourbon geeks than I will find out more details about the process, aging time, etc. Either way, it seems like a cool concept, especially considering that Woodford is the only U.S. distillery that operates its own cooperage. I know one of Woodford's Master's Collection releases involved other experimentation with the wood, like extra seasoning (leaving it out in the sun). So they know a thing or two about wood's role in the flavoring process.
Disclaimer: some of my vocabulary may be pilfered from some of my favorite whisky writers, like Jason Pyle and Jim Murray, but I think reading about whisky is second only to tasting it when it comes to building a vocabulary and understanding, and that it can and should be a shared experience. So, I credit those I have learned from, but now I will venture out on my own. Okay, on with the whisky.
Rich, almost syrupy looking. Reddish brown.
The distinctive Woodford nose. Like apple cider. Maybe some butterscotsch pudding.
Round and full bodied even at a fairly mild 90 proof. Maybe just the packaging, but I do think you get more oak in this one, like a dryness that cuts through the sweetness of the vanilla-corn character of the bourbon. The apples are there on the taste, too, this would be great to have in autumn. There's some maple syrup or some kind of baking spices, can't quite put my finger on that aspect.
Pretty substantial, again, considering the proof. Lingered on the palate even after only my first taste. If you enjoy a good strong burn, you won't find it with this one, though. It's mellow through and through.
I haven't had them side by side, but I can't say for sure that this is better or even all that much different than the original Woodford. Even if it is, is it $20 dollars better? Don't get me wrong it's great stuff, and I think it could hold it's own with other bourbons in that range (Bookers, Blanton's, Angel's Envy, etc.). I guess it goes to show what a great bourbon and value the original is.
I always have mixed emotions about Woodford. I loved their distillery tour and love their product. But I don't love how they like to position themselves as "craft" (it says so on the website) when really they are backed up by Jack Daniels. Also they push the concept of copper pot distillation but I don't believe that all of the whisky in their bottles went through that still, as they produce so much product and use some "filler" whisky not distilled on site (like Old Forrester) to keep the taste consistent from batch to batch. I don't even care what they do because the product is great, but I don't really love when companies try to overhype a mystique that is more myth than fact.
At the end of the day it was fun to try a new product from an old standby. Woodford Reserve Distiller's Select is behind the bar at almost any place worth its salt that pours whisky, and their reputation is a good one for a good reason, namely, the bourbon is damn good. I'd probably score Woodford Reserve Double Oak an 8 out of 10. Maybe not spectacular, but great stuff nonetheless.