Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Brandy Cask Finish Review

Image courtesy of Woodford Reserve

The annual Master’s Collection release sees Morris playing around with different aspects of the whiskey making process. Most notably, he’s utilized secondary maturation, or finishing, with different barrels.  The eleventh entry in the Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection might just be my favorite of the past several releases.  It starts as fully matured Woodford Reserve bourbon that sees a two-year second maturation in American brandy casks.  The company is quick to point out this release isn’t a bourbon, but a finished whiskey.  Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Chris Morris says, “Among Woodford Reserve’s many flavors include fruit and spice notes which the brandy emphasize.  Both products showcase rich, intense vanilla notes from their barrel maturation making the combination of the two a true success.”

The wonderful nose features hints of cream soda, caramelized sugar, berries, and madagascar vanilla bean with a touch of sweet corn in the background.  It’s a departure from the standard Woodford Reserve style, feeling a bit rounder and more vanilla-heavy.  The palate follows the nose rather closely, with rich cream soda, berries and caramel.  There is a slight anise note, along with cinnamon spice and drying oak.  The finish is medium length, and features light brown sugar, vanilla and astringent oak.

As I wrote at the beginning of this post, this year’s Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection release is my favorite of recent releases.  I think the synergy of the spicy bourbon and fruity brandy cask work beautifully.  It’s rich cream soda-like flavor is something I rarely get in a bourbon, and when I do it’s not as intense as it is here.  Its bottled at 90.4 proof and costs about $100 a bottle.  Very nice.  8.5/10

Thanks to Brown-Forman for the sample!  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Rye Whiskey Review

Photo courtesy of Jack Daniel's.

Photo courtesy of Jack Daniel’s.

During the summer of 2014, I had a chance to talk to Jeff Arnett, the Master Distiller of Jack Daniel’s.  Towards the end of the brief interview he mentioned the upcoming rye whiskey release.  Fast forward a year and a half to March 2016, and Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Rye (JDSBR) begins hitting shelves.

This rye expression is the distillery’s first new mashbill in 100 years.  Like Arnett stated in that interview, the mashbill is broken down to 70% rye, 18% corn and 12% malted barley.  The high percentage of rye grain should show up in the nose and palate.  Considering their traditional mash bill is 80% corn, 12% malted barley and 8% rye, it’s apparent the company wants to showcase a big rye note in the final product.

JDSBR is bottled at 94 proof and is the newest addition to the Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel lineup.  It offers no age statement, which is consistent with every other offering from the distillery.  Arnett says, “You never want to over-barrel a rye whiskey so it was important for us to stay true to the style of grain forward character rather than barrel character while still allowing our barrels to interplay with the whiskey.”

There has been some talk online about wide barrel variation for Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Barrel Proof, the company’s last release.   Some folks claim their whiskey was not of quality, whereas I tasted whiskey from two different barrels and found both to be delicious.  I’m curious to see how this new offering will fare.

Although the mashbill has changed, the nose is unmistakably a member of the Jack Daniel’s family.  Rye grain leads off the nose, followed by familiar JD notes of sweet caramel, banana, and a little oak.  The entry is a mixture of sweet and spicy.  Rye grain is showcased nicely, providing that spiciness and a bit of sharpness.  Caramel and that JD banana note add sweetness and some richness.  The oak note comes in close to the medium-length finish, which is a touch astringent and leaves behind a sweet note.

You know, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Rye is pretty darn good, especially for the suggested price of $49.99.  It’s pretty much what I expected from a JD rye whiskey.  It keeps the JD characteristics, but focuses on the rye grain.  Arnett and his team have not allowed the barrel influence to dominate the whiskey.  Assuming the whiskey makers are picking great barrels, I have a feeling this will be a hit for the company.

Give this one a chance.  I think you’ll like what you taste.

(Note: A small review sample was provided by Jack Daniel’s.)

Woodford Reserve Distillery Series – Frosty Four Wood Bourbon Review

Photo courtesy of Woodford Reserve.

Photo courtesy of Woodford Reserve.

The third entry in Woodford Reserve’s Distillery Series is Frosty Four Wood, following Double Double Oaked and Sweet Mash Redux.  The trend seems to find the distillery revisiting previous editions of their Master’s Collection.  This is great for folks that didn’t get to taste a previous releases of earlier Master’s Collection expressions.  Case in point: I never had a chance to taste the original Woodford Reserve Four Wood.  At least with this release I get to taste a variation of it.

Frosty Four Wood gets its name from its flavor influences, namely barrel finishing.  Fully matured Woodford Reserve is put into three different cask types: maple, sherry and port.  This secondary maturation lasts a few months.  The barrels are then blended together and bottled.  The frosty part of the name comes from the Polar Vortex of 2013.  The original Master’s Collection Four Wood was exposed to the low temperatures, causing flocking, or mineral precipitation.  The distillers used a filtration technique that resulted in a fruit-forward flavor profile.

The nose is rich and fruity.  Dried fruit, sweet oak, and slightly burned toffee are the key players here.  I’ve never smelled so much fruit in a bourbon.  That fruit-forward profile also carries over onto the palate.  In addition to being the dominating flavors, dried berries and citrus provide richness here.  Cloves, corn, vanilla and toffee develop mid-palate.  A spicy yet slightly drying oak shows up for the medium finish.

I like this one.  It’s an interesting take on the Woodford Reserve profile.  The port, sherry and maple cask finish really give this bourbon a fruit-forward, rich profile, which is not how I would describe the standard Woodford Reserve expression.

(Note: A review sample was provided by Woodford Reserve.)