Chris Morris

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.

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.)

Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection 1838 Style White Corn Bourbon Review

Photo courtesy of Woodford Reserve

Photo courtesy of Woodford Reserve

Autumn means one thing for the folks at Woodford Reserve – the release of a new Master’s Collection.  For this year’s release, Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Chris Morris played around with grains, in this case, corn.  In a throwback and homage to legendary whisky makers Oscar Pepper and James Crow, Morris is utilizing white corn instead of the traditional yellow corn.  Pepper and Crow used white corn back from the late-1830s to the 1850s.  Additionally, according to the press release, Morris was able to “develop and bring to life a recipe Pepper and Crow might have used.”

Nosing this bourbon, I can immediately tell this isn’t the standard Woodford Reserve.  I get sweet corn grits and what seems like a young oak note – similar to what I get on some craft whiskies.  All over a bed of toffee and ginger snaps.  The whiskey is slightly spicy upfront, with buttered corn and lemon pudding dominating, followed by a touch of toffee.  The finish here is all black pepper, and becomes dry rather quickly.  The body here feels a bit thin, especially for a 90.4 proof bourbon.

I always applaud experimentation.  Sometimes it works.  Other times it doesn’t.  However it is always interesting.  This year’s Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection can best be summed up as interesting.  Don’t go into it expecting a Woodford Reserve-like bourbon.  It’s different and interesting, but I think it might take some folks time to fully warm up to this one.  Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection 1838 Style White Corn carries an SRP of $99.

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