Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Woodford Reserve. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
In my time as a bartender I found many people surprised to learn that whiskey, before distillation, is essentially just beer. This often came up around releases that featured the fact that they started as a beer, like Black Butte and Rogue. This trend has made its way to Woodford Reserve for their Fall 2021 release of the Master’s Collection, a five-malt stouted mash whiskey.
For those not familiar with Woodford Reserve’s Master’s Collection, it started in 2006 as a way for the Master Distiller, Chris Morris, to experiment with single adjustments to Woodford’s products to see what happens. These changes include adjustments to the mash bill, what the whiskeys are aged or finished in, and even additions of smoked grain. There is a nice interview with Chris Morris for the 2018 releases over on Distiller. This gives some insight on how the decisions are made, and that they really don’t know what these releases will end up like.
This year’s release is the Five-Malt Stouted Mash Whiskey. The goal with this release was to really push the flavor profile toward what you expect from beer. While I can’t find a whole lot of details on this other than what was in their press release, they do mention going for that stout style of beer to match their use of the Irish method of triple pot distillation and honor the Irish stonemasons that built their distillery. While there aren’t details on what malts are used or what makes this stouted. there are hints of a roasting process normally used in stouted beer.
Whiskey just before distillation is known as distiller’s beer. What makes this different from what most people think of beer is, generally speaking, the lack of hops. Hops provide a citrusy and floral flavor profile to beer and are often the source of the bitterness that is associated with things like IPA. Now while I can’t find if Woodford Reserve is using hops in this or not, there is a note of that floral citrus in the flavor profile of this whiskey.
These experimental lines can be hit or miss, and the price point of them can often make the gamble a bit of a turn off. I will say I think this one is worth checking out, especially if you enjoy the flavors of stouts or you like other whiskeys distilled from actual beer. This certainly won’t be for everyone but I would put this in the “success” category for the Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection.
Tasting Notes: Woodford Reserve Five-Malt Stouted Mash
Vital Stats: 45.2% ABV, MSRP $130 for 750ml.
Appearance: This is a coppery amber in color. It forms thick tears that fall at a medium speed.
Nose: This smells like a brewery, just tons of processed grain on the nose. It reminds me of toasted multigrain bread. Some subtle notes of caramel and chocolate are in there as well.
Palate: I find this has a rich flavor while still feeling light. Flavors of biscuit, toffee, and barley are present and complemented by a slight bitter citrus quality that reminds me of hops. The finish reminds me of a Japanese pastry with toasted sesame seeds. There is a touch of oak and vanilla as well. There is a little astringency and heat throughout all of this. Water really brings out the malt and a little more caramel. It tastes like I’m chewing on candied malted barley.
This is one of the better experimentations from Woodford Reserve. It is very different from anything I’ve tried from their label. While the flavors are pleasant, I feel like it needs to be rounded out a bit more to go from good to exceptional.