If you’ve been around American whiskey for any length of time, odds are you’ve seen a bottle of Woodford Reserve. Until about ten years ago, it would have been just the one Woodford Reserve – a Kentucky straight bourbon with a reputation as a solidly good whiskey, there was nothing more needed – until the trend in favor of brown spirits began. Brown-Forman owns Woodford, now, and in 2005, they began expanding their offerings to include myriad one-off products including a Chardonnay Finish (2007), a Maple Wood Finish (2010) and a Pinot Noir Finish (2014).
This year, Woodford Reserve has not only released their yearly special offering (an 1838 Style White Corn), they’ve also sent to market a 90-proof Kentucky Straight Rye which, as a permanent addition to their offerings, is available for around $40. The distillery has been working on this release for several years, with master distiller Chris Morris playing with many mash bills from 100% rye, down to the current ratio of 53% rye / 33% corn / 14% malted barley. This conservative mash bill should please most palates, but can be tricky to ensure that sweetness doesn’t overbalance the traditionally spicy rye.
Appearance: In the glass, the color is tawny, bordering on teak, with medium legs running, rather than forming droplets.
Nose: White pepper and horehound candy punch through, followed quickly by paper birch, golden syrup and toasted pecans.
Palate: All the quintessential rye character of pepper and oak swirl through cinnamon, caramel and honey. Nothing new, here, but a classic rendition.
Finish: The finish was surprisingly juicy – not at all drying – with cardamom, almond and Chojuro Asian pear splashing about.
The nose and finish of this whiskey warranted higher ratings, but the palate was a textbook copy of what has come before. Once again, Woodford Reserve has given us a solid – if not exceptional – spirit. In this age of craft distillers, innovation and risk-taking have catapulted the whiskey scene into new territory, and the once predictable shelves have been spliced into smaller and smaller niches. Perhaps it is wise of Woodford Reserve to keep to carefully crafted classics – a long game, but a dependable one.
I give Woodford Reserve Rye Whiskey a score of 83 points.
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Tish Lester is a former restauranteur whose love of good flavors led her to the world of whiskey, where she is an avid participant, having attended nosings, tastings and master classes throughout Europe and the United States. She has recently discovered the truth that for every moment in our lives,...