Whiskey Review: Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select Bourbon

, | December 21, 2017

It had come to our attention that for all the hundreds of brown liquors we have reviewed here at the Whiskey Wash, we haven’t reviewed one of the more familiar whiskies of the more familiar brands: Woodford Reserve.

Of course, while my esteemed colleagues have shared their thoughts on the Woodford Reserve Toasted Oak Rye and the Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Cherry Wood Smoked Barley, we realized it was time to go back to basics—without being basic.

Woodford Reserve itself is noted for being a historic national landmark, befitting of an older distillery such as it is in Kentucky. It is home to a 500-foot-long gravity-fed barrel run,  copper pot stills and 100-year-old cypress wood fermenters. Said to have one of the only heat cycled barrelhouses in the world, those behind this operation claim a balance of historic heritage and modern practices in how they produce bourbon.

image via Carin Moonin/The Whiskey Wash

Tasting Notes: Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Vital stats: Mash bill of 72 percent corn, 18 percent rye and 10 percent malt; 90.4 proof; about $35

Appearance: Reddish gold, the gloss of a well-loved Irish setter, rich mahogany.

Nose: Very sweet, bordering on lightly creamy. Caramel, orange sponge cake, but also with an undertone of paint drying. This isn’t off-putting, though; think more like the clean and fresh scent of something clean, new, and fresh and ready to go. Another one: chocolate covered oranges.

Palate : It starts out soft and balanced with a strong caramel apple vibe to carry you through to the finish, which completes a little prickly, like red hots. It’s definitely got sweetness on the palate with a fiery end. Kind of fizzy, too, with hints of POP ROCKS. And afterburn like a tipsy Looney Tunes St. Bernard. (Imagine my disappointment in college when I tried skiing in Colorado for the first time, got stranded on the mountain, and didn’t encounter a bartending canine.)

The Takeaway

This is good…but not great. I think it’d be best in a mixed drink, like a bourbon ginger, which would play well with its carbonated peppery vibe. I’d be more inclined to drink it like this than to sip on its own, which would be a little astringent. It’s not bad but it would welcome some friends. Think of it like the first step of a multi-part skin care program. It’s fine if you just use this, but it’s complemented by other components.

User Review
3.06 (17 votes)


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Carin Moonin

A decade ago, I traded a 5th floor walkup in Hoboken, NJ for a house in SE Portland and remain grateful for the swap. Portland’s a great whiskey town: It fits the weather and my general mood (even improves it sometimes). I enjoy exploring the many shades of brown liquor...