Woodford Reserve – Review

By LB


Woodford Reserve thumbnail
Woodford Reserve

Buy Now ($36.99)

Make way for Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select, the “Official Bourbon” of the Kentucky Derby AND the Breeder’s Cup!

Perhaps it’s how the horses stay so cool and collected during the race? It is, after all, the “Thoroughbred of Bourbons”.

History
Production
Tasting Notes
Visiting Woodford Reserve
Rating
Comments
Buy Woodford Reserve Collectibles

History

This small batch bourbon comes from a distillery originally built by Elijah Pepper in Versailles, KY in 1812.

It is currently one of the oldest of the nine still functioning distilleries in Kentucky. In 1878 the distillery was purchased by Leopold Labrot and James Graham, who (except during Prohibition) operated it until 1941.

Due to severe war-time restrictions, Labrot & Graham went bankrupt, and the distillery was sold to the Brown-Forman company of Louisville, KY (who also owns the Jack Daniels and Old Forester brands).

Despite the sale, the distillery retained the Labrot & Graham name. Brown-Forman sold it after just three years, only to re-purchase it 23 years later in 1994 and subsequently spent over seven million dollars renovating the property.

The distillery was officially renamed as The Woodford Reserve Distillery in 2003 and is one of the official stops on the Bourbon Trail.

Production

While Woodford Reserve was originally bottled from extra-aged honey barrels of Old Forester, it is now primarily bottled from bourbon made in old-fashioned copper pot stills (as opposed to modern column stills).

Their barrels of bourbon are aged in a 100 year-old stone warehouse, whereas many other whiskey warehouses are built from wood. The stone better retains heat, allowing the warehouse to heat and cool more slowly as the seasons change. This means the whiskey shrinks and expands in the barrel more slowly as well. Some claim that this allows for more predictable aging and consistency in taste.

The barrels are aged for at least 6 years and then poured and bottled at 90.4 proof.

Since 1999, Woodford Reserve annually releases a special bottling for each running of the Kentucky Derby. Additionally, they have also created two other special release whiskeys, their Sonoma-Cutrer Finish whiskey and the Master’s Collection Four-Grain Bourbon, which I will write about in a later review.

Tasting Notes

The nose is quite woody and has light notes charcoal and dark chocolate. On the palate, it is smooth with subtle spice. It has a delicate woody sweetness, but not quite as potent as the nose. The finish is long and dry with a flowery twist. A hint of wood still lingers.

For me, the inviting and markedly strong nose stands out.

Visiting Woodford Reserve

Should you ever find yourself in the neighborhood of Versailles, KY (pronounced “vur-sales”, not “vair-sigh”), it is worth your while to do some exploring and visit the distillery. Tucked away among endless acres of beautifully scenic Thoroughbred horse farms you’ll find the Woodford Reserve Distillery. The site has been designated a National Historic Landmark since 2000.

They welcome visitors, and guided tours are $5 per person. In addition, if you’re serious about your Woodford Reserve, you can even buy your own custom batch. They’ll pair you up with a craftsman to help you pick out the barrels you’d like, and then bottle you 180 1-liter bottles of your own special bourbon, complete with custom labels with your name on them. You also get a private tour of the distillery when you do your barrel selection.

If you don’t plan on picking up and heading to Kentucky any time soon, I suggest you at least venture out to the corner store and treat yourself to a bottle of Woodford Reserve. You can usually pick up a 750ml bottle for around $34 – $38. Most higher end liquor stores should carry it.

Rating

Overall, I find Woodford Reserve to be a solid bourbon. It has a medium complexity with high woody notes, yet it remains fairly smooth. It’s not too sweet, but it’s also not too spicy. In my mind, Woodford Reserve has a nice balance that lends well to mixed drinks, and is often a go-to for me at Derby time when I’m mixing up mint juleps — which seems fitting given its Kentucky Derby sponsorship.

If a bar or restaurant carries any upper-shelf bourbon, this is very likely to be one of them (Brown-Forman definitely has the distribution game down). I would say I’ve seen it in 4 out of 5 major airport bars I have been to in the U.S., so it is a good one to get to know if you travel much.

My only complaint about Woodford Reserve is that it may be a little over-priced in my mind, so I have to dock it a few points in terms of value.

87/100

How do you rate Woodford Reserve? Let us know by leaving a comment.

Looking to buy Woodford Reserve? Click here to order yourself a bottle pronto, or check the eBay listings below for the various collectible / limited edition releases.


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6 Responses to “Woodford Reserve – Review”

  1. Drinksville Says:

    If you’re interested in traditional Bourbon production, check out our Woodford Reserve Tour video at http://www.drinksville.com

  2. Technology & MSG » Blog Archive » Cafe Mezzanotte is a Classy and Rich Experience Says:

    [...] sweet and delicious that I won’t even attempt to do them justice), and a single glass of Woodford Reserve (very reasonably priced) ran just shy of $150 before [...]

  3. Little Bonuses « No Butts About It Says:

    [...] As I sit here contemplating ending my week with a glass of Woodford on the rocks… The beginning of a nice [...]

  4. Quick Hits « The Taoist Biker Says:

    [...] Woodford. Awesome. [...]

  5. Hot soft light | photos by Rob Hart » Blog Archive » The Sauce is the Boss Says:

    [...] some good bourbon in a class with 2 ice chips. Sip it. Simmer the onions and garlic in 1 cup of cheap bourbon [...]

  6. AnXieties of Influence « plumbblogdotnet Says:

    [...] asked to do all of his drinking in another town. There’s also a review of my favorite bourbon Woodford Reserve, my preferred traveling drink.  Totally unrelated. [...]

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Find collectible Woodford Reserve bottles on eBay:

  1. WOODFORD RESERVE'S MASTERS SEASONED OAK 2009 SIGNED -
    US $185.00
    End Date: Tuesday May-17-2011 3:53:17 PDT
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  2. WOODFORD RESERVE 2003 KENTUCKY DERBY BOURBON BOTTLE –CO -
    US $67.00 (3 Bids)
    End Date: Tuesday May-17-2011 18:28:25 PDT
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  3. 2006 Ky Derby woodford reserve bottle -
    US $31.00 (4 Bids)
    End Date: Wednesday May-18-2011 18:17:44 PDT
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  4. WOODFORD RESERVE KENTUCKY DERBY 136 2010 SIGNED MAKERS -
    US $75.00
    End Date: Friday May-20-2011 4:28:46 PDT
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  5. Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby 133 Whiskey May 5 2007 -
    US $108.99 (0 Bid)
    End Date: Friday May-20-2011 14:53:51 PDT
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  6. Woodford Reserve Four Grain Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey -
    US $234.99 (0 Bid)
    End Date: Friday May-20-2011 15:18:03 PDT
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  7. Woodford Reserve Bourbon 2002 Kentucky Derby Bottle -
    US $41.00 (2 Bids)
    End Date: Friday May-20-2011 18:40:03 PDT
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  8. WOODFORD RESERVE'S MASTERS COLLECTION MAPLE WOOD 2010 -
    US $135.00
    End Date: Saturday May-21-2011 3:40:36 PDT
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  9. WOODFORD RESERVE KENTUCKY DERBY 135 MAY 2009 makers -
    US $82.00
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  10. WOODFORD RESERVE MASTERS COLLECTION MAPLE SIGNED 2010 -
    US $145.00
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  11. WOODFORD RESERVE'S MASTERS COLLECTION SEASONED OAK 2009 -
    US $190.00
    End Date: Tuesday May-24-2011 3:57:19 PDT
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  12. WOODFORD RESERVE KENTUCKY DERBY 135 MAY 2009 SIGNED -
    US $85.00
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  13. WOODFORD RESERVE KENTUCKY DERBY 136 2010 BOURBON MAKERS -
    US $70.00
    End Date: Thursday May-26-2011 3:37:08 PDT
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  14. WOODFORD RESERVE KENTUCKY DERBY 133 2007 SIGNED -
    US $90.00
    End Date: Thursday May-26-2011 5:33:20 PDT
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  15. WOODFORD RESERVE KENTUCKY DERBY 136 2010 SIGNED MAKERS -
    US $70.00
    End Date: Friday May-27-2011 5:05:28 PDT
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  16. WOODFORD RESERVE KENTUCKY DERBY 137 2011 BOURBON SIGNED -
    US $75.00
    End Date: Friday May-27-2011 8:10:20 PDT
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  17. Woodford Reserve FOUR GRAIN Bourbon Whiskey Batch 2 -
    US $249.00
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  18. WOODFORD RESERVE KENTUCKY DERBY 137 2011 BOURBON SIGNED -
    US $77.00
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  19. Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby 134 Limited Edition -
    US $84.99
    End Date: Saturday May-28-2011 22:46:04 PDT
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  20. Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby 135 Limited Edition -
    US $79.99
    End Date: Saturday May-28-2011 22:55:07 PDT
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  21. WOODFORD RESERVE KENTUCKY DERBY 137 2011 BOURBON MAKERS -
    US $70.00
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  22. WOODFORD RESERVE KENTUCKY DERBY 2008 BOURBON -
    US $82.00
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  23. WOODFORD RESERVE MASTERS 1838 SWEET MASH 2009 SIGNED + -
    US $235.00
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  24. WOODFORD RESERVE KENTUCKY DERBY 136 2010 SIGNED 2 TIMES -
    US $80.00
    End Date: Wednesday Jun-01-2011 4:40:50 PDT
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  25. 1999 2nd BREEDER'S CUP WOODFORD RESERVE COLLECTIBLE -
    US $100.00
    End Date: Wednesday Jun-01-2011 12:43:30 PDT
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  26. 2011 WOODFORD RESERVE BOTTLE. KENTUCKY DERBY 137 -
    US $72.00
    End Date: Friday Jun-03-2011 10:01:28 PDT
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  27. 1998 FIRST BREEDER'S CUP WOODFORD RESERVE COLLECTIBLE + -
    US $150.00
    End Date: Saturday Jun-04-2011 8:21:06 PDT
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  28. Woodford Reserve Maple Wood Bourbon Whiskey Batch 6 -
    US $135.00
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  29. WOODFORD RESERVE KENTUCKY DERBY 134 MAY 3rd 2008 SIGNED -
    US $90.00
    End Date: Sunday Jun-05-2011 5:13:54 PDT
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  30. 2010 KENTUCKY DERBY WOODFORD RESERVE CHURCHILL + 3 ADS -
    US $75.00
    End Date: Tuesday Jun-07-2011 7:42:06 PDT
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  31. 2010 KENTUCKY DERBY WOODFORD RESERVE CHURCHILL + 3 ADS -
    US $75.00
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  32. WOODFORD RESERVE KENTUCKY DERBY 133 2007 SIGNED 2 -
    US $95.00
    End Date: Tuesday Jun-07-2011 9:43:37 PDT
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  33. 2003 BREEDER'S CUP WOODFORD RESERVE COLLECTIBLE + BONUS -
    US $100.00
    End Date: Tuesday Jun-07-2011 10:26:40 PDT
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  34. 2000 BREEDER'S CUP WOODFORD RESERVE COLLECTIBLE +2 ADS -
    US $100.00
    End Date: Tuesday Jun-07-2011 10:29:48 PDT
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  35. WOODFORD RESERVE 2010 136 KY DERBY SIGNED BY DISTILLER -
    US $75.00
    End Date: Tuesday Jun-07-2011 12:53:45 PDT
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  36. WOODFORD RESERVE KENTUCKY DERBY 136 2010 SIGNED 2 TIMES -
    US $85.00
    End Date: Thursday Jun-09-2011 2:25:48 PDT
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  37. 2002 BREEDER'S CUP WOODFORD RESERVE COLLECTIBLE +2 ADS -
    US $100.00
    End Date: Thursday Jun-09-2011 12:30:02 PDT
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  38. 1999 FIRST KENTUCKY DERBY WOODFORD RESERVE CHURCHILL + -
    US $249.00
    End Date: Sunday Jun-12-2011 11:08:53 PDT
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  39. WOODFORD RESERVE BOURBON WHISKEY 375ml COLLECTOR - SET -
    US $69.99
    End Date: Sunday Jun-12-2011 18:01:29 PDT
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  40. Woodford Reserve Four Grain Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey #1 -
    US $225.00
    End Date: Monday Jun-13-2011 17:04:29 PDT
    Buy It Now for only: US $225.00
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  41. 2007 KENTUCKY DERBY WOODFORD RESERVE CHURCHILL + 2 ADS -
    US $75.00
    End Date: Monday Jun-13-2011 23:04:16 PDT
    Buy It Now for only: US $75.00
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  42. WOODFORD RESERVE KENTUCKY DERBY 137 2011 BOURBON MAKERS -
    US $72.00
    End Date: Wednesday Jun-15-2011 3:27:27 PDT
    Buy It Now for only: US $72.00
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If you see errors instead of a list of bottles, I apologize -- the eBay feed is malfunctioning.

Try reloading the page once or twice, or clicking here to see the listings. Sorry!