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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Bourbon

Woodford Reserve Cherry Wood Smoked Barley

Dusty bottles in down-and-out places can sometimes pay big dividends… so can moving your daughter into a rental property. I’ve been nursing this bottle for over a year and it’s time I share the word.

Master’s Collection

For more than a dozen years, each fall, the Woodford Reserve Master Distiller has released a special “Master’s Collection”. The expressions have been eagerly anticipated by Woodford Reserve fans. Experts have weighed in on each of these, with some years declared more worthy of others. The 2017 version that my daughter “thanked” me with was one of those great expressions. It was discovered under a little bit of dust at a local college campus liquor store.

In the Fall of 2017, Master Distiller Chris Morris released the Woodford Reserve Cherry Wood Smoked Barley recipe. This particular recipe paid tribute to the distilling legends Oscar Pepper and James Crow – two distillers that decades ago owned the current site of Woodford Reserve.

Typically, bourbon is made from 3 grains – either corn, rye, and barley, or corn, wheat, and barley. In this expression, Chris Morris used malt that been smoked in cherry wood. The mashbill was comprised of two grains – 70% corn and 30% malted barley. In recent years, Woodford Reserve has released a malt whiskey that’s quite delicious and very approachable for bourbon drinkers with a mashbill of 51% malted barley, 47% corn, and 2% rye.

The Tasting

This special release is bottled at 90.4 proof in a tall, elegant bottle. Full disclosure – this was secured for about $99, so it’s a little above my normal price range. Guess I did okay moving furniture and hanging pictures.

Eye: Medium copper. Not quite as dark as Woodford Double Oaked.

Nose: Loads of cherry, wood, and malted grain notes. Even a bit of campfire smoky notes – almost like a “Swisher Sweet”. I love the nose on this and Woodford’s Malt Whiskey – it’s a soothing and calming experience.

Palate: Wow! There is a lot going on here. There’s a splash of spice on the front of my tongue, with a silky, smooth mouthfeel. There are butter-cookie notes, malt, and cherry, with each one well-balanced. While some would think this a wild combination, this one keeps me wanting to come back for more! This is a very smooth and comfortable drinker.

Finish: Medium in length with more smokiness, malt and a dry oak flavor. There’s no heat here – just a sultry smooth sip.

Overall: This particular release is one to keep on your radar. As I mentioned earlier, there are annual releases each fall – and the reviews have varied. If you’re expecting a peated-scotch taste, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

This particular 2017 release was truly a great premonition of the Woodford Straight Malt Whiskey Release. Both have a sweet smore-campfire-like flavor. Sweetness from the high corn content and smoky, grainy notes from the barley create a smooth sipping experience.

There are at times when a special release feels very “industrial” or “manufactured” – this is a product made from the ground up without barrel finishing or added flavors. Everything is very well-balanced, and while soothing, is complex enough to keep an experienced bourbon drinker interested. Be on the lookout for this dusty bottle at your favorite dive store.

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