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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Bourbon


My trusty sidekick/daughter presented me with this gift at the holidays – Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection – Select American Oak. A couple years ago, she presented me with an earlier rendition – Woodford’s Cherry Wood Smoked Barley from 2017. The Select American Oak expression is from 2018; I’m curious if it is worthy of the Master’s Collection hype (and price tag).

Master’s Collection

For more than a dozen years, each Fall, Woodford Reserve Master Distiller has released a special “Master’s Collection”. The October 2019 release was a much-anticipated Chocolate Malted Rye. This expression utilizes the standard Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select mash bill aged in “specially selected terroir sourced Ozark oak”.

You may be thinking, as was I, “that sounds pretty fancy”. Terroir is a French word and is often used when comparing “old world” and “new world” wines. Translated, terroir literally means, earth or soil.

From the bottle tag, this specific varietal of oak from the Ozarks was selected for its fast-growing characteristics. Having barrels that share a common wood structure gives this special batching of Woodford Reserve a distinct nutty and sweet aromatic character that will remind you of warm baked goods.

Parent Brown-Forman is unique in the spirits industry as it owns its own cooperage to supply barrels for their aged spirits. Typically, barrels are made from a commingling of Northern Oak, Appalachian Oak and Ozark oak – each with their different soils, climates, and growing profiles. Utilizing these three woods in barrels typically provides a more homogenous flavor profile. By targeting wood exclusively from a single region, we can gain insights into the impact of that terroir has on the flavor.

As they say, the proof is in the pour – let’s give this one a taste.

The Tasting

This special release is bottled at 90.4 proof in a tall, elegant bottle. The mash bill is the standard Woodford mash bill – 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley. Price point on this is north of $100.

Eye: Dark walnut, with a dark color similar to the popular Woodford Double Oaked.

Nose: Sweet vanilla, caramel and butterscotch. There is cocoa powder and light fruit (peach) and a nutty note.

Palate: Wow! There is more caramel and vanilla. Oak is present, but not overpowering or tannic. There is a nutty chew to this expression, almost like a chocolate-caramel-pecan turtle candy.

Finish: Medium in length with some peppery-spice and more smooth oak.

Overall: This particular release is one to add to your list. It’s not as dessert-like as Woodford’s Double-Oaked which has an abundance of chocolate on the palate. This one is nicely balanced. The oak notes are not overpowering, but balanced with the vanilla, caramel and pecan-like notes. Master Distiller Chris Morris, I raise my glass to you and this Master’s Collection.

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