Woodford Reserve Double Oaked | 45.2% ABV | $60
If Chris Morris, the master distiller at Brown-Forman, has shown us anything it’s that this guy is fixated on experimenting and more so experimenting with wood. The recent Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection has been all about tinkering with various wood maturation. So for the Double Oaked what Morris did was to take standard WF and double mature it in a secondary barrel. While the first is toasted and charred to usual specifications the second barrel is set to “extreme toast” which means it’s toasted twice as long as the first barrel and then charred to the lightest char possible. The unique ‘seasoning’ of the wood in turn helps the whiskey add another layer of depth all in all making for a more interesting product. Well that’s the pitch but does it actually work?
Appearance: Medium amber with thin tear drop legs
Nose: Initially it’s like taking a big whiff of a toasted oak barrel filled with brandied cherries. I’m also getting a lot of fruit such as bananas, blood oranges along with some lemon zest. Then the usual suspects appear vanilla, caramel, butterscotch and some faint chocolate. That double maturation has really sweetened this bouquet but as it continues to open up it steps away from that cloying ledge to integrate the oak, sawdust and wood spices. Some leather and coffee beans appear as well as the familiar aroma of rye. I love the balance in this bouquet. The oak is playing second violin to the intense sweetness, which is the star of the show, but it would be a disaster if not for the oak. Perfect harmony.
Palate: Upfront very sweet. Vanilla, maraschino liqueur, butterscotch and maple syrup. Mid palate the rye and citrus fruits comes in to level out the sweetness. As it enters the back of the palate the bitter tannins and barrel char arrive but surprisingly doesn’t completely dry out the mouth like a lot of oak-heavy bourbons. The finish hits with a nice rush of honey, vanilla and rye but vanishes in an instant leaving only bitter toasted oak. The mouthfeel is medium in body and slightly dry. It’s all very quick and straight forward with no surprises.
Overall: Hats off to Chris Morris and his team at Brown-Forman for their imagination and ingenuity when if comes to bourbon making. The level of depth and complexity in the bouquet can only be attributed to the carefully thought-out double maturation of the spirit. It’s amazing how tinkering with the wood can have such a big impact on the whiskey. Unfortunately the same can’t be said about the palate, which was rather underwhelming. After that beautiful build up in the nosing the pay off in the palate just wasn’t there. The complexity paled in comparison to the bouquet and a lackluster finish leaves me wanting more out of this. If the palate were to be as layered and intense as the bouquet is this would be some astounding juice but as it stands it’s all sizzle and with little steak.
Rating: 82 / * * *S