New Woodford Brandy Finish, new Evan Williams makeover, and more

I’m a big fan of the Woodford Reserve Distillery Series not only because my highly coveted Double Double Oaked is part of it, but because it’s fun to watch (and taste) a brand experiment with various aspects of bourbon production.

In other words, it’s fun to see Master Distiller Chris Morris play mad scientist.

The latest release — Woodford Reserve Brandy Cask Finished Bourbon — launches today, May 26, at the distillery’s gift shop and retails for $49.99 for a 375ml bottle.

According to a news release, the product is a blend of Woodford finished in French and California brandy barrels, and it has loads of brown sugar and caramel notes, as well as — get this — “chocolate-coated vanilla wafer laced with cotton candy and citrus peel.” Now there’s a mouthful, all of which I’d like to have in my mouth.

“Each core expression of Woodford Reserve pushes the creative boundaries of whiskeys to the extreme, and I wanted this one-of-a-kind limited expression to be no exception,” said Morris in the release. “The result is a unique whiskey — the perfect addition to Woodford’s Distillery Series expressions.”

Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch gets a makeover

Evan Williams just got back from “the doctor,” and it looks like he’s beginning to experiment with Botox. But instead of poison that makes your skin puffy and temporarily removes wrinkles, Williams’ botox was filled with extra proof — and he got a facelift while he was there!

The Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch will now be released in a fancy new bottle and at a higher proof: 90 (up 4 points from 86). The new bottle features Williams’ signature blown in across the top, and it now looks like a premium spirit — but at an affordable price: $19.99.

“Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch pays homage to some of the earliest years of licensed distilling in Kentucky, and an important year for bourbon and the Commonwealth’s signature industry,” said Julie Cole, Evan Williams Senior Brand Manager, in a news release.

“With a return to the original 90 proof, the award-winning mash bill … is full-flavored and works both as a cocktail base and stand-alone sipper. We are excited to bring more focus to what is known as the ‘best kept secret’ in the Evan Williams Bourbon family.”

Around The Horn

So I haven’t been keeping up with some of these release announcements because I’m a busy girl … and there’s like a new bourbon coming out just about every day now. But I’ll try to be better by doing better.

Also, I have a bar full of new bourbons to try, and I’m gonna need some help! I’m way behind on my Tasteless Tastings, so I’ll need to schedule one of those ASAP! Holler at me if you’d like to join, and that way I’ll know you’ve read this entire post to the end.

But, a quick look at some other new releases:

  • E.H. Taylor Warehouse C Bourbon — 10-year-old bourbon aged in Buffalo Trace’s Warehouse C, which Col. E.H. Taylor built in 1885.
  • Weller Full Proof — Blue label Weller, bottled at 114 proof. Good luck, you won’t find it.
  • Weller C.Y.P.B. — Stands for “Craft Your Perfect Bourbon,” while label Weller, bottled at 95 proof. Good luck, you definitely won’t find it.
  • Angel’s Envy Finished in Madeira Casks — Part of the Cellar Collection, this new release is finished in Madeira wine casks, a type of wine made on the Portuguese Madeira Islands off the coast of Africa.
  • Buzzard’s Roost Peated Barrel Rye — For this release, the brand’s sixth, they actually imported peat logs from Scotland to add smoke to the process, much like peated scotch in Scotland.
Square 6 bottle

Meet Square 6, first bourbon released from Evan Williams Bourbon Experience

I don’t know what it is about this new release, but if someone came up to me and asked me to describe Kentucky in one single pour, I would choose Square 6, the first bottled bourbon released from (and made at) Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in Louisville.

Square 6 bottle
Square 6 will be sold primarily at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience. | Courtesy

The high-rye bourbon recipe sings to my tastebuds. It’s a sipper for sure — don’t be adding anything to this except maybe ice. But at 95 proof, ice isn’t really even needed.

The name Square 6 comes from the plot of land that housed Evan Williams’ first distillery in 1783, which history claims is also Kentucky’s first commercial distillery. The Evan Williams brand, as you know, is owned by Heaven Hill.

At a press conference this afternoon, Artisanal Distiller Jodie Filiatreau was eager to share his new release with us, saying, “This is one of my babies. It’s truly a labor of love, and I can’t wait to see what you think.”

Filiatreau included some tasting notes during his presentation, and he offered up some actual ingredients on a plates for us to taste and smell along with. What this bourbon oozes are notes of tobacco, fig and honey, along with a bit of cardamom and cinnamon.

The tobacco smelled absolutely amazing, but the cardamom was a bit overpowering — possibly because I put it in my mouth, and I think we were just supposed to smell it. Oops.

Square 6 bourbon in a glass
It’s quite complex for being only 5 years old. | Photo by Sara Havens

But back to the bourbon. The high-rye recipe is 52% corn, 35% rye and 13% malted barley, and it was distilled right at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, which opened in 2013 and makes one barrel per day.

Filiatreau says this first release of Square 6 will be one of many, as they have experimented with at least 12 different mash bills since they opened. This release features bourbon that was aged five years.

For a high-rye recipe, there’s not that harsh bite you might expect. Rather, it’s a balanced potpourri of rich caramel, vanilla, white pepper and a mellow spice, which could be the sixth Spice Girl.

Even Filiatreau said it’s not so much a gut-punch Kentucky hug but rather a nice pat on the back.

About 15 barrels went into this initial release, and when it’s gone it’s gone. But alas, there will be more varieties in the near future. Square 6 retails for $89.99 at the downtown distillery and a few stores in the area.

Woodford Reserve Derby bottles

Woodford Reserve Derby Bottle 2021 artwork flows with 2020 bottle; Evan Williams Kentucky Derby Fest bottle; new Maker’s Mark wood finish

The sun is shining in my old Kentucky home today, and with talk of the Kentucky Derby, I feel as if spring is officially here. I jumped on a Zoom call this morning with fellow Louisville media to hear all about the new Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby bottle, which features equine artwork from the same artist as last year — Richard Sullivanand, get this, the image is basically an extension of last year’s art.

Why does that matter? Because it’s going to look damn cool on your bar, that’s why! Sullivan’s image of the horses running the Kentucky Derby has basically been extended between the two bottles, so you can display them side by side and practically have Derby artwork on your bar — with delicious bourbon inside!

Woodford Reserve Derby bottles
The one on the left is the 2020 bottle, and 2021 is on the right. | Courtesy of Woodford Reserve

Bourbon and art make a lovely pair.

In this morning’s press conference, Sullivan, a Louisville-based artists and former professional baseball player, said this opportunity has been a dream come true, and his artwork is meant to “capture the spirit of the Kentucky Derby.”

The bottles will hit shelves as early as this week and retail for $49.99. You might be able to find some of the 2020 bottles in area liquor stores, and in fact, I just saw some recently at the Total Wine in St. Matthews.

Evan Williams releases Kentucky Derby Festival bottle March 11
Evan Williams Kentucky Derby Festival bottle
Love that pink! | Courtesy of Evan Williams

And speaking of Derby, the fine folks at the Kentucky Derby Festival are once again partnering with Evan Williams for the annual Kentucky Derby Festival Bottle that features the 2021 Pegasus Pin on the neck. This year, the wax is a dapper hot pink!

The limited-edition 2013 vintage is bottled at 115 proof, which commemorates both the 66th Kentucky Derby Festival plus the 49th Pegasus Pin anniversary (66+49=115). Each bottle of the single barrel bourbon contains the exact day it was put into an oak barrel to age, the barrel number and the date it was bottled.

“Our partnership with Evan Williams celebrates two of Kentucky’s favorite things — the Derby Festival and bourbon,” said Matt Gibson, Kentucky Derby Festival President and CEO, in a news release. “Although 2021 will be different, Pegasus Pins are still a great way to share the Derby Festival spirit and support your favorite events.”

The bottles will be available mostly at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in downtown Louisville on Thursday, March 11. They’ll retail for $74.99.

Say hello to Maker’s Mark FAE-01
Maker's Mark FAE-01
Can’t wait to try this! | Courtesy of Maker’s Mark

Also coming out this week is a new limited release in the Maker’s Mark Wood Finishing Series, titled FAE-01. This is the third in the series and is named after the staves that altered the standard Maker’s Mark bourbon.

“For 2021, we leaned into our column stills and nonchill-filtering process, which, simply put, helps us retain the texture and a higher viscosity of the whisky,” said Jane Bowie, Maker’s Mark Director of Innovation, in a news release. “What we got is an expression that highlights the fruit-forward taste profile in an unexpected and much welcomed way. It tastes just like a barrel warehouse smells.”

Now you got my attention! The smell of a rick house is like no other, and it brings me pure joy whenever I’m inside one.

The bourbon will be released anywhere from 110.3-110.6 proof and retail for $59.99 a bottle.

Evan Williams Kentucky Derby Festival bottles

Evan Williams limited edition Kentucky Derby Festival bottle now available!

Evan Williams Kentucky Derby Festival bottles

The bottles are here! | Photo by Sara Havens

Forget the damn groundhog. The first sign of spring in Louisville typically comes courtesy of the Kentucky Derby Festival, and this most recent announcement makes us yearn for warmer weather, flowering dogwoods and all things Derby and bourbon, of course!

The limited-edition Evan Williams Kentucky Derby Festival Single Barrel bottles are launching today — right now, in fact — and you can even swing by the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience from noon-4 p.m. and dip your own bottle and affix the gold Pegasus Pin.

New this year is the color of the wax — a hunter green that replaces the gold wax from years before. This darker color both complements the bourbon and the label and also makes the gold pin pop!

dipping bottles at Evan Williams

Derby Festival Chair Judy Hess and President Matt Gibson watch as Artisanal Distiller Jodie Filiatreau dips a bottle. | Photo by Sara Havens

I swung by the downtown distillery to watch them dip the first few bottles, and it truly is an experience.

There are only 600 of these bottles available to the public, and each one comes with a gold pin that is part of the bottle, and also a Kentucky Derby Festival Pegasus Pin for you to wear.

The bottles retail for $74.99 and are a stout 113 proof — commemorating both the 65th Kentucky Derby Festival and the 48th year of the Pegasus Pin (64+48=113). Look, Ma, I did math!

The bourbon was distilled in 2012, making it 8 years old.

Artisanal Distiller Jodie Filiatreau started the press conference off with a toast (gotta love bourbon press conferences), saying, “Let’s raise a toast to Kentucky’s heritage and usher in the 2020 Kentucky Derby.” He said Evan Williams always is happy to partner with the Kentucky Derby Festival, and he’s looking forward to sharing the bourbon with the public.

Again, today, Wednesday, Feb. 19, you can dip your own bottle from noon-4 p.m. at no cost other than the price of the bottle. And remember, only 600 bottles are available.

More photos on the high-tech dipping experience — and cookies — below.