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.

Woodford Double Double Oaked

Woodford’s Double Double Oaked 2020 to be released Wednesday

You know it, you love it, you look forward to it every year. No, it’s not the Super Bowl, it’s the annual Double Double Oaked release by Woodford Reserve.

Woodford Double Double Oaked
Double Double!

It was announced just about 15 minutes ago that the 2021 edition (which actually has 2020 stamped on it) will be put out at the distillery in Versailles on Wednesday, Jan. 27, starting at 10 a.m. The limit this year is four bottles per person.

I definitely applaud the limit, because last year the Distillery Series release sold out in one day, as people were allowed to buy an entire case if they so desired — and many of them definitely desired.

It’s hard to say if the Double Double will last longer than a day this time, but it’ll be interesting to see. The 375mL bottles usually run about $50 each.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Double Double Oaked, we’re glad you crawled out from under that rock to join us. The product was first launched in 2015 and is basically bourbon that was meant to be Double Oaked but was left in the second flavoring barrel (heavily toasted, lightly charred) for an extra year. That first release may have been an accident, but it flew off the shelves, and now Woodford is aging it extra on purpose.

Just a warning: It’s going to be a madhouse Wednesday at the distillery. So dress warm and pack some patience.

Woodford Reserve Baccarat bottle

What you need to know about this $2,000 bottle of Woodford Reserve

Before you roll those eyes and cringe at the $2,000 price tag on the latest finished bourbon release by Woodford Reserve, just take a minute to hear me out about why it’s such a hefty chunk of change.

First of all, before we even get to the juice inside, this is the first American whiskey to be bottled in a pristine Baccarat crystal bottle.

For those of you who don’t travel on your own private jet or rub elbows with the housewives of Beverly Hills, Baccarat is a market-leading designer, manufacturer and retailer of luxury crystal products. Based in Paris, the company dates back to 1764.

The fancy decanter — which takes a crystal artist about five days to make — is engraved with both Woodford and Baccarat, and it comes with a fancy crystal stopper. So the idea is that you’d keep this bottle in your collection even after you’ve drank all the precious whiskey inside.

Woodford Reserve Baccarat
Fancy pants!

And speaking of whiskey, let’s dip our toes into the details.

The Woodford Reserve Baccarat Edition takes fully mature Woodford Reserve bourbon and finishes it for an additional three years in high-end XO cognac casks from France.

Cognac barrels are much larger than bourbon barrels, and they’re toasted, not charred, like our oak barrels. Woodford isn’t the first company to finish whiskey in cognac barrels, but, as Master Distiller Chris Morris pointed out Monday afternoon during a virtual press conference, there is a distinct cognac note found in Woodford Reserve bourbon that made it a natural partnership.

Morris added that Woodford has been experimenting with finished bourbons for quite some time now, dating back to 2007 with a chardonnay finish. The goal of finishing his bourbon, he said, is to both highlight and intensify the flavors already found in Woodford Reserve.

“If you can’t taste Woodford in the finish, it’s not something we’re going to release,” he noted.

Morris said Woodford, which is owned by Brown-Forman, secured several brands of cognac barrels for the project, which will continue to be released yearly in a limited amount.

Many of these $2,000 bottles can be found in the duty-free shops inside airports or at high-end bars, most likely sitting next to even more expensive bottles of scotch, brandy, cognac, etc.

The 2020 limited release has about 2,000 bottles for the U.S. market, which came from 16 casks.

Those of us in Monday’s press conference were given a sample of Woodford Baccarat and led through a tasting with Master Taster Elizabeth McCall. From first sniff to the long finish, you could tell this was interesting stuff.

It’s fruit and spice forward, with notes of red apples, vanilla and baking spices waltzing around your tastebuds. There is a hint of dark chocolate, and on the finish you get orange peel, spice and a drizzle of honey.

It’s creamy, and it’s quite dreamy.

But would I shell out $2,000 for it? Seeing that I don’t have a full-time job at the moment nor do I DM with Erika Jayne, that’s a definite no.

Maybe I’ll win the lottery someday. You gotta have goals.

Woodford Reserve Five Wood bottle

Woodford Reserve officially releases Five Wood; Buffalo Trace opens for tours July 1

Since I’ve got nothing better to do at the moment than take a deep nosedive into the numerous private bourbon groups online, I’ve known about the new Woodford Reserve Distillery Series release, Five Wood, for about a month now.

The little bottles have been popping up on liquor store shelves, and the ravenous whiskey warriors (myself included) have been snatching them up quicker than Lysol wipes.

But alas, I received an official press release from the Woodford folks today about the product, and I truly can’t wait to try it.

Woodford Reserve Five Wood bottle

Five Wood!

As you know, the Distillery Series is an experimental line of bourbons and whiskeys from Woodford Master Distiller Chris Morris that is released a few times a year. The infamous Double Double Oaked is part of that series, and it’s the only one to this day that continues to be released once a year.

The others are one-off concepts Morris has tinkered with in his mad scientist laboratory, like the Five Wood. So where does the name come from?

Well, basically, Morris took some mature Woodford Reserve bourbon (which is aged in oak barrels), then finished that juice in four other barrels: an Oloroso Sherry barrel, an Amontillado Sherry barrel, a Ruby Port barrel, and a Tawny Port barrel.

I’m no math wiz, but those four barrels + the original oak barrel = Five Wood.

“This is the first time in Woodford Reserve’s history that we’ve blended whiskeys that have been finished in five different barrels,” said Master Distiller Chris Morris in the press release. “The result is a rich taste and a bright finish.”

The finishing process is nothing new in the bourbon world, as many brands have similar experiments on the market, including Angel’s Envy, which is based strictly on finishing straight Kentucky bourbon in sherry casks. But, as Morris noted, it is a new concept for Woodford — as far as the number of different barrels it is finishing its bourbon in.

I have not yet tasted the Five Wood, but I plan on doing that ASAP. I cannot confirm nor deny I own a bottle, but you better believe I’ll be posting the tasting notes once I get a taste!

Until then, Morris has shared his tasting notes with me:

Woodford Reserve Distillery Series – Five Wood Taste Notes

Color: Deep Black Cherrywood

Aroma: An intense medley of rich blackberry, dark cherry, dates, raisin, prune and red fruit

reduction notes sweetened with Damara sugar and caramel-coated walnuts. Dark

leather, oak and black licorice spice develop slowly.

Taste: Rich dark chocolate and espresso coffee caramel icing coated with a raspberry and cherry reduction.

Finish: Long, mouthwatering rich red fruit brightened with a drop of orange oil

Five Wood is now available to purchase online and pick up from the distillery every Friday. It retails for $49.99 for a 375 ml bottle.

* * *

Buffalo Trace reopens July 1

Buffalo Trace Distillery

The Buffalo Trace Distillery is a beautiful experience. | Courtesy of Buffalo Trace

Slowly but surely, Kentucky distilleries are opening up for public tours. Included in the early bunch are Evan Williams, Heaven Hill, Barton 1792, Copper & Kings, Wilderness Trail, Bardstown Bourbon Co. and a few others. Buffalo Trace in Frankfort, Ky., is the latest to announce its opening date, which is Wednesday, July 1.

Of course with COVID-19 measures in place, things will be slightly different in this new time, including smaller tours, advance registration, and limited access to distillery operations.

According to a news release, Buffalo Trace is opening its newly expanded Visitor Center, which triples the size of the original and will allow ample space for the Gift Shop and new expansive tasting rooms.

“We are taking every step we can to address the health, safety and comfort of our guests to ensure the best experience possible,” said Homeplace Development Director Meredith Moody in the release. “Our goal is to create a safe haven for all visitors while providing the same rich history and experiences for which we’re known. We can’t wait to reopen to the public and show guests our expanded Visitor Center and tasting rooms.”

There’s a short list of guidelines for those looking to tour the distillery starting July 1:

  • Hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday.
  • Advance registration required online.
  • Access to grounds and the playground only available to registered visitors.
  • New safety and sanitation protocols in place, including guests must wear face masks.
  • All tours remain free.
Woodford Reserve

New releases: Batch Proof, Barrel Proof and bourbon-battered beer

Just when you thought it was safe to enjoy your bourbon collection as it now stands, along come more damn releases — but that’s a good thing! Right?

Batch Proof

Woodford Reserve

Courtesy of Woodford Reserve

First up, Woodford Reserve is releasing another limited-edition Batch Proof, which is up slightly in proof from last year’s first-ever Batch Proof release (123.6 vs. 123.3). Hey, we’ll take what we can get, right! I thought last year’s was incredible, so I’m excited to try this one on for size.

“Most people do not get to experience Woodford Reserve at such a high-proof presentation, so we are honored to share this special bourbon with the public,” said Master Distiller Chris Morris in a news release. “The intensity and depth of flavor found in Woodford Reserve Batch proof is truly remarkable.”

Thanks, Chris. Now I really need to try it!

According to the release, some flavor notes include rich raisin, brown sugar, “spicy leather character” (huh?) and cedar wood. Sounds like Grandma’s old closet to me.

Regardless, this is going to be great stuff. It’ll retail for $129.99.

Barrel Proof

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof

Photo by Sara Havens

Next up, it’s the 2020 release of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof (A120), at a whopping 136.6 proof! Each year, the Barrel Proof starts trickling out to thirsty bourbon fanatics, and it has garnered top accolades throughout the years, including Whisky of the Year.

This is bourbon in its purest form, you all! The only thing they do to it after dumping from the barrel is filter out the flecks of char.

It’s uncut, 12-year-old bourbon that packs a punch as well as a fascinating flavor that you just can’t put down. It’s hot, it’s sweet, it’s sticky. It’s what you’d taste if you found yourself in a rick house with a long-ass straw.

This usually retails for around $60-$70.

Bourbon-aged beer

And finally, Angel’s Envy is preparing to launch a barrel-aged beer program called “Angel’s & Ale,” and its first partner in crime is Against the Grain.

Angle's & Ales

Courtesy of Angel’s Envy

Apparently, AtG created a Belgian Quadruple Ale that was aged for three to four months in port barrels formerly used to finish Angel’s Envy core product.

While the beer will be available for the entire month of March at AtG, they’re having a kickoff party on Feb. 28 at the Angel’s Envy Distillery, just right across the street from AtG. And more good news: They’ll be announcing additional “Angel’s & Ale” collaborations throughout 2020.

Can’t wait to try this brew out, as I’m curious how much flavor resonates from a used port barrel that has aged bourbon for a few months.

Cheers!

Woodford Master's Collection

Say what? New Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection is Chocolate Malted Rye Bourbon

Woodford Master's Collection

I knew you were trouble when you walked in. | Courtesy of Woodford Reserve

There’s gotta be someone looking down on me, because this new release from Woodford Reserve has my name all over it! The latest in the brand’s Master’s Collection is a concoction called Chocolate Malted Rye Bourbon, and it comes out THIS MONTH!

You had me at chocolate. You had me even more at chocolate malt. The fact that it’s a high-rye bourbon just seals the deal. And you thought I was hard to get?

Tell me more, Chris Morris!

“The rye malt was roasted to a level that its natural sugars caramelized into a dark chocolate note,” Morris said in a news release. “This special bourbon even surprised me as it matured in our warehouses. Each time I tasted it, the chocolate notes became even more pronounced.”

It must be something if the master distiller is enticed!

The Master’s Collections come out twice a year — in the spring and in the fall. This bourbon is proofed at the Woodford standard of 90.4 and retails for $129.99. Of course it is highly limited, as it is a one-time-only release.

According to Morris’ tasting notes, the flavor notes include roasted rye grain, dry cocoa nibs, a dark chocolate spice, and a soft mocha character atop a layer of cherry fruit and toasted oak.

I can’t wait to try it!

• • •

Coming soon: A Halloween edition of Tasteless Tastings … I promise! Keep your eyes peeled this week, girls and ghouls!

Today’s Reason To Drink

WR_DDO_060415

I envision the Double Double Oaked being double double the trouble.

Woodford Reserve just announced it’s making a Double Double Oaked as part of its Distillery Series. Literally my heart fluttered and I gasped like Oprah had just entered the room. I could divulge other sordid details about my body’s reaction, but I’ll spare you.

I absolutely love the regular Woodford Double Oaked — in fact, it’s one of my favorites. But to create a Double Double? I can’t even begin to wrap my tongue around what that’s going to taste like. Sweet. Spicy. Smooth. Layered. Delicious.

In the press release, this is how they explain it:

Double Double Oaked is the result of finishing mature Woodford Reserve Double Oaked for an additional year in its second, heavily toasted lightly charred new oak barrel. The extra year in the barrel creates a bourbon that is distinctly spicier than its original counterpart, known for its sweeter taste and finish.

The catch here is you can ONLY purchase the Distillery Series (there will be three releases a year, and the other, a Sweet Mash Redux, is coming out with Double Double Oaked) at the Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles. The two straight bourbons are $49.99 each and will be available later this month.

I’m actually heading to the Woodford Distillery in a couple weeks as part of a media excursion to try these very releases. I will definitely report back with sordid and juicy details of everything I swallow. You’re welcome.

Woodford Reserve releases new Master’s Collection finished with pinot noir

WRMC Pinot FinishI’ve always heard that you shouldn’t mix your spirits when drinking — if you want to avoid a hangover. I also heard that politicians never lie, love always prevails and Texas men will buy you beer for free. I call bullshit on all of it. And so does Woodford Reserve, which is releasing its new Master’s Collection next month that will feature its signature bourbon finished with California’s Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noir.

Because this Woodford is aged/finished in a used red wine barrel instead of a new charred oak barrel, we Kentuckians know that it’s no longer bourbon — just a whiskey, but a whiskey I’d love to get my hands on and sample!

The new Master’s Collection was created through a partnership between Woodford’s master distiller, Chris Morris, and Sonoma-Cutrer’s wine director, Mick Schroeter.

“Our Master’s Collection has long been a favorite of mine to produce, as it gives me the chance to focus on and experiment with our five sources of flavor, one of the core attributes of Woodford Reserve,” says Morris. “The Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noir Finish allowed me to partner with Mick to develop a product that is particularly exciting, both for fans of Woodford Reserve and Sonoma-Cutrer.”

Schroeter points to the commitment to ingenuity that is constant throughout the history of both whiskey and wine.

“Both wine and whiskey are born out of a commitment to a craft that both pays tribute to tradition, and is inspired by a love of innovation,” he says. “Chris and I are excited to offer a spirit that brings the best of both categories to life for fans of the brands.”

The Master’s Collection will be available around town beginning in November. But with a price tag of $99.99 for a bottle, I’m hoping I can find it in a bar or from a generous friend.

You know where to find me!