Woodford Reserve master distiller Chris Morris is well known for experimenting with bourbon. His Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection has been influential, creating significant buzz and discussion in the whiskey space. While the Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection are exceptional, they are also extremely limited in their release. Fortuantely, the premium bourbon space, one also very limited, has begun to see a real expansion. The success of Maker’s 46 from Maker’s Mark , a barrel finished premium whiskey, opened the door for other distilleries to bring premium whiskey offerings to market. The enabled Chris Morris to bring the learnings of his experimental series into a new, major, premium product.
Woodford Reserve Double Oaked (45.2% 90.4 proof $40) is simular to Maker’s 46 in that it starts with the same aged spirit that is used for the standard Woodford Reserve Whiskey. Unlike Maker’s 46 which uses barrel staves to finish the whiskey, Woodford Reserve Double Oaked uses special finishing barrel. The process is also different. Before being placed into a finishing barrel, Woodford Reserve is proofed back down to 110 proof (the same proof level that it goes into the barrel at the beginning of its agin process) and then put into a special finishing barrel and re-aged for an additional six months to a year (depending on the barrel). The whiskey is then proofed down to 90.4 proof and bottled.
The key to Woodford Reserve Double Oaked is, of course, this second aging barrel. The finishing barrel is made out of new oak and has has had an “extreme toast” which is at least twice as long as the standard toast that Woodford traditionally does with their barrels. The barrel is then flash charred (literally 5 seconds), the lightest char possible. The inspiration for this product came from the Woodford Reserve Master Collection Seasoned Oak Finish and the impact that a different style of finishing barrel could have on a whiskey.
Woodford Reserve Double Oaked is phenomenal. From the nose it’s clear you’re smelling something special. There are the traditional bourbon notes here, but what jumps out is honey and big spice with deep cinnamon, clove, and oak. The entry is very soft, surprisingly so given the strong spice on the nose. As it opens you get deep honey notes, vanilla, cinnamon, clove, and marzipan. The flavors here are immensely deep, rich, and lush. The finish is super long and thick without any harshness or burn.
On one hand, with such bold flavors you’d think that the Woodford Reserve Double Oaked would be an enthusiasts whiskey, but it isn’t. Double Oaked is so balanced, lush, and lovely that it’s extraordinarily accessible, even to the whiskey novice. The flavors of Double Oaked are big and bold but not overly agressive, and the mouth feel is smooth, thick, and round. It’s a downright impressive whiskey and could really help continue to propell the premium bourbon category. At $40 its higher than some of the other offerings in this space, but the quality is simply on par with many of the great single malt scotches on the market at twice the price.
Chris Morris deserves a lot of credit for his work on the Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection and so it’s nice to see all his work come to fruition with such an exceptional major whiskey. With his finishing process, Morris has taken a good bourbon and made it into something great.