Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Four Wood (94.4 proof / 47.2%, $99.99) is another in a long line of experiments from Woodford Reserve master distiller Chris Morris. Previous releases in this line have included Four Grain, Sonoma-Cutrer Finish, Sweet Mash (aka Water Mash), Seasoned Oak, Maple Wood Finish, and Rare Rye Selection. Much of the series has been dominated with Chris Morris’ facination with wood and its impact on whiskey, and it was the inspiration for the non-limited Woodford Reserve Double Oaked.
With the Four Wood release, Chris Morris continues his exploration of the impact of wood on whiskey by blending whiskeys aged in four different casks: oak, maple, port, and sherry. As you’d expect from a whiskey aged in four barrels, the color of the Woodford Four Wood is a deep dark amber brown, almost the color of a dark maple syrup. The nose is extremely aromatic with oak dominating, but you can still clearly make out the maple wood, port, and sherry notes with a touch of cinnamon, marzipan, and dried cherry. It’s a wonderfully inviting and complex nose.
The entry of the Four Wood is all wood, a blast of oak and maple spice that is bold, expansive, and borders on downright assertive. Just when you thought that this whiskey is a one trick pony, the lush fruit from the port and sherry emerge and intermingle with the wood. These flavors assemble well into an complex and well integrated whiskey in the midpalate. After the midpalate things start to peter out with the sherry notes combining with honeyed oak to lead the finish. The finish is medium with a nice jammy fruit essence and sustained oak spice.
While there are some fascinating things going on in Woodford Reserve Four Wood, the spirit does drink like a thesis. The intermingling of the port and sherry casks are nice, as is the combination of oak and maple, especially on the nose, but all together it’s a bit much. It’s hard to blame a spirit called ‘Four Wood’ for being too woody, but the level of oak and maple spice border on displeasurable. As an experiment, Woodford Reserve Four Wood is a solid success, showing that indeed the frontier of blending cask finished bourbons has not been fully explored. We’d also be surprised if this release doesn’t give inspiration for other whiskey producers to try blending port and sherry finished whiskey. But for $99 a bottle, it’s hard to see this release going much beyond the Woodford faithful. At half the price, Woodford Reserve Double Oaked provides a much more balanced and enjoyable experience, and it’s much easier to come by.