Whisky Advocate

Woodford Reserve…Malts? Yes Indeed!

September 11th, 2013

Fred MinnickFred Minnick tastes the latest Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection.

2013 Woodford Masters Collection 061When master distiller Chris Morris revealed to me the latest Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection whiskeys, a single malt project, my first thought was that this will raise eyebrows with the craft distillers. The American craft distillers have carved out a nice niche with American single malts.

Woodford’s new Double Malt Selections—Straight Malt Whiskey and Classic Malt—are the first modern American malt expressions from a large-scale producer.

But Morris says the Double Malt project began before many craft distillers were in business. “Some might see this as following, but we were putting malt whiskey away nine years for maturation,” Morris says.

Morris has become accustomed to defending the Master’s Collection. Every year, he releases a limited edition with a change to one of the five sources of bourbon’s flavor: grain, water, fermentation, distillation and maturation. And every year, somebody says, “Well, that’s not really a bourbon.”

Morris calls the Master’s Collection the “Myth Busters” of whiskey making. “Old timers always told us we can’t do this and that,” he says. “We asked: Why not?”

Past Master’s Collection products also tested whiskey-making tradition, including Four Grain, Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay-barrel finished, Sweet Mash, Maple Wood and last year’s Four Wood.

Morris says the inspiration for the Master’s Collection dates back to the mid-1800s distillers Oscar Pepper and James C. Crow, who modernized the bourbon-making processes on the land that is now Woodford Reserve. “Our charter is to be the home of innovative whiskey,” he says.

The Double Malt Selections mark the eighth expression of the Master’s Collection. Interestingly, given Woodford’s pot stills and the obvious Scottish connection, both products were made from malt mashes vs. worts. Woodford doesn’t have the capability to separate the grain for a wort, Morris says.

The Classic Malt was aged in used barrels, while the Straight Malt was stored in new charred oak barrels. The two barrel variations 2013 Woodford Masters Collection 062LRare obvious with a much lighter color and less oily flavor profile in the Classic Malt. The Straight Malt packs a similar color to Woodford Reserve, but there’s no smoke or rye spice to balance the woody notes. Lightly fruity and grain-forward, both are undeniably products of malt and American oak.

But I cannot get past the labeling. Why Straight Malt instead of the obviously more popular and more consumer-friendly single malt label?

“Our legal department would not let us call it single malt because it’s not made in Ireland or Scotland,” Morris says.

The Double Malt Selections will be available for $99.99 per bottle with availability at select stores throughout the United States and limited quantities in Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Spain, Sweden, and in duty free markets.


12 Responses to “Woodford Reserve…Malts? Yes Indeed!”

  1. Tadas A says:

    Glad that hear the age for these single malts – 9 years old 🙂 I believe the oldest American single malt until now was McCarthy’s Oregon Single Malt Whiskey. MaCarthy’s is 3 years old.

    What barley did they use – American or from Scortland?

  2. Danny Maguire says:

    Someone should tell the legal eagles that there are more than two countries legally marketing single malt whisky. So long as Woodford don’t try to pass it off as Sotch or Irish there would be no problem.

  3. Lew Bryson says:

    The legal eagles have to be a bit more careful when they’re working for as high-profile a whiskey maker as B-F. When you’re that exposed, and anything you do gets immediate attention and placement nationally in retail, it pays to err on the side of caution.

    • Danny Maguire says:

      There’s being careful and there’s loosing your bottle, they lost their bottle.

      • Fred Minnick says:

        One could argue that Brown-Forman is merely paying respect to Scotland. I personally a Straight Malt label stands out a little more, because whiskey lovers will look twice and say, “well, well, what do we have here?”

        • Danny Maguire says:

          It could be respect, but I doubt it. As you said, people will look at the bottle and wonder what was in it, especially if it said single malt and the B-F label was clearly visible.

  4. tim says:

    Enjoyed reading this. Thanks

  5. Ed Willey says:

    If it doesn’t taste mostly like carmelized bananas I might be down to try some.

  6. Brian says:

    The straight malt is interesting. It is definitely malt-forward, and that is the lasting impression. It is closer to Irish whiskey than a scotch ( no peat), imho. Nose has cinnamon/wood/raisin notes.
    Lots of sweet, dried fruit, woody cask flavor. Aftertaste is a little oily, cereal and wood.
    Would complement a good cigar!

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