Whisky Advocate

Review: Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Maple Wood Finish

November 2nd, 2010

Sometimes I think that maybe they’re trying too hard with these releases. I like the concept, but the impact of the finish (or whatever) in many instances with these whiskeys comes across as too much, like this one. Maybe adopt a more subtle approach in the future?

Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Maple Wood Finish, 47.2%, $90
Finished in toasted maple wood. I love the nose on this: complex notes of rum, golden raisin, maple syrup, nougat, polished leather, and warming cinnamon. The love continues on the palate, but toward the finish the flavors turn a bit aggressive (leather, tannins), which somewhat tarnishes an otherwise exciting, well-orchestrated whiskey.

Advance Malt Advocate magazine rating: 82

16 Responses to “Review: Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Maple Wood Finish”

  1. Rick Duff says:

    Oh.. interesting review. I held such high hopes for this one. I found the Chardonnay Finish and the Sweet Mash to be too harsh on the finish too.. Still.. I’ll get my hands on a bottle of this.

  2. Tadas says:

    I just sometimes wonder… with distilleries trying all those new things. Haven’t they been tried before long ago and since they did not work very well nobody continued making them? So it might be they are just trying the same thing again, though the common way to make wiskey is the best way to make the best tasting whiskey?
    I tried prohibition time Old Overholt rye whiskey. It was 12 years old. And it tasted remarkably similar and balanced to what premium high rated bourbons taste today.

  3. Vince says:

    More than any other limited release I feel these are hit and miss. In addition, their price point makes it painful when you are not satisfied with the bourbon. I think I will pass on this one.

  4. Thomas Mckenzie says:

    I wonder if what everbody is calling a “harsh” finish. Just characteristic of pot still bourbon? It is maybe not harsh, just different.

    • Rick Duff says:

      It’s more of a harshness I feel you get with young bourbon. Regular Woodford Reserve doesn’t have this harshness.. and I’ve tried Woodford straight out of the barrel as well without that harshness.

    • John Hansell says:

      For this release, it seems to me like it’s the wood. (Maple maybe? I don’t know what maple wood imparts.)

      • Rick Duff says:

        Here is a thought.. could it be toasted wood vs charred wood? The Sonoma Chardonnay finish would have been a toasted barrel.. the maple is a toasted barrel. I’ve done some ageing of (mature) bourbon in small toasted oak barrels and had similar results. (I’ve aged some in charred barrels that are great.)
        That wouldn’t explain the sweet mash though. By the way.. Woodford shuts down in the summer.. and when they start back up, they always start with a sweet mash.. it’s not that unusual.
        From Chris’s comments it looks like we’ll see a hickory finish sometime in the future.

  5. sam k says:

    I’ve never bought a Master’s Collection release, and perhaps never will, considering their spotty track record. To my mind (and their price point), these should be outstanding whiskeys with consistent ratings in the high 80s or above, and with only 50% of their releases hitting that mark to date, it’s not worth the gamble.

    Woodford knows whether a given year’s release is worthy or not, and they continue to put out “iffy” releases at premium prices, just because they can. Consistency, boys…consistency. Not necessarily in flavor profile, but in quality. Innovation for innovation’s sake is not necessarily innovation at all.

  6. Maple Syrup? Maybe the bourbon needs some bacon fat to round out the harshness and if IHOP sold liquor? I may be on to something…..

    • Jon W. says:

      Now there’s an idea…finish a nice young cask strength Ardbeg, where I often detect “meaty” notes, in fresh maple. That could be something.

  7. Red_Arremer says:

    I’m interested to see experimentation with different kinds of wood than oak– Too bad this one apparently didn’t work out.

  8. Jason Pyle says:

    John and others, is it the fact that the heavy toasting just really imparts more harshness, bitterness, and tannin than a fully charred barrel? Considering that Maker’s Mark found they could get plenty of spice and flavor from the toasted staves in 46, it seems up to 6 months in full on toasted maple contact may be the issue. Thoughts?

    Compass Box put Spice Tree on for much longer of course, but just thinking out loud. I actually enjoyed the 46 a great deal, but I found as I sipped more and more, the tannin, grip, and bitterness began to layer on top of itself with each sip. This is something that lessened a bit as the bottle got lower and lower and I’m assuming more contact with air.

    But still, I think I read somewhere the Maple Finished Woodford was in the toasted maple barrels for up to “6 months. Maybe that’s either too much or it needs more time so that can subside a bit.

    I am very anxious to give it a try.

    • sam k says:

      Jason, I think there’s a reason we use white oak as our go-to wood internationally. That’s not to say that some other woods couldn’t have a positive impact, but I’m pretty sure that if maple was a better wood for barrels, that’s what we’d have been using for the last 150 years or so. Certainly there’s always a matter of degrees with aging and finishing in any wood, and that would have had an impact. I’m just saying…

  9. Michael R says:

    Woodford has an exceptional base product at a fair price point. These occasional experiments might be more “palatable commercially” if offered at a more moderate price point – say in a $50 – $60 range. To offer them in the premium range I think is a bit presumptuous and arrogant. In regards to finish, it seems to me our friends the Scots a long time ago discovered the ideal solution – the Sherry cask.

  10. Ryan says:

    Have any of you tasted this? I’ve found the Woodford Reserve Maple Wood Finish to be quite a treat. Other reviews rate this as a gem and I’m surprised that everyone seems content not to try it after a mediocre review here. The sweetness is subtle and it is a smooth and delicious finish yet still maintains much of the complexity that one would expect of a standard Woodford Reserve Bourbon. I think it is worth a second look if you can still find it. A friend bought a bottle and I was pleasantly surprised and I have located another that I will save for myself!

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