Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Woodford Reserve. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
You can’t rush nature; you can’t rush bourbon. But Woodford Reserve is gambling, yes, in fact you can. Founded in 1996, Woodford Reserve out of Lexington, Kentucky, is described as a neo-classical distillery building a brand in the modern classical style rather than nostalgia-based authenticity. I do not fully appreciate what that means; however, when visiting the distillery, I found it to be beautiful and modern.
Known for their uncomplicated offerings of around nine total products, Woodford Reserve bucks many trends in the industry while maintaining a coveted status. Their Master’s Collection is an experimental exploration into the whiskey process, and fans scramble to acquire a bottle each year. This year, as part of their Master’s Collection, they’ve released a 118.4 Batch Proof bourbon. Starting with selected barrels of their standard offering and combining them into one large batch, they release this whiskey at the proof of the combined barrels.
“Barrels drawn from the first floors of our heat-cycled warehouses routinely possess lower proof presentations due the more relaxed angel share process found there. This batch had more of these barrels in its composition, and therefore a lower batch proof presentation,” said Chris Morris, Master Distiller
If you want to charge an ultra-premium price, there are two trends have become sacred. Alcohol content should be as close to a three-digit number as possible, and it should be as old as possible. If you do those two things, you can charge almost whatever you want, and consumers will line up before doors open.
The suggested retail is $129.99, over a dollar per proof point, which sits firmly in the ultra-premium category for bourbon. The whiskey itself takes the vanilla and oak iconic to Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon and dials them up. Woodford Reserve is trying to accelerate the aging process through human intervention and climate control, hoping it pays big dividends by making it possible to release high-proof, premium whiskey without an age statement.
Last year’s Batch Proof came in over 128 proof and fans raved. This year the proof drops nearly 10 full points, which may leave some wondering; is the heat-cycling paying off if the proof isn’t consistent? With that we turn to the glass.
Woodford Reserve Batch Proof 2022 (image via Woodford Reserve)
Vital Stats: 118.4 proof or 59.2% ABV. MSRP 129.99. Owned by Brown-Forman: Woodford Reserve Distilling, Lexington, Kentucky.
Appearance: Auburn, thin pairs of legs that move slowly down the glass.
Nose: Wonderfully complex. I want a candle made from this smell. Sweet cinnamon bear candies, holiday spices, and clove. The sweetness gives way to deep notes of aged oak, hints of citrus like Meyers lemon, and orange peel. There is some light grass or maybe green apple underpinning the profile.
Palate: A buttery mouthfeel that tingles the lips and tongue, and the alcohol is wonderfully matured. It’s clean across the mouth without being oily or watery. There are flavors of Bing cherries, leather books, vanilla, all rolled together in molasses sugar. Baking spice returns with wood char, black tea, and currant. The finish is a delight; the whiskey is smooth and even as it goes down, warming the chest without burning. Exhaling revitalizes the flavors that remain on the tongue and entices you with more subtle expressions of the flavors you experienced.
I could drink this all night; you just relax into this. The flavors are excellent, the alcohol doesn’t overwhelm while still being a vehicle for the complex flavors. I don’t know how old this is, and I honestly don’t care. This is a lot of fun and there is so much here to enjoy.
Charles Steele is a Portland area attorney, born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. His legal education affords him an analytical approach to understanding whiskey and other aged spirits. Traditionally a legal writer, freelancing for The Whiskey Wash will prove a unique opportunity to flex his writing skills. Although he...