By Richard Thomas
It’s no easy task to keep track of everything that comes out in the jam packed, exciting Autumn release season of American Whiskey, the period when most of the highly prized annual limited editions and much else besides come out. Even so, Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection is one of those lines that should get more attention than it does. The line is now in its 11th installment, and Woodford’s Master Distiller, Chris Morris, always seems to have something new, interesting, and very often worthwhile coming out from under his sleeve.
The Woodford Brandy Cask Finish started out as standard Woodford Reserve Bourbon, which was then finished in American Brandy casks for almost two years. Given that the typical cask finish runs only several months, that finish was clearly pulling a lot from the used brandy wood. The whiskey was bottled at 90.4 proof (45.2% ABV).
Because brandy casks are not charred, and often reused several times, they soak up a lot of brandy. However, it was also curiously decided that whiskey aged in them cannot be bourbon because of the lack of char. There is no official word as to where the brandy came from, but since parent company Brown-Forman owns Korbel, that is as good a guess as any.
In the glass, the whiskey has a light copper appearance, and leaves a light coating on the glass that drops plenty of thick, runny legs, collapsing rapidly.
The nose is where things start to become both interesting and encouraging. The nose is rich, well endowed with syrupy caramels, dark dried fruits like raisins, figs and dates, a dash of cookie spice, and a light brushing of earthy cocoa powder. It’s a scent as sophisticated as it is yummy.
The flavor is equally rich, with the fruity notes coming on like a brandy-bomb. Yet as big and bold as those brandy-driven flavors are, they are well balanced against a thick dollop of bourbon caramel, and enhanced by a pinch of cinnamon and a soft trickle of wood. The finish goes down mild and pleasant on a soft woody note.
If this is what a deep brandy cask finish can do for an already good bourbon, I can’t wait to see what happens when more distillers give it a spin. As it is, Woodford’s Brandy Cask Finish Whiskey is very well done indeed. Spending a couple of years mingling with brandy wood has infused the whiskey with abundant supplementary flavors, and created a very fine bottle in the process. If you like brandy and bourbon, it’s a no brainer: go find yourself some.
Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Brandy Cask Finish Whiskey is listed at $99, but I have seen some retailers marking it down just a little, down to $92 and $90.