Chris Morris, Master Distiller at Woodford Reserve, has been tinkering with rye whiskey for some time now. Woodford Reserve released a pair of 375ml bottles containing “Old World” and “New World” ryes (in other words, “used barrel” and “new barrel”, respectively) as their 2011 Master’s Collection. Brown-Forman also chipped in and made all of Heaven Hill’s rye whiskey after Heaven Hill’s Bardstown Distillery was destroyed by a fire in November, 1996. In 2008, Heaven Hill took back production of its rye at the Bernheim Distillery in Louisville which it acquired from Diageo in 1999. This left Woodford Reserve not making rye, and led to cynics joking that this release is nothing more than a blend of leftover Rittenhouse and 2011 Master’s Collections juices. Funny joke, but probably not the case.
This stuff came out earlier this year, but that whole “living in Oklahoma” thing has gotten in the way of me having access to a bottle. Good thing Dallas is close and friends are willing to accept orders when they visit. Let’s get into it.
Distillery: Woodford Reserve Distillery
Location: Near Versailles, Kentucky
Mashbill: 53% rye/14% barley/33% corn
Age: NAS (some sources state 7 to 8 years, unverified)
ABV: 45.2% (90.4 proof)
Released: Ongoing (introduced February 2015)
Color: Golden honey
Nose: Fresh out of a newly opened bottle, this pour smells of straight rye spice, and a lot of it. I let it hang out for 10 minutes or so and after the rest the aroma really opened up and some vanilla and maple notes came out loud and clear, reminiscent to the bottle of Woodford Reserve Double Oaked I have. The sweetness was well served to balance out the rye spice and grain dryness.
Taste: The first thing on the palate is a blast of that rye. Pepper overwhelms the profile right out of the gate, but it fades quickly and lets the other flavors come through like cereal, cinnamon, and vanilla.
Finish: The finish is probably the most well balanced part of this whiskey. The hot pepper from the rye transitions to some fruity sweetness and leaves you with some tobacco, green apples, and a lingering honey sweetness.
Overall: I have to say, with this being only 53% rye I was surprised at how much of it really came out on this guy. Compared to something that squeaks by as a rye like Rittenhouse (51% rye) it’s hard to believe it only packs 2% more of the spicy stuff (I had a bottle of Rittenhouse on hand so I compared). This isn’t the best rye I’ve ever had, and with Rittenhouse being less than half the price it’s a bit hard to justify, but hey, I already bought the bottle and I’m going to enjoy it.
Outtake: Okra interrupted the photoshoot. This dog loves him some rye.