Thursday, August 27, 2009

The New Woodford Reserve Masters Collection Is ...

"Seasoned Oak Finish." What's that? The oak for whiskey barrels is typically seasoned for three to five months. Seasoning just means the cut stave and head pieces are stacked up, either outside or in a huge shed, and allowed to naturally dry. For this experiment, the Brown-Forman Cooperage let a batch of wood age this way for three to five years. They made barrels from it, but they just toasted them, they weren't charred.

Then they took mature Woodford Reserve bourbon, aged the usual seven or eight years, and put it in these special barrels for about 8 months. The result is a whiskey that tastes like it has been aged for maybe 15 years, but with only the good parts of long aging. The bad parts that make you say "too woody" aren't there.

All of the Masters Collection releases have been interesting, but often not so tasty that you want a second glass, let alone a second bottle. This stuff is awesome. It's really good, especially if you like a 12-years plus bourbon.

It should be out soon, at about $90 a bottle.

6 comments:

Mike Ryan said...

Chuck, any idea if it's straight Woodford or if it's mingled with Old Forester as usual?

Chuck Cowdery said...

The Masters Collection is always all pot still.

BW said...

Chuck, in addition to lowering the tannin level how does it effect the wood? Does it taste like and old barrel?

Chuck Cowdery said...

The flavor is unique because in some ways it tastes like a very old barrel but in other ways it tastes like the 8-year-old whiskey that it is. Very unusual.

Sean said...

Chuck,

I am confused by the labeling on the Woodford Master's seasoned oak finish as it pertains to the laws of bourbon making. The whiskey is transferred from new charred oak to toasted oak and in the past the bourbon has also been transferred into a used wine cask, as was the case with the Sonoma Cutrer finish. And yet the bottle in both cases defines the whiskey as KSBW. Doesn't this violate the law that mandates aging in new charred oak in order to qualify as bourbon? Or, once a whiskey has spent the 2 year minimum in new charred oak to qualify as a straight bourbon it can then go into any cask for finishing and still be considered a straight bourbon. If that is the case, it would seem to open up infinite possibilities to create an array of KSBW aged in used sauternes barrrels, used port casks, used sherry buts, etc.? Is Woodford taking liberties with the labeling or is there a loophole in the law and they are exploiting it? I would love to hear your thoughts.


Best,

Sean

Chuck Cowdery said...

You pretty much answered your own question. Once the product is straight bourbon, you can't un-bourbon it. If you finish it in another barrel, or flavor it, or add a mixer or other ingredients, it becomes "straight bourbon with..." That's not a change in the law or a loophole. It's always been that way. The purpose of the regulations is to prevent people from passing off an artifically flavored product as straight bourbon without the qualifier. If you honestly disclose what the product really is--"straight bourbon with..."--that's consistent with the law.