The new Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Rare Rye Selection is in stores now.
I know that’s a mouthful. Let’s break it down.
Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select is a very good Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey made by Brown-Forman. They have an experimental program, called the Master’s Collection, that releases one new limited edition whiskey each year at about this time.
I like the Master's Collection. I think it is exactly the kind of experimental program a major company/major brand should do. That's not to say other companies do it wrong, I just like the way Woodford does it very much.
This year, for the first time, two experiments are presented, in a set consisting of two 375 ml bottles that sells for about $100. This is the first step in the direction of Woodford being a whiskey distillery that makes more than bourbon.
I’ve tasted them. They're very good and unlike anything else I've ever tasted.
The New Cask Rye is technically a straight rye, because it’s aged in new charred barrels, but it is unlike any other straight rye I’ve ever had. The Aged Cask Rye is unique, unlike any other whiskey I’ve ever tasted. Both are very flavorful, with a lot of rye character. All of the earthy, grassy, spicy, minty notes you expect are there, probably too much for some palates. Naturally, the ‘aged’ cask version (their euphemism for used barrels) has very little oak character and very little color.
I enjoyed both but, more importantly, learned a lot from them.
What they are missing is the corn backbone of most straight ryes. Most straight ryes are just 51 percent rye, the legal minimum, making them about 40 percent corn. Even in George Washington's day, about 30 percent of the recipe was corn. These, like the LDI ryes, contain no corn. You notice its absence in the body more than the taste. All-rye ryes seem thin, even when they are very well aged.
Woodford broke one of its own Master’s Collection rules this time, in that it changed more than one variable in this experiment. In addition to being aged in new barrels, the New Cask Rye was barrel entered at 100° proof while the Aged Cask Rye was barrel entered at 86° proof.
One-hundred proof is low. Eighty-six proof is ridiculously low.
Both whiskeys use the exact same distillate. The mash was 100 percent rye, a combination of malted and un-malted grain. The age is at least 7 to 8 years old, maybe more. (They're not saying.) All of it was made in the pot stills at Woodford Reserve Distillery.
Just when you think you know what rye tastes like, this comes along.