The Tasting Panel magazine

December 2011

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Page 36 of 128

BRAND SPOTLIGHT Barrel Impact THE WOODFORD RESERVE STIRS INTELLECTUAL DEBATE ON HOW TO AGE, FINISH OR MODIFY A WHISKEY story and photos by Geoffrey Kleinman Shifting the focus from aging to character seems to be on its way to a full blown trend in the whiskey world, with recent notable releases from Johnnie Walker (Double Black), Ardbeg (Alligator) and Laphroaig (Quarter Cask) all of which have dropped their age statements in favor of promoting fl avor and character. Chris Morris and Woodford Reserve are poised to continue this trend and potentially help shift customer focus in a new direction. Barrels charred at Brown-Forman Cooperage. Master Distiller Chris Morris wants to send a very clear message to the spirits industry: "Don't judge a whisky by age alone, judge it by its character." This message is amplifi ed by the release of this year's Woodford Reserve Master's Collection, a pair of 100% rye whiskeys, sold together in 375-ml. bottles. Both of these whiskeys were produced from the same 100% rye mashbill, and both were aged for the same duration. The key difference between the two is that one of them was aged in a new bourbon barrel, while the other was aged in a previously used barrel. The difference between the two is striking; the result is a liquid thesis that pits two key styles of whiskey making against each other. "Old World, or European style, whiskey is more grain forward, while New World, or American style, is barrel driven with more caramel and vanilla fl avor," explains Morris. The rye aged in the new cask has many of the traditional vanilla and caramel notes you'd expect from a whiskey aged in new American oak cask, but also a light fl oral, almost effervescent quality. With the previously used cask, we get a completely different experience: extremely delicate, with pear and apple notes, a slightly fl oral-herbal quality and just a hint of spice. The used cask rye also has a very dry fi nish—again, not something typically associated with a rye. "We start with the fi ve basic sources of fl avors—grain, water, fermenta- tion, distillation and maturation—and then see what happens when you keep everything consistent and only modify one of these variables," says Morris. While the Master's Collection is meant to be a very limited release, the program has begun to have an impact on Woodford Reserve's main product line. Woodford Reserve Master's Collection Rye. In March of 2012, Woodford Reserve will release a brand new product called Woodford Reserve Double Oaked. This new whiskey was inspired by the experimentation of the Master's Collection line and continues Morris's line of inquiry into cultivating character in whiskey versus age. For Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, Morris drew on a tremendous asset available to him: the custom capabilities of the Brown Forman Cooperage to create a unique fi nishing barrel. This new barrel is made from American oak and is "toasted longer than for any other whiskey." This deeply toasted barrel is then given a fi ve second "kiss of fl ame," the shortest char possible. Aged Woodford Reserve is fi nished in this barrel for six months to a year, and the result is spectacular: Woodford Reserve Double Oaked is deep and lush with fantastic honey notes that balance beautifully with big, bold spice. It will sell for around $50. 36 / the tasting panel / december 201 1

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