A few months ago we visited Woodford Reserve and were greatly struck by both the beauty of the grounds (maybe a bit too beautiful, as it comes across as a little touristy) and its relatively small size compared to its neighbours in Kentucky. Situated in the middle of horse country, it is an absolutely stunning drive. The tasting was fairly modest (Distiller's Select, Double Baked and a mint julep sample) but it's well worth the visit.
Though established in 1812, it wasn't called Woodford Reserve until 2003 (a few years after Brown-Forman purchased it). It is unique as a bourbon distillery for both triple distillation and incorporating copper pot stills.
The colour is a dark amber. Very nutty on the nose (primarily almond), with malt, aniseed, arugula and fresh cut pine. Balsamic. Mint. Very dark chocolate. Wet tobacco. Rose petals. Baked apples with cinnamon. Water brings out more oak and herbs. This is enormously complex with herbs, nuts, pepper and fruit taking centre stage. It's also unmistakably a rye with all that spice and dry fruit. Wonderful.
Peppery on the palate with more malt and fruit (apple, blackberry and overripe banana). Lots of oak, cinnamon, clove and cereal notes. Creamy mouthfeel. Dark caramel. Tobacco and spice with water. The dominant notes on the nose follow through beautifully in the mouth.
The long dry finish is full-on oak with more pepper, cinnamon and a hint of honey. I'm so glad that traditional bourbon brands are now creating rye whiskies, as most of them are very good (Jim Beam, Knob Creek, Bulleit, etc) and this is one of my favourites, preferable to their bourbon as far as I'm concerned. This is rich, layered and complex. Writing for Whisky Magazine, Rob Allanson scored this a 92.