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Woodford Reserve

Bourbon + spice = something nice...

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@hunggarReview by @hunggar

20th May 2013


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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With my new found interest in bourbon, I decided that I’d grab a miniature bottle from my local booze peddler. Bourbon is not popular here in Taiwan. In fact, most shops don’t carry anything more than standard Jim Beam or Jack Daniels offerings. When I got to the store, I realized that I had literally tried all of the bourbon minis he had in stock, save one. I hadn’t heard of Woodford Reserve before, so I figured I’d give it a go. Here’s my take on it…

Nose: A particularly sweet nose on this one. Butterscotch, spearmint, cinnamon, black pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, roasted honey, and treacle. Some of the notes here, such as red apples, pears, overripe bananas, and spice, almost remind me of a sherry-matured scotch. The wisps of oak are quite musty, like a dusty, old, dry rocking chair that’s been sitting in an attic for a few decades. In a good way. Quite a nice nose overall.

Palate: The nose was quite sweet, but the palate is surprisingly bitter and spicy. Mouthfeel is quite thin for a bourbon. Even with a couple drops of water there’s some spicy tang to this. Tangerine, burnt vanilla, bitter dark chocolate, maple, and singed Christmas cake.

Finish: Medium finish. The spice lingers for a while. Musty oak. Spearmint and maple give this a lovely sweetness. In contrast, orange rind and bitter espresso offer a tart counterbalance. Good stuff.

I like this, but it’s not perfect. There are some lovely flavours in here, but it’s not the most balanced bourbon offering to be had. It jumps back and forth from sweet to bitter quite dramatically. Also, I usually prefer a thicker, richer mouthfeel. On a positive note, the nose here is particularly pleasant. I also like how the oak is presented. The spiciness is at times pleasant, and at times a bit rough around the edges. Never overly so. I’m used to spiciness in scotches, but it’s rarely this pronounced in a bourbon. While it may not win any awards for balance or smoothness, there is no doubt that this offers quite a rich and tangy flavour profile that is quite pleasant overall.

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Victor commented

@hunggar, interesting to hear that you can't find much bourbon in Taiwan. @CanadianNinja tells me that Japan is teaming with bourbon and bourbon-drinking these days. Yeah, it sounds strange to me too, given their domestic malt industry.

There are quite a few bourbons which are spicy, generally the ones with the higher rye mashbills, but it is also true of many of the wheaters. Spice in bourbon can come from rye, wheat, or the wood itself. There are differing nuances of spiciness in the spicy flavours from each of those three sources, but they should be generally identifiable by source with practise.

I find Woodford Reserve to be very woody for a 'standard' bourbon. I've been sitting on tasting notes to do a review of this myself for awhile, and I expect to rate it at just about the same score as you did.

9 years ago 0

hunggar commented

@Victor: As connosr's go-to bourbon authority, I'm sure you're right. But as you know, my experience is still quite limited, so I was a bit struck by the spicy notes in this dram.

Interesting to hear that they are popular in Japan. Whisky is SO popular in Taiwan, but every time I go into a whisky store here and ask about bourbon, I always get the same response. "Taiwanese don't really drink bourbon." Hopefully that will start to change soon.

On a more positive note, I recently found a different store with a slightly more respectable choice of bourbon. Elijah Craig 18 will likely be my next purchase. Looking forward to that one. ;)

9 years ago 0

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