For each of the past several years, Woodford Reserve has made a habit of introducing a new, limited edition expression of their Kentucky straight bourbon. Cocktail Enthusiast recently took part in a press trip to visit the Brown-Forman Cooperage as well as the Woodford County Distillery (more on that later) so we could learn about their latest concoction — Woodford Reserve Four Wood. And, lucky for me, I was one of the first people in the world to taste it. But first, a little history.
In 1999, Master Distiller Chris Morris, their resident mad scientist of bourbon, devised numerous ideas to experiment with new finishes, dubbed Project Zebra. The Master’s Collection, as it’s now called, was designed to honor the innovative techniques of the distillery’s original owner, Oscar Pepper, and original Master Distiller, James Crow. Each new bourbon creation introduces a variation to one of the bourbon’s five sources of flavor: water, grain, fermentation, distillation or maturation. Woodford’s newest creation takes the maturation process in a different direction.
Woodford Reserve Four Wood is matured in American oak, and then finished in maple, sherry and port barrels. Portions of bourbon are moved from the original oak casks to each of the other barrels, and when the spirit reaches its final maturation point, it’s batched together again before bottling. Finishing the original bourbon in wine barrels does some interesting things to the flavor profile and makes the 94.4 proof spirit quite mellow on the nose. And when I say quite mellow, I mean real mellow. No heat at all.
The Four Wood is fruity with a hint of spice on the palate thanks to the sherry and port barrels. The finish is smooth and nutty. Add a few ice cubes and citrus notes become very evident on the nose and palate. This complex bourbon could be tasted dozens of times, each with slightly different results.
During a food pairing led by Chef-in-Residence, Ouita Michel, the Four Wood was mellowed even more when paired with cheese, became nuttier and warmer when paired with lightly fried Marcona almonds and was drenched in deep fruit notes when paired with pickled plums.
Packaged in a bottle shaped as one of their iconic copper pot stills, Woodford Reserve Four Wood will retail for around $100 and will be available at finer beverage stores at the beginning of 2013.
Stay tuned for more on our trip to the Woodford Distillery and Brown-Forman Cooperage.
– 47.2% Alcohol by Volume