As you’ve probably noticed, American malt whiskey is having a moment right now, with distilleries from Virginia to California jumping into the traditionally Gaelic game. But with a few exceptions (the innovative malts from Nashville’s Corsair spring to mind) most of them have struck me as rather underwhelming, possessing neither the boldness of Highland scotch nor the subtle refinement of Irish pot still whiskeys.
Enter Kentucky stalwart Woodford Reserve, which splits the difference between a malt and a bourbon with its new Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Malt Whiskey. Rather than 100% barley, as most American malts are, Woodford uses the bare minimum of 51% barley malt, then rounds things out (quite literally) with 47% corn and 2% rye.
The nose packs a huge bready aroma, like a cross between an Irish whiskey and a Pennsylvania rye, with some toasted sugar and nuttiness for good measure. On the palate, things get more interesting. Every time I sip it, my first thought is “chocolate-covered caramel.” A bit of pepper comes through in the middle, followed by a long finish of dried fruit, baking spices, and oaky vanilla.
Woodford Reserve Malt is great on its own, but it also makes a hell of a Boilermaker alongside a rich porter.
— 45.2% ABV