Story by Justin Thompson | Photo by Victor Sizemore and Justin Thompson
Woodford Reserve recently announced its plan to start releasing limited runs of experimental whiskies that will only be available to those who visit their distillery, located right outside Versailles, KY. Starting tomorrow, June 30th, Double Double Oaked and Sweet Wheat will be the first Bourbons of the Distillery Series to be released. Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Chris Morris announced, “We have decided to share the creativity of our new successful experiments by producing small batches of product that will be sold at the Distillery Visitor’s Center. So, if you want a Distillery Series product you have to come to Woodford Reserve.”
“This is fun. This is celebrating the creativity and innovation of Oscar Pepper and James Christopher Crow,” Morris admits. Both men worked at the original Pepper Distillery that was located on the same property Woodford Reserve owns today. Pepper and Crow are credited with many revolutions in the Bourbon industry that are still used today through scientific processes and thoroughly keeping records of how they operated their distillery.
Regular Double Oaked is created by taking a batch of fully matured Woodford Reserve and placing it into a second barrel. This special second barrel has been toasted for 40 minutes and charred for 5 seconds. A normal barrel used for Woodford Reserve has been toasted for 10 minutes and charred for 25 seconds.
The second barrel is toasted for a longer time so sweeter characteristics are drawn closer to the inside of the barrel during the toasting process. Toasting happens when heat is applied to the inside of the barrel without the use of an actual flame. The toasting breaks down the lignin protein in the oak staves, which stores many of the sweeter flavors most people can taste in Bourbon.
Morris likes to point out that the proof level for Double Double Oaked, Double Oaked and Woodford Reserve are the same at 90.4. He does this to remind consumers that he is not creating any new flavors by altering the proof, but by changing the maturation process only.
Double Oaked is aged between 6 to 12 months in the second barrel. With Double Double Oaked, Morris keeps the Bourbon in the second barrel for two full years. The longer aging is done in hopes all the flavors the Double Oaked process creates are amplified, not only the sweet notes but the chocolate, wood and dried fruit flavors, as well, for this noticeably darker whiskey. Morris boasts, “Everything people love about Double Oaked has been doubled. It has bigger and bolder flavors but still smooth.”
The other Distillery Series being released tomorrow is Sweet Mash Redux. Fans of Woodford’s Master Collection will probably remember the 2008 release 1838 Sweet Mash. Tomorrow’s release will use the same concept during the fermentation process by excluding the use of a sample of the previous batch, or sour mash. This helps create a uniformed pH level for the yeast and helps create a more uniform taste.
The absence of sour mash from the previous batch means the pH level will rise to that of water, which is the only change. But this change has a huge influence on the flavor. We found that the Sweet Mash Redux is much woodier in taste, but not in an Oaked way. More cedar and pine notes were present along with a drier finish.
The Distillery Series whiskies will be available in a .375ml bottle and retail for $50. Some of the future bottling includes a malted whiskey called Five Malt, which will be aged in used Double Oaked barrels and Frost Four Wood which will use a combination of oak, maple and used wine barrels. Woodford Reserve plans to release up to six Distillery Series whiskies a year and to even repeat some of the more popular ones. According to Morris, “If people like them, we’ll make them again. So there’s no prohibition of making these just once.”
Morris loves the idea of offering something special to those who come to visit Woodford Reserve Distillery. “We like to think of the Distillery Series as a reward for people coming to Woodford County, coming to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, coming to Kentucky for tourism and have the option to get something they can’t get back home.”
Woodford Reserve’s Distillery Series: Double Double Oaked & Sweet Mash Releases