In a stroke of luck for whiskey lovers, Woodford Reserve is releasing not one but two editions of its Master’s Collection this Fall, highlighting two separate elements of what makes a great whiskey: one focusing on grain and one on wood.
The two bourbons hitting shelves are named Select American Oak Bourbon and Oat Grain Kentucky Bourbon. From what Master Distiller Chris Morris tells us, both are going to be delicious, soft dessert-ready bourbons.
Oat Grain focuses on a modification to Woodford’s traditional mashbill, subbing in a portion of oats with a final recipe of 66 percent corn, 18 percent oats, 12 percent malt, and 4 percent rye. Woodford says it gives the whiskey a familiar, Irish pot-still whiskey character. “Oats are very mild,” explains Morris, “but at 18 percent they show up; the oat character gives the whiskey notes of brown sugar, hints of cinnamon, and a dry fruit character. And when you taste this whiskey… it’s tasting like a nice oatmeal cookie–an adult oatmeal cookie. That just pops in my mind, and that’s what it tastes like to me.”
But Oat Grain isn’t the only baked-good reminiscent whiskey of the pair. Select American Oak, which uses oak specifically from the Ozark forest, also has some baking spice characteristics thanks to its unique terroir.
Morris had barrels specially made from select, Ozark-harvested trees to isolate the terroir of the wood and emphasize these flavors. “Even though it’s the same oak species,” he explains, “you see a difference. It’s a faster growing area for wood, and that gives the whiskey a softer flavor–a more soft, nutty flavor, and there’s not the spiciness of some other oak.”
Both of these bourbons are aged just shy of 9 years and will retail for about $130 depending on the market.
Two releases is not a typical plan for the Master’s Collection, so we asked Morris if this was part of an effort to increase the volume of new bottles.
He explained that releasing two bottles was a happy accident. “[The whiskey] tells us when it’s ready, because each one is unique; the whiskey does the talking. So we happened to have two that are mature and ready right now, and I thought, well, let’s just have some fun and bring two out and just confuse the heck out of everybody.”
That said, Woodford Reserve does have a lot of releases coming down the pipeline, Morris told us, and it’s likely we could see more multi-releases in the future. He’s not sure what’s coming next yet. “[We’ll have] at least one release again at this time next year, probably a grain recipe change again. We’ll see. It’s like the Kentucky Derby: some long shot might show up at the finish line and it’ll be ready to bottle as well. We’ll just see over the next few months.”