Tuesday, November 15, 2011

2011 Woodford Reserve Master's Collection

Fall is a season where the temperatures drop a little bit, the air gets a little drier, days a little shorter, nights a little longer.  Up north, leaves begin to change color and by this time they have fallen to the ground.  For bourbon lovers, fall is a time for celebration.  Many, if not almost all, limited edition bourbons hit the market at this time.  First phase was the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. Second phase was the much anticipated release of this year's Pappy Van Winkle bourbons.  Now comes the release of this year's Woodford Reserve Master's Collection, a limited edition of what I would call "calculated experimental" American whiskey.  Normally I'd be saying "bourbon" instead of "American whiskey" but this year Woodford Reserve Master Distiller, Chris Morris, decided to put out a pair of ryes for the 2011 Master Collection.

Woodford's two rye whiskeys utilize a 100% rye grain mash, something very rare in the industry that only a few craft distilleries are putting out.  Whistlepig Rye, engineered by former Maker's Mark Master Distiller, David Pickrell, is one example of a 100% rye whiskey.  Woodford is the first major distillery to use 100% rye grain in their mash.  This was then triple-distilled in Woodford Reserve's copper pot stills; the only difference being in maturation.  One is aged in a new, charred oak barrel which makes it Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey.  The other is aged in a once used (aka "aged") barrel used to make rye whiskey. 

Tasting notes on the New Cask Rye denote an aroma of cinnamon, mint, apple, vanilla, and caramel, a taste that balances between sweet and spice, and a smooth finish of fruit and spice.  The Aged Cask Rye tasting notes call out a more grain-forward flavor with a nose of grain, citrus, vanilla and spice, with a taste of rye and malt grain, oak, and vanilla that finishes with a fresh and clean rye grain along with a little candy apple.

The two 375ml bottles come packed together and offer the consumer the opportunity to do a side by side comparison.  Pretty cool if you ask me.  What will be more interesting to see is if Woodford moves forward and puts out rye whiskey on a consistent basis.  Research indicates this pair will set you back anywhere between $90-$100 which is on par with previous Master's Collection releases.  It's a little steep and hard to justify for two experimentals considering one may not be favorable with me.  On the other hand, I've found I've enjoyed three out of the five releases so far so maybe I'll give these a shot.  Recon of the Miami area shows that Total Wine is carrying the pair so once my self-imposed ban on going there is lifted, I may make the purchase.  If you happen to give this pair a try, please share your thoughts in the comments.

Thanks for reading and please remember to enjoy your spirits and drink responsibly.


Scott said...

This is my third year picking up the Master's Collection. It was pretty neat to taste two whiskey's that only differ in the aging process. On first taste I liked the new cask much better. When I went back for my second taste, I noticed a lot of vanilla in the aged cask. I think the new cask is much more my type of whiskey, but the new cask was interesting to taste.

I'm interested to hear if you end up picking up the pair!

SteveBM said...

Hey Scott,

Sorry I just now noticed this comment. I have to say that I passed on this one. At first I was a bit intrigued by Woodford testing out rye but for the ticket of $90+ where one could be a winner and the other a loser, I wasn't willing to pay for this "experiment". I know I said I enjoyed 3 out of 5 of the Master's Collection releases but really only one, the Seasoned Oak Finish, was truly notable (others were Sonoma-Cutrer Finish - interesting, and Four Grain - this one was above average for me but at $90 not worth the price of admission)

I've really grown wary of "experimental" whiskeys lately. I just can't bring myself to pay such a high price, in this case $90, for something that I may not find favorable when I could pick up 3 bourbons/ryes from my under $30 list and have at it. Dont even get me started on the Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project...

Thanks for reading. If you're a rye fan, I highly recommend Redemption Rye, Willet 3yr, Rittenhouse 100, Bulliet Rye, and High West Double Rye. Every one of those is pretty tough to find in Miami except Bulliet though. Redemption was just picked up by a distributor down here but I've yet to see it on a shelf.