Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Review: Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select – Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Nose (undiluted)
Inhale her scent of beautiful corn and vanilla when you lean close to the nape of her neck. Some roses too, surely from the corsage pinned to her dress. A real heady experience. Quite simply gorgeous.

Palate (undiluted)
Show some respect when you take her hand. Don’t grab it or squeeze too hard. She is like a steaming cup of tea. Take a small, I mean tiny, tentative sip. At 90.4 proof, she is not to be trifled with like the flotsam jetsam you encounter in those tawdry beer dance halls that you should no better than to patronize. She is not suitable for some carefree summertime fling. She demands you place her upon a pedestal . . . or else her Daddy may show up with a shotgun and angry, overalls clad, sons to teach you a lesson.

A dance with this fair Southern Belle of the ball will begin with her curtsey and a sweet smile reminiscent of corn fields bending in the wind. You bow to her sweet greeting. You and she advance towards each other. Her strapless gown is breathtaking. You’re staring! As you advance you encounter rye spiciness in her demeanor that compliments the sweet thoughts of corn fields in the wind.

Get ready for the do-si-do. You and she advance towards each other. As you pass each other, right shoulder to right shoulder, the contact is like the taste of vanilla and broken candy cane. Without turning you go around each other back-to-back and then step backwards to your starting position.

Finish (undiluted)
You and her move towards each other once more. This time you join hands and kiss. Charcoal, American oak and vanilla linger on your lips. There is a burn in your throat and she is gone.

After the Ball
You’re left standing there, the lights are on and she’s gone. Damn, you never should have turned your back on her and gone to the bar to get that drink.

Woodford Reserve is uncompromising like Janis Joplin’s rendition of the George Gershwin classic standard Summertime. Soulful, bluesy, bitter sweet shards of candy cane, vanilla, with a dash of brown sugar and . . . a little harsh. The harshness comes on the finish. What I am referring to is a little alcohol burn on the throat. This is unfortunate if you are seeking perfection in bourbon. It’s most noticeable on the first drink and fades with subsequent sips. For me, Knob Creek or Maker's Mark (competing small batch premium bourbons) are a little more refined on the finish. No burn! I’m not crazy about the burn on the finish. You can feel it in the back of the throat.  For me I would not pick this up again because of the burn and the price.  It is a little over priced to the point that I would opt for Maker's Mark or Knob Creek over it.  Woodford Reserve has legions of fans but I am not one of the die-hard ones.  I enjoy it and can imagine it working in mixed drinks well, but not completely satisfied.  In order to take away the nasty burn on the finish, I add to big ice cubes to a double pouring.  Problem solved!  Nevertheless, it is a very fine bourbon though a little lawless, unbalanced and unpredictable. You’ll just have to try it and decide for yourself if you can handle her.


Jason Debly

P.S.  Janis, we will always love you.  Rest in peace.

Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2011. All rights reserved except for photos of Janis Joplin which are published for the purpose of education and entertainment.   Photo Credits:  Janis Joplin singing: Photograph © Jim Marshall from the book Trust: Photographs of Jim Marshall (Omnibus Press)


  1. Jason - you are a great writer! Love this story (uh..I mean review)! You have me drooling for it and then drop me on the floor and tell me my american standard, Knob Creek, will do just as well...
    Love it, love it, love it...
    And thanks for helping me not spend any unnecessary money!
    The #1 thing I hate is after-burn...I want AFTERGLOWWWWWW

  2. I must say that the after-burn of Woodford Reserve did settle down when the bottle was open about three weeks and was half full. Exposure to the air softened up the finish quite a bit. Nevertheless, it is still a little over priced for what you get. Knob Creek and Maker's Mark are better buys in this price range.

  3. how does this compare to dickel"
    I love corn field, and all those food flavours of a carnival.And young and old interplay.balance.
    Im just concern is there a lot on big cider oak bite thats not smooth. rough tannis with old bitterness, metellic taste. Eligh craig 12 is too heavy for me on the oak. Marks standard fails due to rough back palate.i also cant handle a very nutty dry texture. I keep thing this for so long. Also im thinking walker green HP12 blackbush.

  4. Hi Anonynous!

    Based on your comments, I would recommend avoiding Woodford Reserve. It can taste metallic. If you are not a fan of Maker's Mark, you will certainly not enjoy Woodford Reserve.

    Johnnie Walker Green Label and Cragganmore 12 years are definitely better choices. Blackbush is pleasing too. If you find that scotch and bourbon are too 'rough' for your palate, then maybe you should consider Irish whiskey.


  5. I disagree, WR is by far some of the best tasting, smoothest bourbon I have ever tasted. It may just be my dull tastebuds as everyone has their own sensibilities. I tried Knob Creek and it had more after burn to me.

  6. I agree with Dan. New to bourbons I bought both Knob and WR at the same time and I much prefer WR. Smooth finish and great taste, where KC seems more harsh flavor with double the burn.

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  8. I find Old Forester Signature (100 proof) has a similar flavor profile as WR, and I actually enjoy it more and at a friendlier price point.

  9. I'm rather new to whiskey compared to you guys. I tried 10-15 whiskeys from Ireland, Scotland, Canada and USA, and i must say that Woodford Reserve is my drink of choice. The first day i bought it and had a glass i couldn't sleep from excitement.