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  • Writer's pictureWes Farno

My First Bourbon Love - Woodford Reserve

My introduction to bourbon began with a bottle of Woodford Reserve. The first bottle, a gift from a friend, sat on our self for many years. Like most who are new to bourbon, that initial sip was mostly ethanol. It was intense, overwhelming and my initial thought was how in the world can anyone enjoy this stuff.

Ten years later, I have grown to love bourbon, the bourbon culture, and this history of bourbon. My palate is always developing, and while I occasionally get the ethanol nose, I have come to appreciate the unique flavors in each sip. Woodford Reserve and their yearly expressions remain some of my favorite bourbons.

The life of Woodford Reserve began in 1993 when Brown-Forman re-purchased the distillery from a local farmer. Under the direction of master distiller Lincoln Henderson, Woodford Reserve released its first bottle to the public in 1996. Lincoln Henderson is a legend in the bourbon-making industry. He spent the majority of his career at Brown-Forman, where in addition to Woodford, he masterminded the notable Gentleman Jack. Lincoln Henderson retired from Brown-Forman in 2006 but went on to create Angel's Envy, his only independent bourbon project.

While Woodford Reserve does not have the historical lore of many brands', the distillery where it is made does. Designated on the National Registry of Historic places, the distillery produced its first bourbon in 1812.

Known as the Old Oscar Pepper Distillery, Elijah Pepper oversaw some of the most significant bourbon production changes, and they remain relevant today. Dr. James Crow discovered sour mash distillation, pot still distillation, and barrel fermentation while an employee of the Oscar Pepper Distillery.

Oscar Pepper died in 1867 and, the distillery was sold to Leopold Labrat and James Graham in 1878, who owned and operated it until Brown-Forman purchased the property in 1941. Brown-Forman operated the distillery until the late '60s when they sold it to a local farmer. As the demand for bourbon began to increase, it was re-purchased by Brown-Forman in 1993.

Today, Brown-Forman operates the Woodford Reserve Distillery, which is open to visitors and guests throughout the year. They are the official sponsor of the Kentucky Derby and

Since 2006, master distiller Chris Morris and assistant master distiller Elizabeth McCall have released a Woodford Master's Collection. These highly prized bottles have pushed the boundaries of exploration and creativity.

2006 - Four Grain

2007 - Sonoma Cuter Chardonnay Finish

2008 – 1838 Sweet Mash

2009 – Seasoned Oak Finish

2010 – Maplewood Finish

2011 – 100% Rye in New and Used Casks

2012 – Four Wood

2013 – 100% Malt in New & Used Casks

2014 – Sonoma Cutrer Pinot Finish

2015 – 1838 Style White Corn

2016 – Brandy Cask Finish

2017 – Cherry Smoked Malt Bourbon

2018 – Oat Grain & Select American Oak Bourbon

2019 – Chocolate Malted Rye

2020 - Batch Proof (Review Coming Soon)

Additionally, each year Master Distiller Chris Morriss releases a one-of-a-kind expression that explodes the boundaries of whiskey. These releases are only available at the distillery, and they are worth the trip to Versailles, KY.

Double Double Oaked 2015

Sweet Mash Redux 2015

Frosty Four Wood 2016

5 Malt Whiskey 2016

Double Double Oaked 2017

Blended Rye Whiskey 2017

Toasted Oak Rye 2017

Pinot Noir Finished Rye 2017

Double Double Oaked 2018

Barrel Finished Rye 2018

Bottled in Bond 2018

Double Double Oaked 2019

Three Grain 2019

Brandy Cask Finish 2019 (reviewing coming soon)

Double Double Oaked 2020

Five Wood 2020 (review coming soon)

Four Grain 2020 (Read Review)

Woodford Reserve was my introduction to the world of bourbon. Like any first love, it holds a special place in my heart. I encourage you to explore their products. I think you will enjoy them!

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