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Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select

Review: Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select Whiskey   82/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on November 5, 2009

This is a Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey, distilled and bottled at the Woodford Reserve Distillery in  Versailles Kentucky.  I have found no age statement on the bottle or on the Woodford Reserve Website.  My belief is that the spirit is 6 to 8 years of age although where I gleaned this bit of information has been forgotten.  Perhaps the shopkeeper who sold me the bottle mentioned it.

In the Bottle  (4.5/5)

Woodford Reserve is sold in a handsome bottle with a nice solid wooden topped cork.  Each bottle is personally numbered by both batch and bottle number.  My bottle is from batch number 144, and is bottle number 07287.  Apparently the bottling strength may vary from 43.2% to 45.2%. My bottle is the full 45.2% alcohol by volume.  Although my bottle did not come in a tin sleeve, I have seen others that do so I am assuming the shop I purchased the bottle from foolishly threw the nice tin sleeve away.

In the Glass  (9.0/10)

When I poured the first glass, the aroma was the typical thick bourbon smell of American Kentucky Bourbon.  Honeyed, and thick with oak wood, the aroma could almost have been described as heavy and oily as well.  A certain punky heaviness with wood smoke in the very background contrasted by hotter spices rose into the air as well.

In the Mouth (49/60)

Bourbon has its own unique flavour,  spicy honey and a rich woody profile.  This bourbon has a heavy  texture  in the mouth. It seems like having a thick corn syrup resting on the tongue even though the liquid is much more viscous.  The wood smoke seems to stick to the taste buds and the hotter spices are subdued.  There is also a smoothness that wants to coat the entire palate with this heavy, spicy, honey and wood experience.  It is almost like the experience is too full of slick richness, and lacks the true character of a rounded whiskey.

In the Throat (12/15)

I found the bourbon stayed in my throat and palate unwilling to gracefully exit with the liquid.  That woody heaviness and punky spicy honey seemed to stick in my throat as if it were really honey and not bourbon. It is kind of like the friend who stops for a visit but does not know when it is time to leave.

The Afterburn (7.5/10)

I have found it difficult to return often to this whiskey.  The heavy mouth & thick texture requires me to  almost face the whiskey as though it were a challenge instead of a treat.  I battle with it and always leave the experience exhausted and unwilling to have a second glass. I understand the lure of this whiskey, but cannot find the charm myself.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74   Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79   You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84   We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89   Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94   Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+        I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)


13 Responses to “Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select”

  1. Willie The Wino said

    I couldn’t agree more about the ‘exhausting’ prospect that coming to this bottle for a swig invokes… there’s a definite “Okay, let’s do this…” moment before taking this beast on. I’m also suspicious of the comparative ease with which one can come across this– here in the UK it’s in at least two national supermarket chains and I’ve since spotted it in many liquor stores in London– I’d rather they made half as much but have it twice as good!

  2. J WHITE said

    Im deciding this or Angostura 1919 rum. ECraaig12 and Bookers too woody for me. EW Black made me vomit quick. Eating a nut is imposable for me -literally. WR meant to have thing like sour, butterscotch, creme, popcorn, corn etc and all in balance incl the oak. and a chew. and nice tobacco aroma. sound perfect for me! But some saying bitter tannic element. And a harsh. Some say firm -big non no for me. I want something similer to elements to DICKEL 12 (soft, always in balance, corn, buttery, tobacco, sour, chew, warming,then the flavour glass smelt nice) please.

    • I am not sure I followed you all the way but I think you want a bourbon suggestion from me. (Although I liked the idea of Angostura 1919.) Perhaps give Knob Creek a try.

      • J WHITE said

        Thanks on replay.
        No Knobs in store.
        Basically does Woodford and 1919 rum have similer texture – “butter creamy”?
        No others Bourbons you reviewed except WR.
        Looking for like a “butter creamy” texture (oil assoc. I think)
        Nothing like .
        Big dry oaky/tannic (Eligh Craig 12,Bookers).Cant handle.
        Sick Sweetness (W Turkey standard)
        Was Ok
        Bufflio Trace (good just slighly dry for me)
        Markers stardard ( Ok just the finish is so bitter)
        Dickel 12 vinatge bottle Loved. not current I had. I have Dumb idea that Woodford will be similer to dickel 12?

        • I would not suggest that WR is buttery and creamy, it is more thick in the mouth almost like corn syrup. Cannot really give you any suggestions as the only bourbon I have ever found to be a little creamy was Maker’s 46, but I see that you found the regular Maker’s bitter in the finish.


  3. Tim N said

    Hi Chip,

    I recently found a stash of 375 ml bottles of WR in a liquor store which are all Batch 01. I contacted the distillery and they explained to me that this means they are from 1997 when the distillery re-opened. To me this bottle of whiskey is astounding – particulary the nose.

    A friend of mine was at the WR Distillery this past year and sampled the whiskey – he said it did not stand up to the Batch 01 by any means. What are your thoughts on variation found between batches?

    • I recently had a discussion about this very subject with the operations manager at ADL (Alberta Distillers LTD). The subject came up because I had noticed a difference in taste in their Alberta Springs Whisky, which had been one of my favourite whiskies when it was introduced in about 1984 and then fell out of favour with me in the early 90’s. It turns out the mash had changed in the early 90s from a predominantly rye mash to a predominantly corn mash for economic reasons.

      There are many other reasons for changes especially with a batch style distillation. Having grown up on a farm I know first hand how different the grain crops can be from year to year. The yearly climate changes will affect the barrel aging. So there are many reasons for each batch to be a little different from the other. I am not familiar with WR and their thoughts on consistency from year to year. It may be extremely important to them, and they may attempt to blend each batch to a specific taste profile, or it may be that they take the opinion that each batch is unique and they will blend the batch to create the best taste for that batch, (The answer is probably between these positions).

      Those are my thoughts although this subject is certainly worthy of more input and discussion.

      • Tim N said

        Good information. I find it very interesting (although initially frustrating!) to compare different releases of the same label and note the differences. Even with blends that lay their claim in consistency, there can be GREAT variation – Teacher’s immediately comes to mind…

        To get back on topic I will look for an opportunity to taste other WR batches and see how they stand up to 01. Look fwd to your review of Knob Creek which I would rate slightly below WR.


  4. powderhound said

    I had this recommended to me, and honestly, I was a bit disappointed. I’m not saying it is bland, but I found it to be unengaging. I have had a hard time going back to it as well.

    Another that was recommended to me that’s in that price range that I really enjoy is Knob Creek. It has a bit more fire and spice, and really pulls me in to the experience.

    Anyways I really enjoy your blog!

  5. Stacy Sims said

    Your blog is so informative … ..I just bookmarked you….keep up the good work!!!!

    Hey, I found your blog in a new directory of blogs. I dont know how your blog came up, must have been a typo, anyway cool blog, I bookmarked you. 🙂

    • Hi Stacy, I edited your comment so it would make it through the spam filters. I think the website you attached was the problem. Anyway thanks for the cool comment. I hope you continue to enjoy the blog. Although please leave hotlinks out of the comments or the filter will delete it.

  6. lukasz said

    nice review rumchum,. talk to you later…

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