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Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select (Batch 3)

Review: Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select Whiskey (Batch 3)   78/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on March 09, 2014

Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select is a Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey, distilled and bottled at the Woodford Reserve Distillery in  Versailles Kentucky. The folks at Woodford Reserve pride themselves in the manufacture of what they call ‘craft bourbon’. The Kentucky distillery is apparently located over top of a deep limestone aquifer which contains mineral rich (iron free) limestone water. This is of course the aquifer from which the distillery draws the water required for fermentation of their rye rich grain mash. (This mash is composed of 72 % corn, 10 % barley, and 18 % rye grain.)

The fermentation tanks are constructed from cypress which (according to the folks at Woodford Reserve) helps to eliminate unwanted flavours which could arise in a stainless steel fermentation tank. The wash is distilled three times on copper pots stills to a full 158 proof, and the resulting new make is barreled in freshly charred new oak barrels prepared by the distillers own cooperage. The spirit is set down to mature in a temperature controlled warehouse where it is carefully monitored to be bottled when the right flavour characteristic has been achieved.

WoodfordIn 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 most recent sample bottle was of the 375 ml variety pictured to the left. Each bottle is individually numbered, and my particular bottle is from batch number 3, and is bottle number 06400. This label states that the bourbon was bottled at 45.2% alcohol by volume.

As a side note, I am very curious about the low batch number. The last bottle of Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select I reviewed four years ago was from batch number 144. It seems rather odd to me to have such a low batch number on my more recent sample. If anyone has the ability to shed light on this mystery, I would appreciate their input.

In the Glass  (8/10)

When I poured my first glass of the Woodford bourbon, the aroma was thick with oak and cedar almost to the point of overwhelming everything else. The effect was one of intimidation, as sappy fresh-cut cedar and oak spices dominated the air and almost made me wonder if I would have to pick wood chips out of my teeth after I sipped from this whiskey. I was hoping to discover some of the zesty rye notes promised me upon the Woodford Reserve website; but these rye notes along with everything else had been bludgeoned into submission by the overwhelming impression of fresh oak and cedar.

Given time in the glass, the bourbon did finally release some glimpses of honeyed spice into the breezes within that cedar and oak forest as well as some nuances of chocolate, caramel, baking spices, and punky corn. However the forest remained thick with towering oak and cedar trees.

In the Mouth (47/60)

The first sip of whiskey actually caused me to shake my head and grimace as the bourbon continued to intimidate me with wood and sap-filled flavours of oak and cedar. Although I did not pick wood chips out of my teeth, the spicy, sappy, and bitter flavour of fresh cut wood is front and center. Trailing behind (and perhaps cowering in fright) are some flavours of sweet honeycomb and caramel chocolate; however their meekness in the face of the wood-filled onslaught means that the charred barrel sweetness within the whiskey does not have the strength of character to bring balance to the spirit. Bitterness, woodiness, and spicy sappiness reign supreme, and I am not enthusiastic about pouring another dram without ice and cola.

In the Throat (11/15)

The oak and spice seemed unwilling to relinquish their hold upon this spirit, and the resulting exit was spicy, and bitter. My enthusiasm continued to diminish, and when I checked the results of my review from four years past, I found my opinion of this particular bourbon whiskey has not improved with time (see previous review here).

The Afterburn (7.5/10)

I guess you could say that the Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select just isn’t my dram of choice. I find the bourbon over-oaked to the point that the whiskey has turned bitter instead of sweet. Cola is a great equalizer of spirits, and that is the destiny of the rest of this bottle.

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


Suggested Recipe:

If you take the a typical whisky and cola highball and add bitters, it becomes a Buckeroo, and although the Buckeroo is typically made with bourbon, it tastes just as great made with Canadian Whisky or American Rye Whiskey.


1 1/2 oz Bourbon
dash Angostura Bitters
Slice of Lime for garnish

Build in a tall glass with ice
Complete with Cola
Garnish with a lime slice

Enjoy Responsibly!

Note: If  you are interested in more of my cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!


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)

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