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Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select Rye Whiskey

Review: Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select Rye Whiskey 90.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (AKA Arctic Wolf)
Posted May 16, 2018

Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select Rye is a Straight Kentucky Rye 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 whiskeys’. 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.

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, 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.

In the Bottle  (4.5/5)

Woodford Reserve Straight Rye Whiskey is sold in a handsome flask bottle with a nice solid wooden topped cork. Each bottle is personally numbered by both batch and bottle number. My sample bottle is from batch number 82, and is bottle number 3518. This label states that the Straight Rye was bottled at 45.2% alcohol by volume.

The back label (you can see its shadow in the picture) lets us know that this whisky was distilled, matured and bottled in Kentucky.

In the Glass 9/10

When I poured the Woodford Reserve Rye Whiskey into my glencairn glass, the spirit displayed a rich copper hue. I tilted my glass and gave it a twirl and saw a thickish oily sheen had been deposited on the inside of the glass, the crest of which held true for several seconds before dropping some rather fat legs on the inside of the glass.

Initially, the breezes above the glass carry peppery oak and cedar notes complemented by robust rye grain, maple and light chocolate and menthol. The aromas have combined together well and the result is enticing.

As I allowed the glass to breathe, I noticed a nice mixture of vanilla, honeycomb and baking spices (ginger, light cinnamon notes and hints of nutmeg) welling up. The robust grain scents are beginning to remind me of graham wafers. There is also a light fruitiness with orange peel moving towards marmalade, as well as green apple and hints of pear. Almond scents moving towards marzipan round out the nose which shows both depth and complexity.

In the Mouth 55/60

The whiskey brings me a light caramel sweetness which is chased away by peppery oak, cedar and rye grain. there are mild flavours of almond and marzipan emerging as well as subtle but growing impressions of fruit which are manifest as canned apricots and pears. The light chocolate notes I noticed in the breezes have reappeared as a pleasant underlying milk chocolate flavour and those graham wafers I noted earlier seem to have been dipped in maple syrup (Although not nearly as sweet as that sounds). Vanilla and light baking spices (cinnamon and ginger) complete the appealing flavour profile.

When I add ice to my glass, it is the light chocolate notes which gain momentum as well as lightly bitter rye kernel. The combination is nice. This makes the whiskey a nice sipper; but I wanted to make a nice cocktail as well. So I combed through my Cocktails and Recipes section and settled upon a serving called Ward 8. This is a sour serving that mixes rye whiskey with orange and lemon juice (see recipe below). I was very happy with the mixed drink and suggest that you try it to.

In the Throat  13/15

The finish is mid-length with flavours of grassy menthol accompanied by rye and hints of light milk chocolate. After the swallow, a light bitterness settles in reflecting both the new wood barrels the whisky was aged in and the high percentage of rye grain.

Afterburn  9/10

I haven’t been a big fan of Woodford Reserve over the years as I have found their Distillers Select Bourbon carries too much oak at the expense of the grain. Woodford Reserve Rye has broken the mold. The new wood is certainly present; but it is restrained allowing us to also taste the goodness of the rye grain. I found the whisky great for both sipping and for cocktails which is reflected in my high score.

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


Suggested Recipes

Here is a delicious cocktail which in 1934 was named one of the Ten Best Cocktails by Esquire Magazine. Its history stretches even further back to 1898 when, as legend has it, the serving was created at the Locke-Ober Restaurant in Boston Massachusetts, to honour the election of Martin M. Lomasney to the state’s legislature. Apparently, it was the votes in Ward 8 which propelled Lomasney to victory hence the name of the tasty libation.

Ward 8

2 oz Woodford Reserve Rye Whiskey
1/2 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Fresh Orange Juice
1 Tsp Grenadine (Sub Cran-Raspberry Syrup (here))
Maraschino Cherry (Sub Brandied Cherry)

Add the first four ingredients into a metal shaker with ice
Shake until the outside of the shaker begins to frost
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
Garnish with a Maraschino Cherry

Enjoy Responsibly!

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


As usual, 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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