Whisky Magazine Issue 137
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Woodford Reserve bucks the trend
Think of a distillery. Any distillery. If I was a betting man, I'd say the place you're thinking of is a beautiful, idylic, whitewashed, walled place, hidden in some nook either by the sea or in a lush grassy glen with small, hand-made copper pot still puffing away, producing small batch white spirit ready to spend some time in oak. Am I right?
Well, think now of an American Bourbon distillery, and you can almost think the opposite: yes, surrounded by grass (this time the iron-rich ‘blue grass' rather than lush heathery tones of Scotland or Ireland), and yes, producing a wonderful white spirit to be rested in oak. However, the majority of Kentucky Bourbon is distilled in large facilities using tall column stills, rather than the copper pots we might be so used to in Scotland and Ireland.
In the period during The Great Experiment in the USA, American Bourbon distilleries weren't mothballed, most were simply destroyed – torn down, ghosted, never to operate again. When Prohibition ended, it gave rise to a new wave of American distillers who took advantage of the most modern technology available to them in the early 20th Century: efficient, tall column stills and large, often warmed warehousing.
And why not? If you were to go and open an office today for a new business, you wouldn't buy a fax or telex machine, you'd get a state-of-the-art laptop, a laser printer, set up a website, Twitter and Facebook page. In the same way, the fathers of today's top Kentucky distiller...