Whisky Magazine Issue 89
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Woodford Reserve has been testing American whiskey's boundaries with its annual Master's Collection releases. Charles K. Cowdery got an exclusive glimpse of what might be in store for the future.
The history of the Woodford Reserve Distillery begins in 1812, when Oscar Pepper moved his still from behind the Woodford County courthouse to the present location. Its modern history begins in 1992, when its picturesque ruins were featured in the public television documentary “Made and bottled in Kentucky.” The next year Brown-Forman bought back the derelict plant, which it had closed and sold 30 years before, and restored it to something like its late 19th century glory. The company kept it deliberately small and old-fashioned, which made it good for the tourism they had planned, but good as well for the experimentation they also had planned.
The purpose was to explore American whiskey paths not taken. The experiments started early but were not seen as products until 2005, when the first Woodford Reserve Master's Collection bottling was released. The theme was four-grain bourbon, distilled from a mash of corn, rye, wheat and malt.
That 2005 bottling was also the first release distilled 100 per cent at Woodford, in their Forsyths copper pot stills.
All subsequent Master's Collection releases have been 100 per cent pot still whiskey.
A fancy bottle – shaped roughly like a pot still – was created. The first release was very small and sold out almost immediately, almost all of it in Kentucky.
The next year it was repeated and distributed more widely. The only difference was that the whiskey had spent one more year in wood.
Again, it sold out very quickly.