Woodford Reserve Cherry Wood Smoked Barley Review


“Too Hot To Trot”
Whisky Review # 844

Country: USA
Region: Kentucky
Brand: Woodford Reserve Cherry Wood Smoked Barley (Master's Collection)
Distilled at: Woodford Reserve/Brown-Forman Distillery, Versailles, Kentucky
Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Age: NAS
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 45.2%
Maturation: New Charred American Oak casks
Chill Filtration: No
Sample provided by Mauricio from Brazil. Many Thanks!
Average Price: Around US$ 100 (December 2019)
Price/Quality Ratio: 👎The Cherry Wood extra does not justify the high price.
Buying Advice:  See Price/Quality Ratio

Colour: Dark Amber (Natural Colour)

Nose:

Please give this Woodford some time in the glass before Nosing. Even if you do that though, the Alcohol remains noticeable. There is a little Cherry and Smoke to be found but it's certainly not overpowering. It's a little bit closer to Scotch Whisky thanks to the relatively high Malted Barley content. This limits the Sweet Corn Aroma on the Nose. I'm not sure if traditional Bourbon fans will appreciate that.

Main Aromas:

Butterscotch, Caramel, Demerara Sugar, Sweet Grains, Malted Barley, Yeast, Resin, Orange, Salted Nuts, Damp Cellar, Cocoa Powder and Fresh Herbs like Mint and Coriander.
    
Supportive Aroma Accents:

Vanilla, Honey, Glue, Smoke, Maraschino Cherries, Apricot, Blackberry Muffins, Forrest Floor, Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg and Pepper.


Palate:

Bitter-Sweet and quite strong. The Alcohol is very present. It kind of misses that soothing Sweet feeling that standard Bourbons can give you. Although, the regular Woodford is also more Edgy and less Sweet than say Maker's Mark, one of my favourite affordable Bourbons.

Main Flavours:

Malted Barley, Demerara Sugar, Salted Nuts, Smoke, Cocoa Powder, Maraschino Cherries, Yeast, Ashes, Butterscotch, Ginger and Mint.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Caramel, Sweet Grains, Vanilla, Honey, Apricot, Orange, Wet Rock, Damp Oak, Tea, Leather and Pepper.

Finish:

Middle-Long, Bitter-Sweet and quite Edgy. The Alcohol bites a little. Quite Dry towards the end. The Cherry Wood influence is certainly more clear at this point. But in a kind of medicinal way. I can't say I like it a lot. I find Barley, Grains, Oat Biscuits (I know it shouldn't be there!), Demerara Sugar, Butter, Vanilla, Yeast, Resin, Salted Nuts, BBQ-Smoke, Cherry-Flavoured Cough Syrup, Damp Wood, Cocoa Powder, Ashes, Pepper, Ginger, Menthol and Nutmeg.

Drinking Advice:

I added a little Water and that helps to calm down the Alcohol on the Nose. The Malt and Fruity Aromas (Peach, Apricot) develop. But other than that it is really starting to smell like Pizza Dough. Palate and Finish benefit as well from the fact that the Alcohol retreats.The Finish becomes one big Cherry/Menthol flavoured Cough pastille though. A little water gets rid of the strong Alcohol and gives some extra Fruit on the Nose. But it does not develop the Palate and turns the Finish in a medicinal treat. It's up to you as always to find your preferred level. You can certainly add a few drops though!

Rating: 80

Nose: 21 - Taste: 20 - Finish: 19 - Overall: 20

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay.

Conclusion:

The Master's Collection (Limited Editions) started in 2006 and the Cherry Wood Smoked Barley is the 12th release in the meantime. According to the distillery it pays tribute to past distillery industry leaders Oscar Pepper and James Crow. The Cherry Wood differs from the regular Woodford where it exclusively uses Corn(70%) and Malted Barley (30%). No Wheat and/or Rye therefore. The 30% Malted Barley content is much higher than in your regular Bourbon (15-20%). The Malted Barley for this Whiskey has been smoked with Cherry Wood during the kilning process.

I'm not a huge fan of Woodford although I love their bottles! But their regular Bourbon is also a bit harsh and less comforting Sweet as Bourbons like Maker's Mark. The Cherry-Wood Smoked Barley does in fact reinforce that issue. The Malted Barley clearly controls the Sweet Corn and bridges the gap with Scotch Whisky. So it ends up in No-Man's land if you ask me. The Cherry Wood is not a failed experiment but I can't see it reaching out to many Bourbons fans as it's more edgy and less comfortable than your usual day-to-day Bourbon. And the really high price does not help either. Limited Editions are meant to be a bit special and in that respect Cherry Wood certainly scores. But for many Bourbon fans it might be a bit too special. To me it is!

Cheers!

Jan van den Ende                                                              December 6, 2019

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