Friday, September 4, 2009

First Taste: Woodford Reserve Master's Collection Seasoned Oak

The three (or four, depending on a production quirk one year) in the series of one-offs that have come from the old Labrot & Graham distillery under the name Woodford Reserve Master's Collection have won lots of fans. But I've generally preferred the standard issue Woodford, probably because the experiments didn't improve for me what is a very winning formula.

This time, though, master distiller Chris Morris and company are onto something. Finished in barrels made from wood aged up to five years, far older than American whiskey usually sees, the Seasoned Oak is massively spicy on the nose, smelling like bittersweet chocolate-coated dark cherries dusted with cinnamon and clove. The aromatic notes keep on coming: vanilla, raspberries, Red Hot candies, applewood smoke. In the mouth, it's remarkably smooth, given the explosive aromatics, but still, it's peppery and intense, a bit Port-like in its richness, mouth-filling and robust, with that cooked cherry and bittersweet chocolate flavor swirling in and out among a country kitchen's worth of baking spices. It's got sweetness and the vanilla-coconut quality of the standard Woodford, but moves far beyond into an unusually intense realm. I could sip this all afternoon; come to think of it, I did.

(Available November 1, 50.2% abv, limited release, Brown-Forman.)

My score: 9

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