Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Woodford Reserve Masters Collection Four Wood

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Woodford Reserve Masters Collection Four Wood

Sometimes the most fun a bourbon enthusiast can have is hunting down a hard to find libation.  Now, obviously this can stop being fun and get to frustrating when it’s a Pappy Van Winkle.  But when it’s something still obtainable, the thrill of the hunt is on!

This summer, I have heard from several people how the Woodford Reserve Masters Collection ‘Four Wood’ release was both hard to find, and terribly mediocre.  I scouted out a few stones, but couldn’t seem to find it here in Michigan, so I went to the next level.  The state of Pennsylvania state controls all liquor sales, and state-runs the stores (rather than independent retailers).  On top of that, they have a great, robust web site and mobile app so that you can easily purchase your booze online.  I searched, and quickly found the elusive Four Wood, and the game was afoot.  Only one problem – they don’t ship to Michigan.  How to solve this?  Well… my wife is a former Pennsylvanian, a native of the Philly suburbs.  And her mother, my mother-in-law, still lives there.  Even more serendipitous, she was coming to spend some time with us this very weekend.  So, I purchased the bottle online and shipped it to her!  It took a bit of convincing that she wasn’t breaking any laws in bringing it to me, but a two hour plane ride later, and here she (and said bottle) is!

Dan's Bourbon of the Week: Woodford Reserve Masters Collection Four Wood
Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Woodford Reserve Masters Collection Four Wood

Now this is an oddball.  Matured in oak and finished in maple wood and wine barrels, this selection takes the finishing process to a new level.  Which is exactly what made it less popular with bloggers on the interwebs – it was described as a schizophrenic flavor profile, too wildly veering between tastes to be satisfying.  Would I agree?

My take: Yes, the naysayers are right…sort of. It had a very strong nose and a loooong, strong finish, but a few too many flavors keeps it from having a clear taste profile. Fun for a try, but not as nice as other Woodfords.

Dan scale (1-10): 7.4

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Grand Traverse Distillery Bourbon

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Grand Traverse Distillery Bourbon

Last Christmas, I received a gift from my sister Denise that keeps on giving.  The Grand Traverse Distillery in Traverse City, Michigan produces a great line of spirits, many of which I have had the opportunity to try before.  In particular, their Cherry Whiskey is a favorite of mine, sweet and smooth.  But for this week, it is the Grand Traverse Distillery Bourbon that tempts my palate.

Dan's Bourbon of the Week: Grand Traverse Distillery Bourbon
Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Grand Traverse Distillery Bourbon

The Grand Traverse Bourbon is a higher percentage of corn – 70% – than I usually like, but it is aged for 3 years and 3 months, and according to their website, “blended to 92 proof with Pure Michigan glacial water from the Great Lakes without cold filtering it.”If that sounds refreshing, it should, because this bourbon is, but it drinks like a tough old gal too.

My take: Grand Traverse does a fine job with this bourbon.  The nose has tang, with hints of cigar box, corn, oak char and cinnamon.  The taste is very similar, a smoky wide flavor with a smooth medium finish.  Notes of vanilla, oak and a good amount of corn are present, and the finish is crisp.

The downside is that, while it is smooth, it’s not as flavorful as our Kentucky friends. Still, a quality selection, and Michigan made.

Dan scale (1-10): 7.6

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project Barrel Number 72

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project Barrel Number 72

Last Christmas, I received an interesting gift from my mother – three unique bottles from the Buffalo Trace ‘Single Oak Project.’  I was intrigued immediately, and the explanation she had printed off to go along with the beautifully wrapped gift explained just how unique this was:

“…It all started with 96 individually selected American oak trees that differed according to the number of growth rings per inch and growing location. Each tree was then cut into two parts – top and bottom – yielding 192 unique tree sections. A single barrel was constructed from each unique section. Prior to construction we varied the stave seasoning times. The 192 barrels were then charred differently. These single oak barrels were then filled with different recipe whiskeys, at various entry proofs and aged in a variety of different warehouse styles.

We believe that this experiment will allow you to directly compare the impact of 7 different critical variables across 192 bottles for a total of 1,396 taste combinations. None of the 192 bottles in the complete set are exactly alike….” (from the Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project website)

After several months of admiring the bottles and project, we finally decided to take one out for a test spin!

Dan's Bourbon of the Week: Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project Barrel number 72
Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project Barrel number 72

So what did we find?

My take: The nose said this one was going to have some flavor.  The sweet smells of toffee, caramel and maple syrup meshed with the tangier notes of baking spices, nutmeg, and a slight smell of oak.

The taste was dry and thick, certainly a mouth-coater.  It tasted full bodied, and the taste agreed.  Again, sweet tastes of honey, caramel and toffee mixed with the nutmeg and oak, and I dare say there was a peak of mint in there as well!

With a long, lingering but smooth finish, this was a good glass of whiskey.  So why not a higher rating?  While flavorful, there was nothing truly outstanding about this glass, no real standout characteristic.  I’m very enthusiastic about trying the others though!

Dan scale (1-10): 7.7

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Woodford Reserve Double Oaked

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Woodford Reserve Double Oaked

So as I mentioned last week, one of the highlights of this summer has been my visit to some of Kentucky’s finest bourbon distilleries: Woodford Reserve and Buffalo Trace.  I cannot say enough about the beauty and enjoyment we experienced at Woodford Reserve – from the copper kettles to the shaded storehouses, it was a great time.

One of the extra bonuses we got by serendipity was the opportunity to meet Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Chris Morris.  We chatted with him for a few minutes in the gift shop about Woodford’s history, and the unique Master’s selections Woodford puts out yearly (more on that in the future).   The Woodford Reserve Distillery gift shop also engraves bottles on site so, after purchasing some gifts for good friends, my wife and I chose a bottle of the Woodford Reserve Double Oaked for ourselves and had it engraved to remember the trip.  Mr. Morris signed it as well!

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked
Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, engraved, and signed by Master Distiller Chris Morris

What makes the Double Oaked unique is the finishing process.  At it’s heart, it’s Woodford Reserve, distilled in copper kettles and with the same sour mash recipe.  But after it spends its time in the charred oak barrel, it is transferred to a second, more toasted but less charred barrel, for 9 months.  This allows for a whole new set of flavors to come out, and it shows in both the sweetness of the nose and first taste, as well as the bitterness on the finish.

My take: From a nose perspective, this is a winner for me right from the get go.  The sweet sticky smells of toffee, molasses and butterscotch are evident, as well as wiffs of…vanilla.

The first taste belies that sweetness, as I tasted cinnamon, allspice and clove – a spicier blend than I anticipated.  Then, the warm bitterness of oak took over, through the finish. Other reviewers noted the sweetness came back in the finish, but I didn’t experience that.

My flavor profile is sweet, where as my wife Jen veers toward the spicy,  and that was exactly how this played out. I loved the nose, but was not crazy about the woodiness and spice of the sip, where as Jen loved all the above.  A very unique try, and with some rich characteristics, but not cracking my top five.

Dan scale (1-10): 8.3