View Full Version : My Woodford Reserve Visit

10-21-2004, 09:08
Thanks to everyone who provided questions for my Woodford Reserve visit. They (Chris Morris and Dave Scheurich) were very generous with their time and very forthcoming with information.

I got a lot of information, which I need time to process. It will be an article in The Bourbon Country Reader (http://cowdery.home.netcom.com/page9.html) and maybe some other places too.

Here are a couple of highlights or, if you will, teases.

The batch numbers on the label are real. They represent bottling batches. The bottle numbers are real as well. The batch size changed recently with the addition of some new, larger dump tanks. A batch was approximately 6,000 bottles, now it's 30,000.

Whiskey made at the Woodford County distillery began to be included in the product on May 19, 2003. Some of batch 89 contained the pot distilled whiskey but every bottle in batch 90 and beyond has contained the Woodford County, pot distilled whiskey.

Every batch of Woodford Reserve contains at least 25 percent pot distilled whiskey and as much as 75 percent and, of course, corresponding proportions of Jefferson County column distilled whiskey.

The Jefferson County distillery is no longer called Early Times. It is simply the Brown-Forman Distillery, which has the unfortunate initials of BFD.

Both whiskies are more than seven years old. Jefferson County "honey barrels" are selected at about four years and transferred to the rackhouses at Woodford to complete their aging there.

More to come.

10-21-2004, 09:31
Thanks, Chuck. I noted the change (much for the better) on these boards at, if I am not mistaken, precisely batch 90. The change was remarkable and unmistakeable. Kudos for unearthing all this information and to Chris Morris and his team for disclosing it. I look forward to my next issue of the Reader, but then I always look forward to it. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif


10-21-2004, 09:55
Thanks for getting to the bottom of the Woodford Mysteries.
I am intrigued by the 25% plus or minus percent of Pot still. Did you get to taste the barrel proof potstill vs the Jefferson County?
Thanks for getting Rid of the Batch number http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/horseshit.gif thats been stuck in my shoes.

10-21-2004, 11:25

So, can one argue that Woodford has become a blended whiskey?


10-21-2004, 11:52
We tasted barrel proof pot still whiskey as well as new make. The barreled whiskey we tasted by running around the warehouse, looking for barrels of different ages and drilling them to get a sample. Everything we tasted was good except for one sample from, I believe, a 2002 barrel. It wasn't bad but had a strong, oily taste the other samples lacked. Chris and Dave agreed and said they hoped it would "age out." All of the rest were very good but all distinctly different.

The 25 to 75 percent comes from the fact that every batch is created using whiskey from at least four different production dates, and both distilleries must be represented. So a given batch might be 25/75 one way or the other, or 50/50, but never 0/100.

10-21-2004, 11:57
Absolutely not. In fact, many bourbons are mixtures of bourbons produced at more than one distillery, Jim Beam White Label being the perfect example. Read the regs:

"Bourbon whisky" ... is whisky produced at not exceeding 160 proof (etc.)... and also includes mixtures of such whiskies of the same type.

A straight whiskey can be a mixture of straight whiskies, so long as all of the whiskies in the mixture are of the same type (e.g., bourbon) and, for some reason, all produced in the same state. By contrast, a bonded whiskey must be the product of a single distiller, distillery and distilling season.

10-21-2004, 20:49
Thanks, Chuck, for including us on your visit (with your first posting asking for questions) and sharing your findings. I look forward to reading more when I receive my first BOURBON COUNTRY READER.

10-24-2004, 04:19
Thanks for the great info, Chuck! http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/toast.gif

10-24-2004, 08:27
Now I'm really bummed, because that bottle I hated so much evidently falls in the post-pot-still batch numbers. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/banghead.gif

10-24-2004, 08:38
Gary, that just goes to show that pot still whiskey is not the be all and end all of bourbon production, at least not in this case (although I like the effect a lot, just my taste). Also too, Woodford Reserve, pot still or no, has a particular profile and maybe it just doesn't suit your taste preference. We must remember that column stills can be and are operated in bourbon country to produce effects not all that different from a first pot distillation - it is the proof of distillation mainly that matters to the flavour - so not liking this particular contribution of pot still to flavor is neither here nor there.


10-24-2004, 11:13
Gary, that just goes to show that pot still whiskey is not the be all and end all of bourbon production, at least not in this case (although I like the effect a lot, just my taste).

I guess I'm just deeply disappointed because I *REALLY* love the the potstill flavors that Irish whiskey has, so I was expecting WR to shine. If Batch 99 is characteristic of the "good stuff", I just have to resolve it with myself that WR just plain isn't for me. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/frown.gif

10-24-2004, 11:25
Well, I'd try once more, with one of the current batches (anything around 130 or so). In my view the pot still lends a depth, roundness and perfume that are quite unique, especially at relatively young ages. Each batch I have tried is somewhat different, in fact..


10-24-2004, 17:59
I agree, try something later than the 90s. If you search for a 3-way tasting I did with WR, OF100 and OFBB, you'll see that I didn't think too highly of the WR. My impression has changed considerably with the newer batches. I'm also getting a lot of the "violet" floral tones that Gary is tasting. Give it one more try before you write it off forever.

10-25-2004, 12:43
I'm also getting a lot of the "violet" floral tones that Gary is tasting.

That particular note was very apparent in the all-Woodford barrel samples we tasted.

10-28-2004, 12:29
One question that was asked here that I probably won't answer in The Reader is how long the pot stills at Labrot and Graham will last. Chris and Dave kind of brushed off the question with a joke, that they'll surely last until they've both retired and, after that, they don't care. However, an offhand estimate was another 15 years or so. Distillation itself takes a toll, as does the regular caustic rinses that are done to keep the stills clean inside.

10-28-2004, 12:35
Chuck, if the Reader addresses this please don't (honest) reply, but did they explain how they cook the mash without filtering it of its solids? I have visions of a large horizontal propeller in the wash still moving it around so it doesn't stick to the metal and burn up. I mean that only partly in jest since I understand the Scots use chains or something like that to agitate (even) a wash.


10-28-2004, 16:14
The cooker at Woodford isn't any different than the cookers at any other bourbon distillery. They all use a motorized rake to keep the mash agitated so it doesn't solidify. The challenge was how to keep the grain solids from scorching in the first pot still, and for that answer you'll have to wait for The Reader.

10-30-2004, 15:10
I have a standing offer for anyone interested in my newsletter, The Bourbon Country Reader, (http://cowdery.home.netcom.com/page9.html) that if you send me a self-addressed, stamped, #10 envelope I'll send you one free issue. Anyone interested in this whole Woodford Reserve, pot still vs. column still, Versailles vs. Louisville issue might want to take me up on it now, because the whole current issue (now in the mail) is devoted to what I learned on my trip there last week. The address is:

Made and Bottled in Kentucky
PMB 298, 3712 N. Broadway
Chicago, IL 60613-4198

10-30-2004, 16:25
Chuck, this is totally going to sound 'holier than thou', but I'm going to say it anyway: Woodford Reserve has lost my business. I don't care what olive branch they extend at this point, the bottom line is they've screwed around to the point where they really won't win me over without an outstanding product.

First problem: the big "lie" at the distillery tour. A couple who is a good friend of the family did the WR tour two years ago and came away totally believing the stills they saw were producing the bourbon they brought home.

Second problem: what Dave nailed right on the head: the continuously changing flavor profile. I've had three bottles of WR, one was outstanding, one was mediocre, and one even made ginger ale taste bad.

I hate to toot my own horn, but there is a certain crowd who comes to me now and asks what the good bourbons are...and I must confess, WR ain't one of 'em at this point.

They officially no longer get the benefit of my doubt.


10-30-2004, 18:02
Don't get me wrong. I'm not a apologist for Woodford Reserve. As for what's on the tour versus what's in the bottle, I think they may have been disingenuous but not dishonest, and since May of last year there has been a large component of whiskey made there in every bottle. As for the consistency issue, I've found them inconsistent but never worse that mediocre. Their consistency should be better going forward because they've increased the size of their bottling batch and worked the bugs out of mingling the two stocks.

I'm just dispensing information. I'm not disputing your conclusions.

11-13-2004, 21:11
I was interested in this statement by One Cube:

I guess I'm just deeply disappointed because I *REALLY* love the the potstill flavors that Irish whiskey has, so I was expecting WR to shine.

I once read on a scotch website that "pot still" had a different meaning in Ireland than it did in Scotland. In Scotland it referred to the type of still in which the whiskey was made. In Ireland it also referred to whiskey made from both malted and unmalted barley. I can't find that website, but I found this one:

www.potstill.com/irish.html (http://www.potstill.com/irish.html)

It makes this statement: "Traditional potstill Irish whiskey, as in Redbreast 12YO and Green Spot, is made of a mixture of malted and unmalted barley. Cooley`s pot still whiskey, as in Tyrconnell, is single malt distilled in a pot still. Both uses of the term potstill are legally correct."

So maybe what One Cube likes is the flavor profile in Irish whiskey that comes from both malted and unmalted barley distilled in a pot still.

11-15-2004, 20:29
So maybe what One Cube likes is the flavor profile in Irish whiskey that comes from both malted and unmalted barley distilled in a pot still.

Quite possibly. Actually, all I really know about "pot still character" is that I seem to enjoy the Irishes that claim to have lots of it vs. ones that don't (ie. Redbreast, Powers, Jameson 1780).

The reason I was looking forward to potstilled bourbon was I've always understood the potstill to be fairly inefficient vs. a column...so you'll get more of the original grain/wort/mash/whatever flavor. From what I understand though, most modern column stills for bourbonmaking are tuned to closely replicate the potstill results (was it Chuck that said this?)

11-15-2004, 22:24
"Inefficiency" is just a matter of distillation proof and American straight whiskey, by law, has to be distilled at less than 160 proof. With today's technology, the intrinsic differences in the product itself between pot-distilled and column-distilled whiskey are pretty subtle and subjective.

11-16-2004, 01:41
I said it (or was one of us who did). Continuous stills can be adjusted in their operation, e.g. by using reflux or not, to produce a less refined spirit which approximates to one produced in a pot still although there are still differences: some flavoring compounds (collectively called congeners) are not produced in the column still however it is manipulated. I was tasting Woodford again recently and the heavier, more direct character from the pot still is certainly there. In Irish it sometimes is an oilier character than anything from a continuous process but in Woodford it is more a mineral-like taste, I think this is what Randy was noticing as the dry and somewhat bitter elements. This is precisely a robust distillery character, I have noticed it in medium-aged and younger scotch too. The balance is slightly different in some of the Woodfords I have tried but all since batch 90 show this mineral edge and to my mind it adds a lot to the bourbon's character (probably it would change further if allowed to age longer, changing into more fragrant and estery notes, however some of that is there now, the violets some have noticed). By the way while traditional Irish whiskey is pot-stilled (3 times), the term as used in Irish practice also means adding some unmalted barley to the mash. The latter practice is not followed in Scotland. Also, Scotch pot stills are generally much smaller than those in Ireland.