Woodford Reserve’s Distiller’s Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon is quite a mouthful… in so many ways. For starters, you can order it by its full name but the bartender knew what you wanted when you finished saying “Woodford.” And then there’s the rich, bold nose and smooth taste. It’s a standard that you really should try if you haven’t already.
Woodford was the beginning of my bourbon journey and it is still one of my favorites. So much so that I’ve visited the distillery in Versailles, KY just outside Lexington. The giant kettles are so unique and are a sight to behold even if you don’t drink bourbon. Enjoy the gift shop. I know I did.. I got a bar mat for home as well as a bottle of their bitters. Heck, I wish I had bought more in their store. You get the idea.. I like their bourbon and I love their distillery. Go if you get the chance.
Even if you can’t go visit in person, their distillery will effect you in your own home when you open a rich, golden bottle and pour some for yourself. If you try it neat, be prepared for the initial nose which is strong but inviting. I love the smell. Woody. Nutty. Sweet. It has the kind of aroma you want on a cold day or when relaxing in a cozy room. I usually add a few drops of water to take the nose even further. I’m sure I’ve seen my wife laughing at me as I just sit with my nose in the glass for far too long.
When you take a break from smelling it, be sure to taste it (and then smell it again). I find it has a smooth, slightly viscus mouth feel which leaves no doubt you have a subtly sweet bourbon rather than some harsh whiskey. Though it initially feels stronger than it’s 90.4 proof would imply, it drys out and leaves a sweet candy finish which often reminds me of the barrels I saw at the distillery. I don’t normally include toffee in my tasting notes since its so prevalent in bourbon reviews, but I sure get it with Woodford. This is often my dessert, so I guess I can compare it to toffee.
If you like your manhattan slightly sweet and thick, then Woodford is an ideal choice. It pairs perfectly with Woodford’s cherry bitters for a fruity, rich experience that lingers well. The aromas aren’t overpowered and only enhance the flavors. When I first started making manhattans for myself, I naturally started with the Woodford I love. I still make Woodford manhattans but now I find Woodford isn’t my go-to unless it truly is for dessert. Like many bourbons, Woodford is on the sweet end of the scale and the resulting manhattans just enhance the sugars. I’m not saying it’s anything but great, but I’ve grown to enjoy a slightly less-sweet rye manhattan.
I’m sure you can tell how much I like Woodford but I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I tend to buy it in the larger 1.75 L bottles because its cheaper that way. I’m going to drink it so why not get the best price? Its the equivalent of just over two of the regular 750ml bottles, so the 1.75 L tends to be a really good deal even if it makes me look a little like a drunkard. For me, it’s the same as buying the 750ml for about $26 at Binny’s pricing. What a steal at that price! If I do buy the smaller bottle, I try and get it on sale in the $30-33 range which is perfectly reasonable for a consistently strong bourbon.
Woodford is one of the absolute best, most consistent bourbons you will find. It’s easy to find on the shelf both at your local liquor store as well as your favorite restaurant. It’s top shelf without a stratospheric price. Enjoy it neat or as a sweeter manhattan.
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