It’s sort of astonishing that four simple ingredients—corn, rye, yeast and barley—can mingle with crystal-clear Kentucky water to create a sophisticated sip like Woodford Reserve bourbon.
Perhaps it’s the fact that—in addition to comprising 72-percent corn and 10-percent malted barley—Woodford packs a full 18-percent rye into its grain recipe. This is incredibly high by industry standards, and lends the resulting spirit a spicy—but still perfectly balanced—character that appeals to bourbon and rye lovers alike.
Woodford Reserve’s birthplace is Versailles, Kentucky, at a distillery where bourbon was made by industry pioneers in the early 19th century. Mineral-rich, limestone-filtered water is key to the process, as is the length of the fermentation itself. That fermentation process is among the most substantial in the industry, and creates an incredible complexity and depth of flavor.
After fermentation, the bourbon, which includes both pot still and column still distillate (which is also a rarity), is poured into Woodford Reserve white oak barrels that have been made from scratch and carefully charred. The white oak lends notes of marshmallow, molasses, and maple, along with caramel and butterscotch aspects.
At the Woodford Reserve Distillery, the barrels then take a 500-foot-long roll down a gravity-fed barrel run to a storage space. They mature to taste under careful supervision by a master distiller, while a steam-driven heater fluctuates the temperature to produce hot and cold cycles. Finally, the master distiller taps barrels to ensure the bourbon is bottled at peak flavor.
It’s a level of craftsmanship that’s fun to ponder—while enjoying a glass of it on the rocks, of course.