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Woodford Reserve: The Flavor Wheel | Partner Tip

Sometimes it’s tough to tell exactly what type of deliciousness you’re consuming in a fine bourbon.

Sure, Woodford Reserve is beautifully complex and perfectly balanced—not to mention that iconic bottle. But what precisely are you tasting?


The master distiller in Kentucky might say it’s one of two hundred flavors. He’d point to five elements on his flavor wheel: grain, wood, spice, fruity/floral and sweet aromatics. Here’s a sneak peek at what he talks about when he’s sipping his bourbon on the rocks:

“Grain” refers to the mash itself. Corn, rye and malted barley lend the spirit its earthy base notes, which might include cereal or mushrooms.

“Wood” is the white oak barrel—and the maturation time—that makes the spirit qualify as bourbon. Barrels are crafted at a cooperage, and then carefully charred. This lends each sip elements of oak, cedar, pine, almonds, walnuts and butter.

“Spice” is contributed by the yeast, distillation still, mash bill and barrel. You might taste black pepper and nutmeg, clove and cinnamon, even mint, licorice, coffee, tobacco or leather.

“Fruit and Floral” is the result of the limestone-filtered water, plus the yeast, mash bill, still and barrel. This is where overtones of apples, pears, figs, raisins, citrus and even bananas emerge in the finished spirit.

As for “sweet aromatics,” you’ve got that gorgeous white oak barrel to thank. Here are bourbon’s classic top notes: vanilla, caramel, honey, butterscotch, chocolate and maple syrup.

Thirsty yet?

If you think you’ve mastered Woodford Reserve trivia, take this bourbon quiz and maybe win a trip to Kentucky to see the distillery—or just tag your cocktails and on the rocks shots with #woodfordreserve.

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