Enjoying Scotch Whisky and a few other things


Woodford Reserve

Woodford Reserve & Bushmills Malt 10yr., how a Kentucky Bourbon produces an Irish Whiskey

If you read my account of going to the Woodford Reserve Distillery in Kentucky then you know where this story gets its influence. Our tour guide told us of a recent vacation he took to Ireland. I believe he also toured Scotland but he imparted a story about seeing his familiar Woodford Reserve barrels being re-purposed at the Old Bushmills Distillery. He knew that the barrels that Woodford emptied were resold to Ireland and Scotland distilleries to mature whiskies and now he had seen with his own eyes! Well his experience stuck in my head, and I thought, why not try some Bushmills product that is aged in bourbon casks and see if I can taste some similarities. The Bushmills Malt 10yr. is a product of two barrels, first a sherry cask and then most of the time is spent in a previously used cask from a bourbon distillery.

Ok, so after shoveling down some Sushi I picked up at Harris Teeter I set out my tasting table. Into two glasses went about an ounce of each whiskey, one of Woodford Reserve Bourbon and one of Bushmills Malt 10yr. At the onset you can see that Woodford has a deep amber appearance and the Bushmills has a much lighter amber appearance. I then nosed the Woodford and my nose exploded with flavors! I wrote down vanilla, leather, and butterscotch. Then I wrote down Yummy!!! Yes I realize that yummy is not something a professional reviewer would write down in a review but then I have the luxury of not holding that title. But seriously, the aroma alone of Woodford is something special! Then I nosed the Bushmills, and then again, and again, come on!! Unlike the Woodford, I had to seriously NOSE this glass. It was almost like it didn’t want to play. The best I could get out of it was some hints of liquorice. Which confused me.

Before tasting I added a very small amount of amount of VOSS water to each one and nosed them again. I was beginning to think this was going to be a failed experiment, but then it happened. The stubborn Bushmills came alive with the introduction of water and suddenly the same butterscotch I smelled in the Woodford was present in the Bushmills along with some honey. The Woodford on the other hand dropped a couple of aromas after the water was introduced but some wood flavor came through. All of a sudden I was taken back to the moment I walked into the warehouse at Woodford Reserve. That, as I wrote earlier, was an amazing olfactory event.

Now I have tasted Woodford many times before but I tried to pay closer attention to this tasting. The flavors were incredibly complex, and wonderful. I wrote down, full butterscotch! I could not help but write, “this is a gentleman’s drink.”

I looked at the Bushmills and said, you got a lot to live up to! Knowing that the Bushmills would not approach the Woodford I lowered my expectations. Fortunately I was very pleased to have the same butterscotch, though somewhat reduced, come across my palette. I found this ten year malt to be very well mannered and smooth. You could almost call the ten year malt, Woodford “light.”

Alas! I have found what I was looking for! These two whiskies have amazing similarities thanks to a very well fashioned and prepared barrel from Woodford Reserve Distillery.

But this story doesn’t end, well for now it does. I tasted another Bushmills product after these two called “Black Bush.” Would it taste different?


Woodford pics

My boot, the store and the main production building.

My personalized bottle

Woodford Reserve Distillery

Recently I spent some time in Bourbon Country, USA. That would be Lexington, KY. Unfortunately I did not have much free time but did get to one distillery that I truly admire. The trip to Labrot & Graham’s Woodford Distillery in itself is a delight. The winding hills and roads back through horse farms (yep, Lexington is the horse capital of the USA also) was enjoyable. As my motorola Droid was guiding me, I started to wonder if there really was a distillery on this road? Yep, there it was! I pulled in hoping to catch the last tour of the day and was surprised when I was actually in time to the second to last tour. The people working at the visitors center were very cordial and relaxed (and sober I think). We had a wonderful guide who had been working there since he retired a few years back. The first thing he wanted to make perfectly clear was a) we make one product here only, Woodford Reserve Bourbon, and b) there will be NO flash cameras allowed in the distillery (BOOM!). We got the point.

So if you did not know, all bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon. There are only five ingredients allowed in bourbon (at least 51% Corn, Rye, malted Barley, Water and Yeast). No flavorings, no colors added, nothing can be added (period!) “.”
The first building we went into was where all the ingredients went into a massive vat where the “mash” begins to brew or ferment, and grow (its living!). The room has a distinct, overwhelming, smell to it due to the air is highly concentrated with carbon dioxide. Next it is pumped into the copper still pots (they are massive) that are made in Scotland. Here the distillation begins, Woodford is the only current distillery that uses a three copper pot system to distill their product. After it has moved through each of them then it is off to a newly charred wood barrel made at a company owned by Woodford’s parent company that has been exposed to heat and then fire. The insides are charred quite well which seems to be the secret to making good bourbon.
After filling, these barrels are rolled, by hand, into a very rustic warehouse next door. Walking through the door of this facility was an olfactory event. I can’t describe it but lets just say it was magical. It was there we met Elijah the cat. He was the rodent control officer and perhaps the happiest cat I’ve ever seen. So after a 7 to 9 year period, these barrels are ready for bottling. As part of the tour a barrel was open and some product was poured out of the cask into a glass which was a magical event also. As the tour guide explained, the alcohol content was much too high and would have to be cut with water to satisfy Federal requirements (them revenuers!).
So me being the opportunistic person (and son of a bootlegger no less), I was the closest person to the tour guide and just happened to notice he spilled quite a bit on the glass as he poured it. If I could have yanked that glass out of that gentleman’s hand without any witnesses, well, you know…. Anyhow, he passed the glass to me first to “smell only” and pass around. This I did obligingly. The next thing I know, I was surreptitiously moving my hands with the freshly spilled product on them towards my mouth! I had a grin on me like a raccoon on friday night! Anyhow, I really enjoyed that part.
So then our fun came to an end as we made our way back up the hill towards the visitors center for our “free” tasting. I was setting at a table with a few people who weren’t exactly appreciative of whiskey “straight” so they passed me their samples. I’m sure God has reserved a special place in heaven for them. Anyhow, I got to keep their shot glasses (acrylic) also, small pleasures.
And yes, they do have a gift shop! I hope to go back, I will take my film camera with no flash next time. And I will set out for the other distillers also.

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Enjoying Scotch Whisky and a few other things

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