How do you make an already excellent Bourbon better? According to Chris Morris, the master distiller at Brown-Forman’s Woodford Reserve Distillery, “You double the maturation. You double the wood exposure.” And that’s the concept behind Woodford’s new Double Oaked brand extension.
Except that the full story is a little more complex than that.
Instead of simply adding time to the process, Woodford has used an innovative maturation that uses two different sets of barrels that have undergone a pair of distinct charring processes.
The initial aging is done in barrels treated the same as standard Woodford Reserve. The second maturation is performed in casks that have been fired in what is essentially a reciprocal method as the first.
By law, all barrels used to age Bourbon are charred. That treatment, however, is actually a two-step process in which the casks are first toasted (heated near the flame). Morris says this creates “vanilla character, hints of honey and creamy notes.” The second (charring) “actually burns and caramelizes oak sugar, chocolate, butterscotch, maple syrup, really rich notes.”
Brown-Forman makes its casks in its own cooperage. The casks for its standard Woodford Reserve are lightly toasted and deeply charred. For the second maturation the company has created barrels that are custom-crafted with a deeper toasting, but a lighter charring because, explains Morris, “we don’t want those big, bold char notes, we want those delicate toast notes to shine through.”
The new Bourbon, which will be released in March, is more a complex version of the already flavorful standard Woodford, which is made from a rye-rich mashbill (72 percent corn, 18 percent rye and 10 percent barley) in a succession of three pot stills.
Added are the honey and
toast notes of which the distiller speaks, plus darker fruits and
interesting spices. The new Bourbon is also a very willing partner for a
Woodford Reserve Double Oaked (90.4 proof or 45.2 percent alcohol, $49.99)
APPEARANCE: Very dark amber with slow, thick legs.
NOSE: Maple and toast come straight through, followed by almonds, orange peel and honey suckle.
PALATE: Starts with bread dough notes and immediately gets a second wind of caramel, maple and olive oil. Then come black tea, fruits and honey, and finally some vanilla and a distinct spiciness.
FINISH: At the long back end is more toast and bread dough, plus wood and a sweet apple note.
CIGAR PAIRING: We smoked a succession of full-bodied cigars with this and found the lighter of the three, a Romeo & Julieta Short Churchill, to be optimal. The respective bodies matched well, and the Bourbon brought out almonds and cedar on the cigar. The smoke returned the flavor by imparting a bit more zip on the Woodford.