On Monday I reviewed an unusual rum finished in an Islay cask and on Wednesday a regulation Irish whiskey. And here now is a bourbon to close out “not-single malt whisky” week.
It’s something I’ve never had before: a 2021 release of Woodford Reserve’s so-called Masters Collection, released at batch proof. I say “a 2021 release” because even though this is—I think—an annual release, there seem to have been two put out in 2021 at different strengths. I’ve seen an allusion to this one perhaps having been a Costco exclusive but I cannot confirm this. If you know more about this, please write in below. I’m sure this was a disappointment to some/many bourbon drinkers for being bottled at less than 60% abv but I have to say I am a big fan of not putting out whiskey at ludicrous strengths. Anyway, let’s see what this is like.
Woodford Reserve Batch Proof, Masters Collection, 2021 Release (59.9%; from a bottle split)
Nose: A rich mix of caramel, maple syrup and toffee up top with some dried orange peel, pine and black tea coming up from below. With time there’s more of the black tea (over-steeped Darjeeling to be specific) and the pine gets mixed with an herbal note (somewhere between dill and sage). A squirt of water softens it nicely, bringing out more of the caramel and pulling out richer fruit to go with it: cherry, apricot. Some leather too now.
Palate: Comes in as predicted by the nose but gets brighter and more acidic as I swallow. Hot but approachable at full strength with a rich texture. More spice with each sip (cinnamon, clove) and also more oak. Sweeter with time. Okay, let’s add some water. Ah yes, much better here too now: the oak gets pushed back and the whole is better integrated
Finish: Long. The brighter, acidic notes carry through here and then it turns a bit cough syrupy at the end with some corn syrup showing up as well. With water the cough syrup notes disappear and the whole becomes richer and darker. With more time the rye becomes more apparent as it gets both spicier and more herbal.
Comments: Well, this didn’t get me going very much at first but time and especially water really helped it blossom. I know it’s going to be heresy for the bourbon boys but I think this really needs to be taken down below 55% to show its best, most complex self. Still, as much as I ended up liking it, I can’t imagine I’d find it a good value at the price asked for it.
Rating: 88 points. (Pulled up by water.)