The Start of Maple Finish

My hunt for a bottle of Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Maple Wood Finish ended last week, but it began a year and a half ago when I tasted it for the first time.

In what is still the best tasting I have ever participated in I sampled every edition to date of the Master’s Collection, seven years worth, at the Woodford Reserve Distillery in October 2012.

My favorites of the whiskeys that day: Sonoma Cutrer Finish and Maple Finish, the fifth in the series released in 2010.

Good luck finding a bottle of the Sonoma Cutrer Finish (A friend with two bottles offered to sell me one for the low “friend” price of $2,000). I did, after a little searching on the interwebs, find a bottle of the Maple Finish for sale online at The Whisky Exchange for the reasonable price of  £92.

So in December I bought the bottle. That was the easy part. There were, however, a few more steps before it came home to me. The Whisky Exchange, a great store filled with many bottles, is based in the UK. I live in New York. So I had the bottle shipped to my friend who lives in London. She then passed the bottle along to someone coming to Orlando where I was last week. I really wanted this bottle.

That was great on its own. What was even better was what came next. Over the weekend I returned to Kentucky to visit beautiful Woodford Reserve Distillery where Master Distiller Chris Morris lead another tasting that, at my request, included the Maple Finish.

Chris Morris even signed my well-traveled bottle for me. Its journey took it from Kentucky to the UK to Orlando back to Kentucky and finally (maple) finished in New York.

The best part of the story: I still really like the Maple Finish.

Now to empty the bottle. I’ll figure out a way how.

Woodford Reserve releases The Double Malt Selections

Brown-Forman this month released its latest Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection, The Double Malt Selections - Straight Malt Whiskey and Classic Malt, the first fully matured whiskeys crafted from malt in Kentucky since Prohibition.

Before the unique malts hit stores across the US this month I sat down with the man responsible for the limited edition whiskeys, Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Chris Morris.

Uniquely triple distilled in Woodford Reserve’s copper pot stills, the Straight Malt Whiskey and Classic Malt are two separate individually numbered 750ml bottles presented at 90.4 proof.

Globally, whiskey is presented in a wide range of flavor profiles, often described as either Old World or New World in style. Old World whiskys (Scotch, Irish, etc.) typically have a grain-focused flavor profile, and those of the New World (Bourbon, Tennessee, etc.) highlight the impact of new-oak cask maturation.

The Double Malt Selection affords the rare opportunity for a side-by-side barrel style comparison, says Morris.

While the single malt Scotch category has grown more than 30% since 2005, according to Impact Databank, Morris says Woodford Reserve did not create its malts to take advantage of changing market tastes.

“The malt whiskeys that we are releasing for the Master’s Collection this month in the US were created many years ago. They are part of our exploration about the five sources of flavor. It has nothing to do with the actual marketplace. It was us seeking to understand whiskey production and make Woodford Reserve the distillery of innovation in North America,” said Morris last month.

“It just so happens that the world changes to single malt after we have begun these explorations. So we are fortunate that we have made two malt whiskeys that are just now nine years later coming to maturity. Here they are and we are very excited.”

The five sources of flavor are water, grain, fermentation, distillation, and maturation.

Although the Double Malt Selections have no corn or rye in them like traditional Woodford Reserve, Morris says the newest Master’s Collection whiskeys still maintain some “Woodford Reserveness.”

“We made one recipe of one hundred percent malted barley, no smoke. No corn. No rye. All malt. We put some of the spirit in new charred Woodford Reserve barrels to explore how it interacts with the new barrel and we some of the spirit in used Woodford Reserve barrels, or seasoned as the Scots would say. And they are dramatically different,” he says.

“The used aged barrel malt - the Classic Malt - is unbelievably different. It is a whole new flavor profile. It is amazing. I’m a big fan of Scottish shortbread cookies and lemon custard. It is like a combination of the two. It is sweet, velvety, soft, creamy. The Straight Malt does have some resemblance to Woodford Reserve. It is very dark and rich in color. But still you are missing the spice of the rye. It has this nutty malt character.”

The Double Malt Selections mark the eighth release in the Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection series following Four Grain, Sonoma-Cutrer Finish, Sweet Mash, Seasoned Oak, Maple Wood Finish, Rare Rye and Four Wood offerings. Released periodically at the master distiller’s discretion, the Master’s Collection whiskeys are extremely limited in quantity and bottled only once.

The Double Malt Selections will only be available for a short while, but Morris has not ruled out Woodford Reserve coming out with a different version of malts in the future. Double Oaked, now a permanent part of the Woodford Reserve portfolio, came out of previous Master’s Collection release the Seasoned Oak finish.

“I would expect the Master’s Collection will really open some eyes and draw the interest of some malt whiskey drinkers who may not have sampled a whiskey from Kentucky. We’ll see where that leads,” he says. “If Four Grain, Four Wood, Maple Wood, and Seasoned Oak were eye openers, this certainly is. We can do very innovative things.”

The Double Malt Selections will be sold throughout the United States with limited quantities available in Canada, the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Sweden, Spain, Germany, New Zealand, Australia and in various Duty Free markets at a suggested retail price of $99.99 per bottle.

When vodka just won’t do

Two things and then some other things.

1. I really like Bloody Marys. 

2. I am 99% sure I am allergic to vodka.

Number two often ruins number one for me. There are some easy ways around it. I could substitute in gin. Or I could tolerate the hives the vodka will likely give me. Or I can just add some whiskey. Or rather have a master add the whiskey for me. This is the best solution.

I have met Markku Raittinen, Finlandia Vodka’s Master Taster, many times over the past few years as he has manned Brown Forman’s bar at booths at trade shows around the world. It is an established fact that he makes one of the world’s best Bloody Marys. My allergy in the past has stopped me from forming my own opinion. Last month in Cannes I wanted in, but sans vodka.

Besides Finlandia Vodka, Brown Forman’s spirits portfolio most famously features Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey. But it also includes my favorite  bottle on its bar: Woodford Reserve Bourbon. 

Markku Raittinen solved my Bloody Mary numbers problem and created a fantastic new drink in the process.

1. I love Bloody Marys.

2. I love Woodford Reserve.

3. I love Woodford Reserve Bloody Marys.

While I was the first to sample the new concoction (a few times for scientific reasons) the Bloody Mary created with Woodford Reserve then became an actual real thing drank and enjoyed by others.

There are even rumors that since Woodford Reserve is the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby the Woodford Reserve Bloody Mary will be served at Churchill Downs at next year’s race. Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Chris Morris named the new drink with its creator and destination in mind. Ladies and gentlemen, the Woodford Finnish Line.

Here is all you need to make the Woodford Finnish Line at home.

1. A glass

2. Woodford Reserve

3. Markku Raittinen

Good luck!

Inaugural #CakeandWhiskeyClub at Homegrown Cafe in #Chicago with #YellowRoseDistilling

Inaugural #CakeandWhiskeyClub at Homegrown Cafe in #Chicago with #YellowRoseDistilling

#Glenfiddich Malt Master Brian Kinsman leads a tasting of his new Cask Collection #Scotch #Whisky in #Cannes.

#Glenfiddich Malt Master Brian Kinsman leads a tasting of his new Cask Collection #Scotch #Whisky in #Cannes.

#WoodfordReserve Master Distiller Chris Morris conducted a private wood-themed #whiskey tasting in #Cannes featuring #JackDaniels Sinatra Select, Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, and Woodford Reserve Four Wood.

#WoodfordReserve Master Distiller Chris Morris conducted a private wood-themed #whiskey tasting in #Cannes featuring #JackDaniels Sinatra Select, Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, and Woodford Reserve Four Wood.

#WoodfordReserve Master Distiller Chris Morris raises a dram with #WhyteandMacKay Master Blender Richard Paterson in #Cannes

#WoodfordReserve Master Distiller Chris Morris raises a dram with #WhyteandMacKay Master Blender Richard Paterson in #Cannes

"What you are drinking now is something very precious." - David Cox, Director of Fine & Rare Whiskies, The Macallan about 62YO #Macallan Limited Edition in Lalique Decanter

"What you are drinking now is something very precious." - David Cox, Director of Fine & Rare Whiskies, The Macallan about 62YO #Macallan Limited Edition in Lalique Decanter

#Glenfiddich Cask Collection Single Malt #Scotch #Whisky  #Cannes

#Glenfiddich Cask Collection Single Malt #Scotch #Whisky #Cannes

#Glenfiddich Cask Collection #Cannes

#Glenfiddich Cask Collection #Cannes