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.