Springtime in Kentucky is best known for the sound of hooves thundering down the last furlong at Churchill Downs as this year’s three year old thoroughbred’s speed toward the finish line in the Kentucky Derby. In the case of Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, Kentucky this time of year also means the annual Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection is coming out and this year is no exception. First introduced last year, the Master’s Collection Batch Proof Bourbon is making a return.
What Does ‘Batch Proof’ Mean?
As is often the case with distilled spirits there are many standard terms as defined by the TTB and then there are the terms that each distillery calls their own. Such is the case with Batch Proof. Woodford Reserve’s Master’s Collection introduced the world to Batch Proof in 2018 and with this 2019 release announced it would be an annual release.
Want it on the go? Listen to or download the Podcast of Master Distiller Chris Morris and Assistant Distiller Elizabeth McCalls introduction of Batch Proof here.
Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Chris Morris explains, “We launched Woodford Reserve in 1996…and from day one this has been a batched bourbon. There is no single barrel of Woodford Reserve. Every barrel of Woodford Reserve tastes different. To build a consistent product we have to batch barrels from different production dates, different ages, and different proof points to build the consistent flavor we know as Woodford Reserve. In those early years it was difficult our first batch was five barrels. We rose to 15, 25, 35, 50, 75, 85 and now 100 barrels to go into a batch to give us this great consistent product that we’re enjoying today. And we’ve always bottled at 90.4 proof.”
“Along the way these last few years Assistant Master Distiller Elizabeth McCall and I have sat down with personal selection customers and we’re tasting barrels and batching barrels together for the personal selection program at barrel strengthand any number of people have asked, ‘Can I have it at that proof?’ and the answer is ‘No, you can’t.’ But, you hear enough of this ‘can we have it at that proof’ that it tells you there’s a market, there’s a need for a batch proof product. And we have not only been the first expression, the first bourbon to use the term batch proof as our moniker we have now had two releases of Batch Proof of Woodford Reserve.”
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“We don’t want to be just a barrel strength,” said McCall. “Everybody can say here’s what we dumped our batch at or here’s what our barrel strength is. Everybody had this cask strength or barrel proof. But Batch Proof, what does that mean? That’s a totally new term. It’s not a barrel proof, it’s not just one barrel it’s the batching of 100 barrels coming together and then also using rinse water in that process. When we dump a batch of Woodford Reserve and we have our barrels that are ready to go into a batch, we dump them and then we add rinse water to them. So that is what we consider our bulk whiskey it’s before it becomes Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select Bourbon. That’s a big piece of it because (at this point) the barrels that make up a batch of Woodford Select Distiller’s Select Bourbon, it does not have the same flavor profile. Because Woodford Reserve tastes at that balanced flavor profile when you cut it down to that 90.4 proof point. This 2019 release at 123.2 proof is pretty high up there compared that 90.4 so it’s going to be shifted in flavor.”
“Whenever I taste Woodford Reserve straight out of the barrel it’s always going to be bigger on your spice notes. The sweet aromatics are going to be your rich chocolates and some of those caramels coming through nicely and then your fruit notes are going to be very prominent and then the water is what brings out some of those floral and more delicate taste notes.”
Batch Proof is crafted using the same grain bill and process as Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon. Morris said all Woodford Reserve is batched with 100 barrels. The only difference with Barrel Proof is it stays at whatever proof the batch lands at and is not cut down to 90.4 proof for which Woodford is known.
“Most people do not get to experience the intensity of the aromas and the smoothness of the whiskey at a higher proof point. With this innovative release, whiskey lovers will have the chance to taste Woodford Reserve the way the masters taste it,” Morris said.
Tasting Notes for Master’s Collection Batch Proof
These tasting notes were provided by Woodford Reserve Distiller Master Distiller Chris Morris and Assistant Master Distiller Elizabeth McCall.
Color: Deep Coffee Amber.
Aroma: Rich oak, overripe banana and marzipan, with hints of orange oil dusted graham cracker and dried cherry.
Taste: Dried apricot drizzled with rich dark chocolate layered over toasted hazelnuts and coffee with faint flavors of cinnamon and clove.
Finish: A long finish of spearmint and sweet cedar wood.
This limited-edition collection 2019 Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Batch Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon whiskey is available now in selected U.S. and global markets. The 2019 Barrel Proof is bottled at 123.2° proof (61.6% ABV) and has suggested retail price of $129.99 for a 750mL bottle.
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