Thursday 15 November 2012

Shirt Bar Scotch Club - Woodford Reserve (November 2012)

Scotch Club at Shirt Bar - a brilliant concept where every month or so, a bunch of like-minded spirits fans get together to taste dark spirits (usually Scotch, but occasionally rum, Australian whisky, or in the case of this Scotch Club - Bourbon whiskey). Usually led by a Brand Ambassador or the distillers themselves, they're informative sessions where attendees get to not only taste some top-shelf and often rare spirits, but also learn the inner secrets of distillation, and sometimes taste the product during its lifecycle (and then soak it all up with a pies, quiches, and a generous platter of breads/cheeses/olives and dips!).

Woodford Reserve was this month's focus, led by spirits guru and Brown Forman / Woodford Reserve Brand Ambassador Stuart.

Walking in and seeing only three empty seats (ours - apologies to Adam and Stuart for being late!), it was clear this was going to be a popular Scotch Club. It wasn't hard to see why either - with a  set of 6 tasting glasses in front of every seat, AND a 50mL take-home WR Distiller's Select for everyone.

Bourbon fans would probably be familiar with the regular WR (Distiller's Select), but rest of the range is rarely seen in Australia (typically limited to specialist shops like World of Whisky in Double Bay), so it was a treat to not only try 4 of the rarer releases, but also some fresh-off-the-still new make (aka "White Dog").

All up, we tasted:
  • Woodford Reserve new make ("White Dog")
  • Woodford Reserve Distiller's Select
  • Woodford Reserve Master's Collection Seasoned Oak Finish
  • Woodford Reserve Master's Collection Maple Wood Finish
  • Woodford Reserve Master's Collection Aged Cask Rye 
  • Woodford Reserve Master's Collection New Cask Rye

Woodford Reserve new make ("White Dog")
If you've tried new make before, you'll probably know what I'm about to say. A pure expression of the ingredients that go into the basic "spirit" (it's not a bourbon yet at this point), new make is crystal-clear and comes fresh off the still, before being placed into barrels for aging. It's potent, has a somewhat ethanol scent, and usually pretty rough (although in this case, surprisingly smooth). You wouldn't want to drink it every day, but it's worth trying at least once.

Woodford Reserve Distiller's Select (46.2% ABV)
It's amazing what 7 years of sitting in a barrel can do. Smooth, honey notes replace the harsh, raw taste of the new make. This is something you can easily drink every day.

Woodford Reserve Master's Collection Seasoned Oak Finish (50.2% ABV)
Woodford Reserve Master's Collection Maple Wood Finish (50.2% ABV)
Woodford talk about the "5 sources of flavour" (grain, water, fermentation, distillation, and maturation) and change just one of these for each of their MC releases. For these two  it's the maturation - aged for an extra 2 years (total 9 years), and in seasoned oak and maple wood barrels respectively. The Seasoned Oak has a deep mahogany colour and spice comes through clearly in both nosing and tasting, whereas the Maple Wood (to me at least) had strong leather characteristics. Both brilliant bourbons you could happily sip and savour all night long.

Aged Cask - you can see
how light it is due to being
aged in used barrels.
Woodford Reserve Master's Collection Aged Cask Rye (46.2% ABV)
Woodford Reserve Master's Collection New Cask Rye (46.2% ABV)
These were interesting - sold as a pack of 2 x 350mL bottles, these 100% rye whiskies only differ by the type of cask they're aged in. Hearing "100% rye" I was expecting something pretty overpowering, but was surprised at just how drinkable these were neat (at around $250AUD/pack, you probably wouldn't be mixing too many cocktails with them...). Smooth, rounded, and with none of that harsh bite you can get with some ryes. Opinions around the room were pretty evenly split as to the preferred rye - for me it was the Aged Cask.

Before finishing the night we were given a few interesting facts about Woodford Reserve, including:
  • ABVs all end in 0.2% (see above)
  • WR actually make their own barrels; and
  • Barrels are stored in temperature-controlled warehouses, which are purposely heated and cooled during the aging process.
All up a fantastic combination of great whiskey, great food and great conversation. I highly recommend checking out both Woodford Reserve and the next Scotch Club if you haven't yet!

 - Martin.

PS: Google also tells me Australia is shortly getting the next MC release - "Four Wood". Can't wait to try it!

No comments:

Post a Comment