Woodford Reserve Bourbon

Update 9/7/2015: I’ve revisited this review. Click here for an updated review for 2015!

Woodford Reserve, made by Brown-Forman in Kentucky, is Kentucky Straight Bourbon. It’s somewhat unlike other bourbons, in that it contains some percentage of whiskey made in copper pot stills and triple-distilled – in the Irish style of whiskeys such as Redbreast. Unlike Redbreast, Woodford Reserve uses a mash of corn, rye, and malted barley, and also re-uses some of each run’s fermented mash in the next batch – a tradition called “sour mashing”. This pot-still whiskey is combined with column-still whiskey and aged in new toasted oak barrels for between four and six years. It is bottled at 90.4 proof (45.2% ABV).

I’m still working my way through a pile of American whiskey samples. I had heard good things about Woodford Reserve, and was looking forward to this miniature. Unfortunately, my sample may have come from an overly sulfur-influenced batch, as I detected an unpleasant “rotting banana” note in the aroma. I intend to seek out another taste of this whiskey, and I will update this post when I do. That said, here are my notes:

Nose: Banana, charcoal, a bit sulfured? Green grass in a compost bin. Water intensifies the “rotting fruit” note.

Palate: Fruity, with a silky mouthfeel and dominant notes of chocolate-covered banana, creamy vanilla pudding, young green oak. Thankfully the sulfur does not intrude. The grain alcohol is milder and more mature than in cheaper bourbons. A few drops of water doesn’t alter the apparent flavors for me.

Finish: Smooth and medium-length. More wood char and oak tannin, fading vanilla bean.

While this is quite a decent sip, there is nothing outstanding about it to recommend it. Mild and smooth, oaky and with that familiar bourbon barrel-char and brown sugar flavors… it still doesn’t inspire me to drink more. I’m also not crazy about the nose – too composty for me. Maybe it’s the sulfur?

Woodford Reserve Bourbon
45.2% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $25 - $30
Acquired: (50 ml sample) Purchased.

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  • To me, Woodford Reserve is “ok”. I don’t know if that translates into your “mediocre”. The good thing about Woodford Reserve that it is one of the more widely distributed bourbons and it is better than Jim Beam White or Jack Daniels. However, at your average bar, restaurant or airport, chances are I’m going to be going for WT 101. Most bars won’t carry the really splendid bourbons.

  • Every mini or half-pint of Woodford I’ve had tastes “off.” No idea why, but if you get it from a 750 or larger, it’s a different experience.

    I’ve tried about 4-5 “small” bottles, and they’ve all been downers. I’ve had it from a handful of full-sized bottles and been reasonably pleased (don’t love it, but it’s better than Mediocre)

  • I recently purchest my first 750ml bottle of the Woodford and was quickly taken aback after my first taste. I found this burbon to be quite lovely! Big oak and spice notes on the nose, with beautiful vanilla and caramel on the palette. I also found the nose of this burbon misleading, in that it is bigger than it’s bit, the smoothness was surprising . In all in I found the the Woodford to be a very nice burbon at the $30 dollar range. The Woodford has definitely found a home in my scotch and whiskey collection.

    • Hi Jake, Thanks for the comment. I’m glad you enjoyed Woodford Reserve! I think everyone’s tastes vary considerably when it comes to whisk(e)y, and even though I didn’t like it, it’s an interesting product and has a lot of devoted fans. Also, I tried a 50 ml sample bottle (miniature) of it. I’ve noticed recently that a few whiskies (specifically bourbons) that I’ve tried as miniatures and disliked were surprisingly good when I tried them from a full bottle. I’ll make an effort to re-taste Woodford Reserve from a full bottle at the next opportunity.

  • the only thing i have to say about this particular bourbon is….. buy it…… theres none like it….. you will not be even close.. to disappointment, in fact its the farthest thing from it.. your will be in love.

  • Very good stuff, in my opinion, almost as good as you can get for less that $30 a bottle (750ml). It is very hard to decribe the taste, but it is definitely sweet, thick and fruity, though enough oak comes through to balance. My first glass was enough to send an e-mail to the company (something I never did before or since) saying what a great job they had done with their whiskey.

  • I discovered woodford reserve and like it vary well , vary smoth , I live in Gila New Mexico and most of my friends drink Jim been , but now they have set the Jim Been aside . We just wish that it came in a bigger botle .

  • The flavor is, for me, superb!. Have been drinking is for several years now, but I am finding that the more popular WR becomes the higher the price. This is to be expected. However, there is a value to flavor ratio and really I pray upward that it does not out price its value. If it does….. well, then wouldn’t it be horrible to have to find another “new” beautiful little bourbon to sip. Reminds me of when I found WR. Slainte

  • I purchased a bottle of this when I turned 30 (December 2007), and while it had a wonderful vanilla nose, and a thick syrup-like palate, I found it hard to like. What I found most satisfying was to pour a small glass and just let it sit; you could smell the vanilla from across the room. In the end it took nearly four years for me to finish (November 2011), and I used the last quarter of the bottle to make batches of bbq sauce for pulled pork recipes.

  • From the drinks in common we’ve had, I have agreed with all of your reviews but this one! I can’t believe you said “mild and smooth.” This is the roughest bourbon I’ve ever had! By FAR. Incredibly unbalanced. Extreme sweet at the front end and the damnedest throat-searing fire at the other.

    • Martini, thanks for the comment. Indeed, I wouldn’t have purchased any more from the sample I had, although commenters below have suggested that I have another try from a full bottle instead of a miniature. I have noticed that the relative “roughness” or “smoothness” of a whisky is somewhat dependent on the condition of one’s palate. I’ve had an extremely “smooth” scotch that, when sampled again after eating something incompatible, reminded me of the rougher sort of bourbons. My evaluation of the ‘smoothness’ of Woodford Reserve may have been my taste buds overcompensating for the unpleasant note I found in the nose. I still intend to try this one again, but I’m certainly not out to buy a bottle.

  • You make a good point regarding the palate. I did, in fact, have my WR with dinner which I know is not ideal. Under different circumstances, I wonder if I’d think it was smoother. I guess it’s only fair to give it another chance.

  • I love WR it’s been a personal favorite of mine because of the black pepper aftertaste. Alone the sweet Carmel and vanilla which combine makes butter scotch. In my opinion this is one of my favorites because I cherish those flavor profiles.

  • i drink a lot of bourbon.this is possibly the worst bourbon i’ve ever drunk.it is extremely raw with no smoothness you would expect from a quite expensive drop.it might be small batch but that does’nt excuse it’s roughness.would not buy again.makers mark or the black labels are far nicer.

  • My husband and I loved WR until our latest purchase. We always get the 1.75L and this one is signed by Chris Morris and not our usual Lincoln Henderson……We are going back to Elijah Craig…..even Evan Williams is better than this batch…..

  • I am 50 years old and have tried many, but this one is the worst flavor, burn going down and hangover. How can anyone like this crap? Take a cheap quality alcohol and add oak flavor does not make a good drink!

  • My sister in law/brother in law just gave me a bottle of this for Christmas. Prior to this, we visited the distillery and I can say I am not a fan of this. I have been to Kentucky numerous times and try to visit a distillery each time, with that said, I enjoy Buffalo Trace and Blanton’s Blend from them. Woodford to me is overpriced and overhyped.

  • I found the Costco label of this bourbon and liked my first bottle. However, since then, successive purchases have proven less pleasant so I’ve stopped buying it. Instead, I’ve discovered Wild Turkey’s remarkable “Forgiven” and the Elijah Craig 12 year old, 94 proof. Both well worth drinking and affordable.