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Taste Test: Woodford Reserve’s New Bourbon Is ‘Classic Woodford on Steroids’

Our whiskey critic's review of the distillery's latest Master's Collection release.

Woodford Reserve Masters Collection Batch Proof Bourbon Woodford Reserve

Woodford Reserve is generally known as an easy-drinking bourbon that is considered by many to be a step or two above Jim Beam, Evan Williams or Wild Turkey (as beloved as these brands may be), even though it’s bottled at a higher proof of 90.4. Indeed, the fact that it’s not an 80 proof whiskey is one of the reasons many people enjoy drinking Woodford. The annual Master’s Collection series is a chance for master distiller Chris Morris and assistant master distiller Elizabeth McCall to mess with their tried and true formula, and for the 2022 edition that means batch size and proof.

The new Woodford Reserve Batch Proof is bottled at 118.4, which represents the proof of this particular collection of about 100 to 120 barrels. In other words, these barrels are blended together at cask strength, and this is what the average came out to be. The mashbill is the same as regular Woodford, so this is all about scale and ABV. And this does indeed have less alcohol than past Batch Proof releases, but that’s just how the barrel char crumbles. “Barrels drawn from the first floors of our heat-cycled warehouses routinely possess lower proof presentations due to the more relaxed angel share process found there,” said Morris in a press release. “This batch had more of these barrels in its composition, and therefore a lower batch proof presentation than past releases.”

But this mellower proof, although still admittedly high compared to classic Woodford and many other bourbons, is a welcome thing. The nose is definitely on the hot side, with honey, grapefruit and even some ripe cherry that lingers as you take a sniff. The palate is pretty much classic Woodford on steroids, with baked apple, vanilla pudding, milk chocolate, nutmeg, cinnamon and burnt orange notes all swirling around together. These are all likely elements on Morris’ “Flavor Wheel,” a device to help explain the many notes you can pick up from a sip of the bourbon. The higher proof dampens some and augments others. 

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So who exactly is this whiskey for? Superfans of Woodford, mostly, people who want to try this particular bourbon brand at a much higher ABV than usual. And it’s a good, solid bourbon, although perhaps not one to chase on the secondary market for well above the asking price of $129.99. Starting July 12, you can find it at the Woodford Reserve distillery in Versailles, KY, and later this month it will be available to purchase at select retailers.

Score: 87

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What Our Score Means

  • 100: Worth trading your first born for 
  • 95 – 99 In the Pantheon: A trophy for the cabinet 
  • 90 – 94 Great: An excited nod from friends when you pour them a dram 
  • 85 – 89 Very Good: Delicious enough to buy, but not quite special enough to chase on the secondary market 
  • 80 – 84 Good: More of your everyday drinker, solid and reliable 
  • Below 80 It’s alright: Honestly, we probably won’t waste your time and ours with this 

Every week Jonah Flicker tastes the most buzzworthy and interesting whiskeys in the world. Check back each Friday for his latest review.

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