It’s not just whiskey—barrels make so many edible things taste better, as proven by the effect that cask maturation has on things like coffee beans, hot sauce, soy sauce and even honey. These barrels are often given a second life in the whiskey world, as is the case with the latest entry in Woodford Reserve’s Distillery Series, a bourbon finished in honey barrels.
This is actually the third time these barrels are being used—they started out as bourbon barrels, then were sent to a Woodford County, KY bee farmer to mature honey, and finally returned to Woodford to be refilled with bourbon for just over a year on average. Don’t expect a saccharine honey bomb here, however, as the distillery notes that the effects are subtle, giving the bourbon a raw honey color with “floral and toasty notes including honey suckle, lemon peel, toasted coconut and honey graham cracker.”
There have been other honey-barrel finished American whiskeys before, although it’s far from the most common type of secondary maturation. Hatch Distilling Co., Nulu and Belle Meade have all released whiskeys finished in this type of cask. In an interesting twist, Texas distillery Garrison Brothers has a bourbon called Honey Dew that is created by turning ex-bourbon barrels into cubes, soaking them in honey and then immersing these into a tank of bourbon—essentially a barrel stave finish concept.
“One of the best parts of my job is being able to experiment with new ways of making Woodford Reserve,” said Woodford master distiller Chris Morris in a statement. “It’s been rewarding to work with a honey producer here in Woodford County to create this unique Distillery Series expression and support local business and agriculture.” The Distillery Series is a chance for Morris and assistant master distiller Elizabeth McCall to deviate from the core lineup made at Woodford and experiment a bit. This whiskey is a limited edition, as are other expressions in the series, and comes in smaller 375-ml bottle at 90.4 proof. There are three releases per year that are available at the distillery and at select retailers throughout Kentucky with an SRP of $59.99.