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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Woodford Reserve Releases White Corn Bourbon

Posted By on Wed, Oct 21, 2015 at 11:30 AM

click to enlarge Woodford Reserve whiskey in the fermenter - BRAD JAPHE
  • Brad Japhe
  • Woodford Reserve whiskey in the fermenter

In less than 20 years, Woodford Reserve has rocketed towards the upper echelon of the Kentucky Straight Bourbon market. It many ways, the journey is a testament to the vision of Master Distiller Chris Morris. Regarded as the "frou-frou" distiller by some of his Bluegrass colleagues, Morris has laser-like focus, zeroing in on the nuances of every aspect of production, from grain bill, to distillation — even the consistency of proofing (90.4 percent across the board). In 2006, he launched the Master's Collection, an annual release of experimental one-offs, which afford the distiller a rare opportunity to showcase his under-appreciated playful side. Today marks the release the 2015 Master's Collection: 1838 Style White Corn. It hits shelves at local liquor stores priced at $100 for a 750ml bottle.

click to enlarge Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Chris Morris - KEVIN REID
  • Kevin Reid
  • Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Chris Morris
"This Master's Collection release has, in a way, allowed us to go back in time and create a new bourbon by drawing upon materials from our distillery's historic past," says Morris. "Focusing on white corn and honoring the landmark work of Pepper and Crow, we worked to produce an expression that we hope they would approve of." Morris is referring to Oscar Pepper and James Crow, legendary bourbon makers from the mid-1800s who produced their juice on the site which now houses Woodford Reserve. 

Yellow corn is the traditional ingredient comprising more than half of any bourbon's mash bill. Back in the pre-Prohibition era, however, white corn was more abundant in relation to its yellow counterpart. It would make more frequent appearances in the bourbon of that time. For the Master's Collection, Morris kept everything the same as in his flagship bourbon, simply subbing out yellow for white. That seemingly small adjustment was nothing short of a gamechanger. The resulting spirit, aged for no less than 4 years in virgin, American Oak, offers a whisper-light body, and a gentle honeyed sweetness. 

An unexpected consequence of introducing the untraditional corn is a more obvious glimpse into the characteristics of the other grains present in the mash, namely: malted barley and rye. Taking a back seat, the corn cedes some of its dominance to vegetal spice, and even a speckle of homemade apple pie. Not sure where exactly that comes from, but you'll taste it and will very much appreciate those same notes at the center of your next Old Fashioned. 

"Year after year, our Master's Collection is always a favorite of mine to produce, as I enjoy seeing how even the slightest of variations can yield a dramatically different whiskey," says Morris. 

Arriving at a much higher price point than Woodford's flagship bourbon, the Master's Collection is expected to deliver connoisseurs an exclusive experience, a bottle that proudly stands out on the shelf. 1838 Style White Corn hits the mark, revealing flavors of a whiskey from a bygone era. For the casual consumer, without that proper context, it might prove a costly ride.

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About The Author

Brad Japhe

Brad Japhe

I enjoy my whiskey neat, my beer hoppy, and my meat medium rare. I have been covering craft spirits, suds, and gourmet cuisine for a decade, with work published from New York, across Montana, and up and down the Pacific Coast.


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