The Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection was unveiled back in 2006 and was intended to be a line of products honoring the work of the distillery’s owner in the late 1800’s, Oscar Pepper, and their Master Distiller, James Crow, by applying their pioneering, handcrafted methods to a variety of grain recipes, fermentation styles, and maturation processes to create a range of unique whiskeys.
Originally, new expressions from this collection were released annually but in recent years the distillery has started to release two new expressions each year. So far, Woodford has released a variety of unique expressions, including 2 batch proof expressions, an American Oak/oat grain bourbon, a cherry wood smoked barley bourbon, a brandy cask finish bourbon, a pinot noir cask finish bourbon, and an 1838-style white corn whiskey, just to name a few. The second release of 2019, which is the 16th iteration from this collection, is the chocolate malted rye bourbon.
The mash bill for this bourbon consists of 70% corn, 15% chocolate malted rye, and 15% distillers malt. The distillery crafted the chocolate malted rye by roasting the malted rye to a level that its natural sugars caramelized into a dark chocolate note. There is no age statement on this bottle, but once again I think we can safely assume this expression was aged in excess of 7 years, the age of the classic Woodford bourbon. This bourbon comes presented at 90.4 proof (45.2% abv) and retails for $129.99.
Appearance – dark caramel.
Nose – there is the slightest dose of ethanol with a hint of caramelized banana initially, but with time the nose continues to develop and becomes very rich and inviting, revealing those chocolate rye notes as promised by the distiller. There is some cinnamon spice and nutmeg, along with plenty of rich milk chocolate, oak char, and some roasted pecan.
Palate – this bourbon has a medium viscosity, leaving an average mouthfeel that works well for the dense, rich flavors that develop throughout the sip. There really isn’t any kick from the alcohol, although a fairly sharp rye spice does develop quickly on the tip of the tongue. There is plenty of roasted grain, nutmeg, rich vanilla, more of those chocolate notes, and a soft note of tobacco leaf that begins to develop on the back end.
Finish – the finish is medium-long and somewhat tannic, although it works well here. The tobacco note really develops from the palate, along with more baking spice, more milk chocolate, and a pronounced note of roasted coffee. I was instantly reminded of chocolate covered coffee beans. This note really lingers and draws you into the next sip.
Overall – I continue to be impressed with the Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection. These expressions are not the most wallet-friendly additions to your collection, but the distiller has really done a great job experimenting with different grains and fermentation styles to create some really unique and flavorful expressions. This bottle is no exception.
I really enjoyed all the rich, chocolate-centered flavors that developed throughout this pour. These flavors worked really well with the oak and spice notes that were also present throughout, along with the very enjoyable and pronounced coffee bean note on the finish. All of these flavors blended together very nicely, culminating in a rich, flavorful, and very warm bourbon that is perfect for a cold winter day. Cheers!