Tasting Notes: Woodford Reserve Very Fine Rare Bourbon

Woodford Reserve needs no introduction. You know the brand; you know the history; you know the profile. The Master’s Collection has been an intriguing experiment for this storied brand over the past 15 years and for the 2020 release, Master Distiller Chris Morris is giving aficionados some very rare bourbon from Woodford Reserve, and in a very fine bottle no less!

The 2020 release of the Master’s Collection is the oldest bourbon to be released by Woodford Reserve to date. This bourbon is a blend of bourbon dating back to 2003, the year Morris took over as Master Distiller, and other special barrels selected for this one-time release. The whiskey comes in a beautiful flask-shaped bottle, a nod to the classic Woodford bottle shape, and also includes the names of Master Distiller Chris Morris and Assistant Master Distiller Elizabeth McCall. Starting with the 2020 release, all future master’s collections products will focus on modern innovation by Morris and McCall.

This whiskey comes in at 90.4 proof (45.2% abv) and retails for $130.


Appearance – deep copper.

Nose – the nose on this whiskey does not disappoint! There is plenty of that classic, sweet Woodford vanilla, along with a subtle bouquet of stone fruit, caramel apple, and dark cherry. The layers of sweetness are balanced by notes of pipe tobacco, some char, and prominent base of musty oak, revealing the age of this whiskey.

Palate – the sweetness from the nose initially transitions to the palate with plenty of vanilla, molasses, and cocoa, but the rye character of this whiskey reveals itself quickly. A relatively sharp, peppery spice develops mid-palate, along with notes of clove and nutmeg. The oak, while present, remains in the background and does not overpower or offset the balance of sweet and spicy notes present in this whiskey.

Finish – the finish is medium-long and oak-centric. Sweet vanilla, dark chocolate, black pepper, and some dried citrus are all present, but the oak begins to dominate for the first time, revealing some tannins and some dry, bitter notes. The oak lingers on the finish with just a touch of golden honey.

Overall – As I mentioned, the Master’s Collection has been an interesting experiment for Woodford Reserve over the past 15 years. Through this collection, we’ve had the opportunity to experience the variations in flavor that come from experimentation with grain recipes, fermentation styles, and maturation processes. Many of these releases have been challenging and a lot of fun to work through, while others have fallen short of the hype. In my opinion, this most recent release is a reason to be excited about the future of the Master’s Collection!

The nose on this whiskey was wonderful. It is predominantly sweet with lots of great fruit notes, but the aged underlying oak provides the perfect base for these layers of aroma. The palate was also loaded with great sweet notes and a surprising amount of spice that provides the perfect balance for the profile. Admittedly, the oak was a little strong on the finish and the tannins did stifle some of the flavor, but the overall pour was really well-balanced and a just a joy to drink. This pour may be a little too oaky for some, but I personally enjoy oak and think this bottle is a perfect example of what additional time in oak can accomplish. In my opinion, age works well for Woodford!

Cheers y’all!

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