Today, May 21st, 2016, marks the 5th annual World Whisky Day, and I can’t think of a better time to finally open up this bottle of Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection 1838 Style White Corn Bourbon. I know reviews of the annual Master’s Collection releases are all across the board. If you’re not familiar with these releases, Woodford’s master distiller, Chris Morris, releases a special bottle at the end of every year. The release is different every year, and it’s almost a bit of an experiment. At $100 a bottle, some shy away from picking up these releases, but I consider it a small gamble and a chance to try something truly unique.
The first Master’s Collection release I purchased was the Straight Malt. That particular year it was a dual release of the Straight Malt and the Classic Malt. The Straight Malt is an all barley mash. While I loved the experience of tasting the pure expression of barley, I honestly didn’t care for the release. In the best of ways, it tasted like I was at the Kentucky Derby and decided to scoop up a handful of hay from one of the stables and make a tea with it. I’ve never tasted a whiskey quite like it. The next year’s release was more up my alley. Chris Morris chose to finish the standard finished Woodford Reserve Bourbon in used Sonoma-Cutrer casks. These French oak barrels once held Pinot Noir and hold the matured Woodford bourbon for 10 months as the finishing process. Visibly red in color, it has a sweet fruit flavor with notes of dark cherry. It lingers on the palate much like a red wine.
The latest 2015 release uses the same standard Woodford mash bill of 72% corn, 18% rye, 10% barley, but makes one simple modification. Instead of yellow corn, they use white corn as noted in the distillery’s production record from 1838. While it’s fun to taste several years of the Master’s Collection releases back-to-back, the most interesting comparison is tasting this 2015 release alongside the standard Woodford Reserve Bourbon. When smelling side-by-side, I’ve never noticed the “banana Runts candy” note so pronounced in the standard Woodford. With the 1838 I smell more of the barnyard and barley notes, but nothing like they were in the Straight Malt. On the palate it reminds me a lot of one of my favorite Irish whiskeys, Knappogue Castle, but without the viscous mouthfeel. However, at $100 I’d say the bottle is a pass except for the enthusiast or serious collector. For everyone else, it’s definitely worth checking out at your local establishment and doing a mini-flight to compare it against standard Woodford Reserve.
Happy World Whisky Day! I hope you’re celebrating amongst friends and staying true to the spirit of the event which is best stated on the World Whisky Day website. “World Whisky Day is all about making whisky fun and enjoyable. It’s not about being exclusive or prescriptive. You can drink it however you enjoy it (ice, water, mixer – whatever works for you).”
Shoutout to Kwenchers Owasso, which is where I was able to find this bottle of 1838 Style White Corn. For anyone in the Tulsa area, they also have a new location that is in Catoosa Hills. Don’t miss the free tastings they’ve been doing at their Owasso location either. Follow them on any of their social media accounts below to stay in the loop.