According to Chris Morris, Woodford Reserve Master Distiller, there are 212 flavours in the Woodford Reserve bourbon. Yet many are around one part per million in intensity, which is well below the sensory threshold.
While there are many ways to taste bourbon, Woodford Reserve has developed an interactive and sensory approach to tasting the spirit with food using the flavour wheel as a guide.
Five section make up the flavour wheel – grain, sweet aromatics, spice, fruit and floral, and wood – with some sub-categories. The methodology is to taste various foods that open the senses beyond just the flavour of bourbon. Some are used to contrast, other to complement the existing flavours in Woodford Reserve.
But first, Woodford Reserve gets its unique flavour based on 5 factors:
1. The grain recipe (72% corn, 18% rye and 10% malted barley) has a high malted barley content for bourbon and contributes to the nutty characteristics.
2. Limestone water is used which contributes to fruity and floral notes.
3. The long fermentation period of 6 days produce more fruity characters with pronounced esters.
4. Pot still and triple distillation are responsible for the spicy, nutty and floral profile.
5. Barrel entry point at 55% ABV along with maturation in heavily toasted and charred barrels contributes towards more caramel notes.
How to Taste Woodford Reserve Bourbon
Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select Bourbon is used to guide the flavour wheel experience using a plate of Parmesan cheese, orange with its peel, toasted hazelnut, dark chocolate and maple syrup. The sensory experience involves taking a bite of each food type, chewing on it without swallowing then sipping the whiskey.
1. Parmesan cheese brings out notes of vanilla, toasted coconut, honey, caramel and citrus as Woodford Reserve is the most citrus-laden bourbon.
2. Orange flesh and pith magnify the existing orange flavours in Woodford Reserve, highlighting citrus notes from grapefruit to lemon, lime and even tropical fruit. Cocktail Tip: use orange and citrus in cocktails, and use grapefruit peel as garnish.
3. Toasted hazelnuts magnify the grain character bringing walnut and pecan to the fore. Cocktail Tip: use Woodford Reserve with nut-based liqueurs.
4. Dark chocolate opens up the spice notes such as clove, cinnamon, pepper, coffee bean, followed by caramel notes. Cocktail Tip: use Woodford Reserve with coffee liqueurs and chocolate bitters.
5. Maple syrup extends the finish of the bourbon. According to Chris Morris, it can last up to 14 minutes on the palate. Cocktail Tip: Use honey, maple syrup, molasses (not sugar cane), in cocktails for a long and satisfying finish.