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Buffalo Trace vs Woodford Reserve: Full Comparison (2022)

Last Updated on November 16, 2022 by Lydia Martin

Deciding between Buffalo Trace vs Woodford Reserve can be challenging because both have unique flavor profiles. They also have a reputation for producing high-quality Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey. 

But really, which one is best for you?

Our team did intensive research to find the key differences and compare the two spirits in this in-depth review, so read on.  

Bourbon Face-Off: Woodford Reserve vs Buffalo Trace 

Buffalo Trace vs Woodford Reserve

Woodford Reserve and Buffalo Trace are two of the most famous and well-acclaimed Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey in the whiskey world. Also, their rich history, distillery, and profile sets the two great bourbons apart.

Woodford Reserve was released in 1996, while Buffalo Trace is a flagship bourbon released in 1999. While it doesn’t have an age statement, Woodford Reserve bourbon is younger than Buffalo Trace bourbon.

Moreso, they do not have the same mash bill ratio because Woodford Reserve uses 18% rye while Buffalo Trace contains less than 10% rye. The high rye content on Woodford Reserve makes it spicier and bolder than Buffalo Trace.

Their Differences 

Their Differences 

History & Origin

Woodford Reserve Distillery started as the Old Oscar Pepper Distillery in 1812. It was then operated as Labrot & Graham Distillery before Brown-Forman purchased the brand in 1993 and named it Woodford Reserve Distillery. 

Buffalo Trace, on the other hand, is a tribute to the ancient buffalo that carved its pathways in the Kentucky River.

Even in the whiskey Prohibition Era [1], Buffalo Trace Distillery managed to survive and remain in operation to produce bottled whiskey for medicinal purposes. 

Production & Distillation Process

Woodford Reserve Fermentation Process

Buffalo Trace bourbon produces Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey using a large column still and modern techniques.

On the contrary, Woodford Reserve uses three large copper stills and the traditional way of producing Kentucky bourbons. 

Column distillation helps control the purity and strength of the bourbon, which makes a huge difference in the spirit before maturation in the barrel.

The art of making fine bourbon happens in different distilleries, from grains to bottles. 

Maturation

Buffalo Trace is aged in charred oak barrels for eight years, while Woodford Reserve bourbon is matured for six to seven years.

Buffalo Trace has a unique aging process wherein the barrels are stored on the middle floors of its warehouse for great temperature fluctuations. 

Maturation in a charred wood barrel gives a perfectly balanced taste and pleasantly sweet aromatics to the Kentucky bourbons. 

Fun Fact: Both brands do not bear an age statement, but since they are labeled as Kentucky straight bourbon, they must be matured in charred oak barrels for a minimum of two years [2]. 

Mash Bill

Buffalo Trace Mash Bill Ingredients

In the Buffalo Trace vs Woodford Reserve battle of bourbons, the mash bill contents contribute to the bourbon profile, but unfortunately, only the latter disclosed their recipe. 

Woodford Reserve bourbon uses 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley, and its rye content makes it spicy. 

The exact proportion of Buffalo Trace is close to the vest of Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley.

It was not revealed, but two things are for sure: (1) it has at least 51% corn, and (2) it uses rye on its mash bill because of its spicy notes when we tried a bottle.

But which bourbon is comparable to Woodford Reserve?

Tasting Notes 

Buffalo Trace

  • Palate: Pleasantly sweet, espresso, chocolate, spicy, vanilla, wood, floral notes,  toffee, anise, and dried fruit
  • Nose: Complex aroma, sweet vanilla, molasses, caramel, and mint
  • Color: Deep Amber
  • Finish: Long, smooth and serious depth of flavors

Woodford Reserve 

  • Palate: Rounded and smooth, complex citrus, mint, rye spice, chocolate, toffee, sweet caramel, vanilla, and cinnamon
  • Nose: Dried Fruit, mint, orange, cocoa, vanilla, tobacco, and rye spice 
  • Color: Brilliant Honey Amber
  • Finish: Long and silky smooth

Alcohol Content & Price Point

Alcohol Content & Price Point

Bourbon Brand Alcohol Content Average Price
Buffalo Trace 45% $34.99
Woodford Reserve  45.2% $39.99

 *Average prices are based on Drizly online. Prices may vary in local liquor shops. 

Ownership & Distillery

In Buffalo Trace vs Woodford Reserve, each barrel is produced by well-known distillers and multi-brand companies. 

Buffalo Trace bourbon is owned by Sazerac Company, a large alcoholic beverage company with over 450 brands.

Woodford is owned by Brown-Forman, the same company that owns Jack Daniel’s Tennesse Whiskey

Buffalo Trace Distillery produces the flagship bourbon and other spirits like Eagle Rare and George T. Stagg.

On the other hand, Woodford Reserve is a National Historic Landmark producing fine bourbon since 1812. 

How To Drink It

Woodford Reserve Cocktail

Buffalo Trace has a complex aroma and taste, and it is best to drink straight or with a splash of water than as a cocktail. But is Buffalo Trace wheated bourbon?

However, Woodford Reserve is a versatile spirit, so you can drink it neat, on the rocks, or as a cocktail.

Since it is more tasty and rich in spice, it has a bold grain that will not easily fade on the nose and palate when consumed as cocktails. Check out Woodford Reserve vs Maker’s Mark here

FAQs 

Is Buffalo Trace smoother than Woodford Reserve?

Yes, Buffalo Trace is smoother than Woodford Reserve. It has a nice balance of sweet and spicy taste, the right level of heat, and smoothness that can be an ideal entry point for new whiskey drinkers

Which is better for Old Fashioned, Woodford Reserve, or Buffalo Trace?

Woodford Reserve is better whiskey for Old Fashioned than Buffalo Trace. It has a bold profile with notes of black pepper, cinnamon, and fruit that mixes well with sugar and bitters.

Moreso, it has nice flavors that do not fade nor overpower the taste of the cocktail. 

Is Buffalo Trace’s flavor more complex than Woodford Reserve?

No, Woodford Reserve’s flavor is more complex than Buffalo Trace whiskey. It has rich and complex flavors compared to high rye whiskeys like Bulleit bourbon, Four Roses Small Batch, and Old Forester. 

And The Winner Is…

Woodford Reserve is clearly the winner in Buffalo Trace vs. Woodford Reserve battle. While it is not as cheap as Buffalo Trace, its fruity and tasty palate profile and nose are complex, more versatile, and interesting than Buffalo Trace. 

Truly, nothing beats the traditional way of producing bourbons. 

If you are into bold and interesting whiskey notes, Woodford gets the upper hand. However, if you want sweeter (but not as sweet as Maker’s Mark), go with Buffalo Trace. 

Both are great bourbon whiskeys, but a bottle of the best Woodford Reserve bourbon is worth trying. 

References:

  1. https://www.britannica.com/event/Prohibition-United-States-history-1920-1933 
  2. https://www.cnbc.com/2015/06/04/5-rules-that-make-it-bourbon.html#

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