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Behind the Excellence: Is Woodford Reserve Good Bourbon?

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Last Updated on November 5, 2023 by Lydia Martin

As I sat down to savor a glass of bourbon, my curiosity led me to one question: Is Woodford Reserve good bourbon? With its reputation preceding it, I embarked on a flavorful exploration to uncover the truth. 

Journey with me as we delve into the world of the Woodford Reserve brand, where craftsmanship meets excellence, and discover whether it lives up to the title of a truly exceptional and good bourbon.


a glass full of woodford reserve bourbon

What is Woodford Reserve?

Woodford Reserve is a premium bourbon whiskey that is highly regarded for its craftsmanship and attention to detail.

Crafted in the heart of Kentucky’s bourbon country, Woodford Reserve embodies the essence of American whiskey-making traditions.

It is the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby; this renowned spirit hails from Brown-Forman, the esteemed owner of other iconic brands like Jack Daniel’s and Old Forester.

What are the different types or expressions of Woodford Reserve?

Woodford Reserve offers a variety of expressions that cater to different preferences and showcase unique flavor profiles. The main types or expressions of Woodford Reserve include:

Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select

This is the flagship expression of Woodford Reserve and represents the classic style of the brand. It is a Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey known for its balanced and rich flavor profile, featuring notes of caramel, vanilla cream, toasty oak, and spices.

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked

This only one bourbon expression undergoes an additional maturation process in a second, deeply toasted and lightly charred oak barrel.

The double-barreling process imparts intensified caramel, dark chocolate, and dried fruit flavors, resulting in a rich and decadent whiskey.

Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Rye

In addition to its bourbon offerings, Woodford Reserve also produces straight rye whiskey.

The rye expression offers a spicier and bolder flavor profile with prominent notes of rye spice, black pepper, and cinnamon, along with the signature Woodford Reserve smoothness.

Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection (limited editions)

Woodford Reserve periodically releases limited-edition expressions as part of its Master’s Collection.

These special releases explore unique aging techniques, grain selection, or innovative approaches to whiskey production.

The Master’s Collection offers whiskey enthusiasts an opportunity to experience distinct and quintessential bourbon flavors within the Woodford Reserve portfolio.

History and Reputation of Woodford Reserve

How long has Woodford Reserve been producing bourbon?

Woodford Reserve has a storied history that dates back to its founding in 1812. While the Woodford reserve distillery, specifically known as the Old Oscar Pepper Distillery, has gone through several changes and transformations over the years, its commitment to producing exceptional bourbon has remained unwavering.

In fact, it has been recently designated as a national historic landmark; its illustrious history spanning back to 1812 has earned it this prestigious recognition. [1]

Are there any awards or accolades associated with Woodford Reserve?

Woodford Reserve has garnered numerous awards and accolades for its outstanding quality. It has been consistently recognized as one of the finest bourbons in the world, earning accolades from esteemed institutions such as the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and the International Wine and Spirit Competition.

What do experts and critics say about Woodford Reserve?

Experts and critics laud Woodford Reserve for its exceptional craftsmanship and balanced flavor profile. The official bourbon has been praised for its smoothness, complexity, and notes of caramel, vanilla, and toasted oak. Critics often emphasize its elegance, making it a beloved choice among bourbon connoisseurs.

Production Process

How is Woodford Reserve bourbon made?

Woodford Reserve follows a meticulous production process combining traditional and modern techniques. It starts with carefully selected grains, including a precise blend of corn, rye, and malted barley.

The mash is fermented, distilled in copper pot stills, and matured in new charred wood oak barrels. This process imparts the signature flavors and aromas that define Woodford Reserve.

What makes Woodford Reserve unique in its production methods?

Woodford Reserve stands out for its commitment to tradition and attention to detail. Unlike many other bourbon producers, Woodford Reserve uses copper pot stills, which contribute to its smooth character.

Additionally, this bourbon is triple distilled, further refining the spirit and resulting in remarkable clarity and depth of flavor.

Are there any special ingredients or techniques used in the process?

Woodford Reserve’s production process incorporates unique elements that enhance its distinct character. 

The water used in production is sourced from limestone-filtered springs, known for their purity and mineral content, adding a touch of Kentucky terroir to the bourbon. 

The distillery also takes pride in its meticulous barrel selection and maturation process, allowing the whiskey to develop its complex flavors over time.

Tasting Profile and Flavor Notes

a man in glasses drinking a glass full of woodford reserve bourbon

What are the typical flavor characteristics of Woodford Reserve?

Woodford Reserve boasts a nuanced flavor profile that delights the senses. It exhibits tasting notes of rich caramel, vanilla, and toasted oak, complemented by hints of dried fruit, spice, and chocolate. [2]

The bourbon strikes a harmonious balance between sweetness and oak-driven complexity, culminating in a long, satisfying finish.

How does Woodford Reserve compare to other bourbons in terms of taste?

In comparison to other bourbons, Woodford Reserve is often celebrated for its smoothness and well-integrated flavors.

Its complexity and depth make it a favorite among those who appreciate a refined and sophisticated bourbon experience.

Are there different variants or expressions of Woodford Reserve?

Woodford Reserve offers a range of expressions that cater to diverse palates. These include Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select, Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, and limited-edition releases.

Each expression presents unique flavor profiles and aging techniques, allowing enthusiasts to explore and appreciate the nuances of Woodford Reserve.

Pairing and Consumption

How is Woodford Reserve best enjoyed?

Woodford Reserve is best savored neat or on the rocks to fully appreciate its intricate flavors. The whiskey’s smoothness and balanced character make it a delightful sipping experience.

Are there any specific food pairings that complement Woodford Reserve?

Woodford Reserve pairs exceptionally well with a variety of flavors. Its caramel and vanilla notes harmonize beautifully with rich, dark chocolate, while its oakiness compliments smoked meats and aged cheeses. 

Additionally, the bourbon’s versatility makes it a wonderful match for hearty dishes and desserts alike.

What are some popular cocktails that feature Woodford Reserve?

Woodford Reserve serves as the foundation for many classic and contemporary bourbon cocktails. The Old Fashioned, Manhattan, and Woodford Reserve Mint Julep are just a few examples of the exquisite libations that can be crafted using this exceptional bourbon.

Honestly, for me, only one cocktail best suits Woodford Reserve and this is the Old Fashioned.


What is the price range of Woodford Reserve bourbon?

The price range for Woodford Reserve bourbon can vary depending on factors such as the type of expression and the region of purchase. The following average price ranges are based on general market observations and may differ slightly:

  • Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select: $30 to $45 USD
  • Woodford Reserve Double Oaked: $50 to $70 USD
  • Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Rye: $35 to $50 USD
  • Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection (limited editions): $100 to $150 USD


Is Woodford Reserve a cheap bourbon?

In terms of pricing, Woodford Reserve is not classified as a cheap or budget bourbon. It falls within the mid-to-high price range among premium bourbons, reflecting its quality, craftsmanship, and use of high-quality ingredients and production methods.

Is Woodford a premium bourbon?

Woodford Reserve is generally considered a premium bourbon. It is highly regarded for its craftsmanship, attention to detail, and consistent quality.

The brand has established a reputation for producing exceptional bourbons with well-balanced flavors and a smooth drinking experience.

Where does Woodford Reserve rank?

Woodford Reserve ranks among the top bourbons, such as wild turkey and jim beam, in terms of quality and recognition.

It has received numerous awards and accolades, both domestically and internationally, for its exceptional taste and craftsmanship.

The brand has garnered a dedicated following and is highly regarded by whiskey enthusiasts and experts alike.

Is Woodford Reserve a top shelf whiskey?

As a premium bourbon, Woodford Reserve is often considered a top-shelf whiskey. It is frequently featured on the shelves of whiskey connoisseurs, bars, and upscale establishments that curate a selection of high-quality spirits.

Its reputation for quality, distinct flavors, and overall excellence makes it a preferred choice for those seeking a top-shelf bourbon experience.


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