Review: Woodford Reserve Double Oaked

This might be the only true bourbon among the finished bourbons. (If there’s another, please let me know!)

Instead of finishing their bourbon in a used wine or sherry or whatever barrel, Woodford Reserve uses a second, new barrel. But parent company Brown-Forman is the only bourbon company with their own new barrel cooperage, so that might be something they can do that others can’t.

Also uniquely, their cooperage is able to both char and toast their barrels. Charring is the glorious ‘set em on fire!’ required by law for bourbon barrels. Burning the wood produces strong smoke/wood flavor and secondary sweet, caramel and vanilla notes. Wood is basically sugar (that’s why it burns so well) and the heat from the flames breaks down some of the structure of the oak into simpler sugars which are soluble in the bourbon.

Toasting is heating the barrel without burning it. Imagine taking the element out of your oven, sticking it into a barrel and cranking it to maximum. That’s how a lot of wine and wine spirit barrels are made.

Toasting and charring produce different flavor profiles – toasting is sweeter, charring is smokier.  And for Double Oaked, the new finishing barrel is toasted to the extreme before being given a flash charring in order maximize the sweetness and minimize the smoke. And that’s exactly what happens to the bourbon’s flavor ~

Nose: Heady with butterscotch, sugar, caramel, molasses and vanilla plus enough oak so you remember it’s bourbon.

Palate: Strikingly sweet and woody. There’s the complex array of the sweet notes from the nose and bourbon drinkers who prefer a little more bite or a little balance might find it cloying. There’s substantial fruit and spice underneath, too.

Finish: Very long and very sweet. Their marketing department describes this as a dessert bourbon for a reason!

Verdict: For those who like their bourbons very smooth, this one’s a hit. I always keep a bottle on hand and it’s one I personally use to introduce people to the category because it’s so accessible. But, as I mentioned above, drinkers who prefer bourbons with bite might find too syrupy for their taste.