Woodford Reserve Distiller's Select, the flagship bourbon from the Woodford Reserve Distillery, formerly known as the Old Oscar Pepper Distillery and later the Labrot & Graham Distillery, is one of most consistently delicious bourbons widely available. Woodford Reserve is the reason why I became interested in bourbon, following a visit to the historic distillery near Versailles, Kentucky.
Distilling on the site began in 1780 and the distillery building itself was erected in 1838, making it the oldest of the nine bourbon distilleries in current operation in Kentucky, although the site has not been continuously operational as a distillery during that history.
Originally established by Elijah Pepper, the distillery was passed on to his son and was known as the Oscar Pepper Distillery when Dr. James Crow worked there in the mid-19th century. The Pepper family sold the property to Leopold Labrot and James Graham in 1878, who owned and operated it (except during Prohibition) until 1941 when it was sold to the Brown-Forman Corporation. Brown-Forman operated it until 1968 and sold it in 1971.
Brown-Forman re-purchased the property in 1993 and refurbished it to bring it back into operation. The Woodford Reserve brand was introduced to the market in 1996.
Woodford Reserve Distiller's Select
Labrot & Graham Distiller's Company
$30 at ABC in Columbia, SC
Color: Deep, rich amber.
Nose: Smoky barrel char, light alcohol, cedar wood, some caramel and vanilla, lots of oak, subtle mint.
Tasting notes: Caramel, rye spice, heavy oak, pepper, dark cherry, cinnamon, and barrel char. The spice is prominent, but is tempered well by classic bourbon sweetness.
Overall: B. Woodford Reserve is like a #3 hitter on a good baseball team. Consistent, strong but versatile, and dependable, it is an American staple. It is always available at your local liquor store, it can be sipped neat by old men, mixed into any drink, cooked into any recipe, even drunk in large quantities by college kids. Most people probably do not realize what an intimate operation it is at the historic distillery- amazing how much and how well they produce.