Woodford tempering bourbon in wine barrels

William M. Dowd photo

It's not uncommon for winemakers to season their products in used whiskey barrels, but Woodford Reserve has put a twist -- for American distillers -- on that practice with its new Sonoma-Cutrer Finish.

The experiment, which will go for $90 a bottle when released later this month, involves tempering the equivalent of 900 cases of Woodford Reserve bourbon for several months with used California chardonnay barrels from Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards in Sonoma County, CA. Both the distiller and the winemaker are owned by Brown-Forman Corp. of Louisville, KY.

The new product is the second in Woodford Reserve's new Master's Collection which began with its Four Grain Bourbon, a 92.4 proof product retailing for about $80. It incorporated wheat into its rye/barley/corn mash bill for that undertaking.

The Master's Collection line will be augmented from time to time, always with triple distillation in copper pot stills at the Woodford Reserve Distillery, a National Historic Landmark in Woodford County, KY. Even the whiskies’ bottle will mimic the shape of a copper pot still.

"The Master's Collection honors the pioneering work of our forefathers by applying their handcrafted methods to unique grain recipes, maturation techniques and distillation styles,” said master distiller Chris Morris (above).

Some Scotch and Canadian whisky distillers regularly employ used wine barrels for some of their products.

Morris said he settled on a five-year-old bourbon for the new product, rather than the usual seven-plus which her termed "too robust to get the nuances of the contribution of the Sonoma-Cutrer to shine through."

Brown-Forman says the new Sonoma-Cutrer Finish will be sold in New York, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C.

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