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KCM Spirit Reviews

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Review 100: Woodford Reserve Master's Collection New Cask Rye

Review 100
Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection New Cask Rye: 46.2% abv

Wow...that’s a mouthful. Can you imagine asking for that at the bar? You probably wouldn’t, because there is a 99% likelihood that they don’t have it. So this is it! It is KCM’s 100th review, and man what an exciting one it is. We worked hard not to review anything until we got the perfect thing for it, and it’s a two part series. This is a half of a two bottle set of rye whiskies, and so Review 101 will be of the other one, but I won’t go into the details of that until the next review. So...why are we doing this one? Well, it’s our first rye whiskey, and it’s a rather expensive and rare bottling. Woodford Reserve’s Master’s Collection is a series of craft whiskies that get released yearly around Christmas time. For example, in 2010 they had a Maple Wood Finished Bourbon that they produced (that we will also be reviewing sometime in the future), and in 2011 these Ryes. They are expensive, but having already tried the Bourbon once, I had good faith that this wouldn’t be a bomb. So here’s a little background on Rye whiskies, since this is our first one. Rye whiskey is almost exactly like Bourbon in the fact that it can only be aged in new charred white oak casks, and it has to be bottled between 40 and 80% abv. The difference is that while Bourbon has to made up of 51% corn, Rye has to be made of 51%...take a guess...rye!

So now let’s talk about the whiskey itself. If you’ve ever taken a big smell of a whiskey, you have probably leaned in and smelled, and then felt like your nose was on fire. The alcohol can be really off-putting, and at 46.2%, we expected similar things from this one, but to our surprise, it was not at all like this. The nose was balanced and tame, but not understated. It had a lot of complexities to it as it opened up. And open up it did. There is so much to this nose, I don’t know how to proceed. The nose was very spicy, with some mild sweet notes, but even moreso, there was a subtle floral, aromatic character to the nose. The aroma greets you with dark sweetness of brown sugar, honey, molasses, caramel, vanilla, and even a slightly buttery character. There is also a smooth, but powerful oakiness in the smell, followed by very diverse set of spices. Here was our best crack at trying to identify these spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, gingerbread, and light cloves all adorned the aroma of this rye. Even more unique, though, was the subtle banana and coconut smells that came out later on, when the rye opened up even further.

The arrival isn’t anything to write home about, and for that matter neither is the body of this rye. The arrival is definitely spicy, but quick and not very prominent. The body takes on a dry, almost tannin-y character. There is prominent cinnamon and nutmeg, with warm oak to please your mouth, and even some creamy and banana notes to it. After adding water, the body will start to open up and you’ll get some good grainy rye character to it, and more oakiness, as well as some definite salt. If you don’t like salt, you can drink this without water. The finish is pretty much what takes the cake with this. Not that the body isn’t good, but it doesn’t compare to the finish. The finish has so much to it, and after that whiskey goes down, you’ll spend time basking in the experience. Spiciness defines rye, and thus a Christmas spice collage is what you’ll get here, with strong nutmeg overpowering the cinnamon, but also gingerbread, allspice, cloves, and mint all mixed in there. The mint and cinnamon will be accentuated after a fair bit of water. There is an earthiness to the finish, and you’ll still get the darker, sweeter notes of vanilla, caramel, and oak. Interestingly though, a slight, dry piny bitterness comes through, as well as the butter that we smelled at the beginning. So that’s it.

Here are some closing notes for review 100; This rye is fantastic, and worth trying at least once. The nose and finish are great, and the finish sticks around for a while, but the body and arrival to the spirit is a little lacking in comparison. After water, the slight sweetness backs off on this one, and it adds to the spiciness and hotness, while still remaining smooth and enjoyable. If you are looking for a more mild experience by adding water, you’ll not be happy with the result, but it adds some different dimensions to the rye. A few of our reviewers said they preferred it without the water, while others were ambivalent. Either way, this is a wonderful expression of a craft whiskey and it’s well worth the time and money. We can’t wait to try the next one. 

Score: 9.25/10

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