For World Whisky Day (like we weren’t going to be out tossing a few back anyway?), the Boozedancers decided to round up the usual suspects (our SMWSA Extravaganza night crowd including Pappy and a few extras) and have a mini-whiskey night at The Barthenon, i.e. some food, a dozen or so people, and a loose adherence to the bottle rule (bring a bottle you like and/or a bottle you’ve always wanted to try). In preparation for the event, I hit the local PA Wine & Spirits store and picked up a bottle of the Woodford Reserve Double Oaked. I had had this at the Brown Hotel in Louisville at the recommendation of my mustachioed bartender and thought it was fantastic. I then stopped in to my local liquor store and thought I would check out the top shelf. I have found a number of very reasonable and somewhat rare (at least to me) bottles there. I saw the shiny and very pretty bottle of Woodford Reserve Classic Malt. Since I had loved the Double Oaked and had a bottle at the ready, I thought this bottle would be a great companion that may provide a nice side-by-side tasting opportunity.
As the days and then hours ticked away, we laid out the tables, chairs, food, water, and ice and waited until 7 PM rolled around. One-by-one the fellers arrived and stood around like little kids waiting for their parents to make the slightest movement on Christmas morning. “Oh, good! You’re awake. Now let’s open the gifts!” (That’s right, I’m looking at you, G-LO!). Finally, it was 7PM and once Pappy was ensconced in the Archie Bunker chair, the games began. I poured out the Double Oaked as I knew it would be good and I was a little proud of the find. The bottle was passed around the table and was met with mutual appreciation.
Next, I opened the Classic Malt and was a bit put off by the specimen-like color, but since the Double Oaked was so good, I pushed beyond that. During this first tasting, I found the whiskey to be raw and unfinished. Everything good about the Double Oaked was absent from the Classic Malt. It was like Woodford had just phoned it in. It kind of reminds me of an actor taking a role for the money after some really strong work (see Nicholas Cage – Moonstruck, Leaving Las Vegas, and then Ghost Rider; Michael Caine – Educating Rita, Hannah & Her Sisters, and then Jaws: The Revenge; Hilary Swank – Boys Don’t Cry, Million Dollar Baby, and then P.S. I Love You) or an actor forcing himself into a role that he is unsuited for (John Wayne in The Conqueror, Halle Berry in Catwoman, Colin Farrell in Alexander, Sophia Coppolla in Godfather III, Keanu Reeves in anything where he isn’t able to say “Dude!”). The Classic Malt was trying to play Genghis Khan and they were playing it badly.
Soon, the whisky made the rounds and one-by-one the fellers were hacking and coughing like pollen season had happened all at once. Even Miracle Max (the closest thing we have to a diplomat) commented that “this is not something that should be ingested by a living thing”. I remarked that it might be good for cleaning paint brushes; from the crowd came the comment “poor brushes”.
There was also some discussion concerning the bottle and how with a little ingenuity, it could be repurposed into a drinking vessel from Game of Thrones. Max was calling for a glass cutter and bit of solder. Fortunately, his calls fell on deaf ears, or the night might have involved a trip to the ER.
Ok, ok, enough with the backstory, let’s move on to the reviews…
Woodford Reserve Double Oaked
Here is a video from Master Distiller Chris Morris on the Double Oaked:
Below are our impressions of the Double Oaked (you might note that my notes are somewhat short and to the point, while G-LO’s notes meander a bit as he tries to impress us with his over-the-top descriptions of fruits, spices and generally everything else; he is a bit of a windbag and for that I apologize):
- Appearance: Burnished copper with a lot of legs.
- LimpD: Sweet with big blasts of honey and brown sugar with notes of vanilla, honeysuckle and menthol.
- G-LO: Burnt sugar like on top of a crème brûlée, heaps of vanilla, ripe bananas, clove and cinnamon.
- LimpD: Medium mouthfeel, sweet, sugary (like liquid frosting) with a long, warm finish.
- G-LO: Very sweet and sugary at the start. Deep, dark, rich sugar. Some baking spice heat kicks in at the middle, but never enough to overwhelm the sweetness. The finish is somewhat astringent with those burnt sugar notes hanging on in the aftertaste.
- ABV: 90.4%
Woodford Reserve Classic Malt
The Classic Malt is part of the Woodford Master’s Collection. Woodford has taken a 100% malted barley mash and triple distilled it copper pot stills. The whisky was then aged in either new charred oak barrels or used barrels. Both whiskies are aged 6-8 years so the only difference is in the barrel process. The Straight Malt aged in the new charred barrel, is much more of a bourbon in color and notes. The Classic Malt aged in the used barrel, is much more of a Scotch. Woodford suggests that you buy both to perform a side-by-side. Alas, my purveyor did not have the Straight Malt so we are unable to make the comparison here.
And now for our thoughts on the Classic Malt (Bottle No. 1659):
- Appearance: Golden yellow and a bit leggy.
- LimpD: Grainy, doughy and yeasty. Heavy alcohol and astringents with a faint hit of sweet menthol.
- G-LO: Not nearly as bad as the first time I nosed it at the WWD gathering. Still getting that wheat bread aroma. Or, maybe it’s a leavening loaf of wheat flour based dough. Fresh yeast. Some vanilla and light baking spice.
- LimpD: Just not good. Sourdough biscuits and water crackers with a bite of alcohol in a short finish with minimal burn. With water, the whiskey is all but unremarkable.
- G-LO: A touch of alcohol bite at the onset which quickly subsides. Again, this was much better the second time around but it is still not great. Some stoned fruit and vanilla at the onset with some mild white pepper heat. It gets fruitier at the finish with some of that wheat dough and yeast coming through. The aftertaste is very meh and a bit reminiscent of Cheerios.
- ABV: 90.4%
In my opinion, the Woodford Double Oaked is just fantastic from the first sip to the bottom of the glass, while I found the Classic Malt to be like a young and somewhat unrefined Scotch. As for creating a faux Scotch, you need to give Woodford credit for trying, but the effort just doesn’t seem to carry through to the final product. Instead of making a more unique whiskey they made a bad Scotch whisky. I’d rather have a Tamdhu, or better yet, another glass of the Double Oaked.
G-LO felt that this may not have been a fair comparison since they really are two completely different whiskies. That being said, while he didn’t hate the Classic Malt as much as he did first time around, he is still not loving the whiskey since he felt that it lacked depth and isn’t very memorable. For G-LO, the Classic Malt improved with water, but not by much. More importantly, Woodford makes a really delicious Bourbon and an incredibly mediocre malt whiskey. And, here’s the kicker; excellence can be had for $40-$50 (the Double Oaked), while the price for mediocrity can be had for close to $100 (the Classic Malt).