A Visit to a Kentucky’s Woodford Reserve Distillery Is Fun Research
Over Labor Day weekend, when it was a bazillion degrees outside, Mike and I were looking for something to do that didn’t involve cooking in the ridiculously high temperatures.
We took the beautiful winding, country roads to one of the most beautiful and oldest distilleries in the state. The Woodford Reserve Distillery is nestled among the rolling hills of historic thoroughbred horse farms. And the drive itself is awe-inspiring. You might even spot the Instagram-worthy, heart-shaped tree stump along the route.
The drive to Woodford Reserve is inspiration for the backdrop to Declan O’Roark’s Shaughnessy Farm near Midland, Kentucky (very similar to the small town of Midway, Kentucky) in the In Darkness series. And if you read Exposed in Darkness and the rest of the series, you will see similarities between Woodford Reserve and Declan’s bourbon, Elkhorn Reserve. Though Elkhorn Reserve and the distillery where Elkhorn Reserve bourbon is distilled were inspired by other bourbons and distilleries, I definitely pulled from research into Woodford Reserve to develop Declan’s brand of Kentucky bourbon.
My Background in Bourbon and All Things Kentucky
I was born and raised in bourbon country. Actually, I was raised in Bourbon County, which is not named for the alcohol, believe it or not. But that does not mean I did not grow up with the rich history of thoroughbred horse racing, bourbon distilleries, and college basketball (University of Kentucky Wildcats) all around me. However, because I grew up here, I haven’t always been quick to see the tourist side of Kentucky. I’m trying to change that. And I’d like to take you along for the ride, starting with a lovely tour of Woodford Reserve.
Woodford Reserve Visitors Center (and Gift Shop)
Immediately upon arriving at the visitors center, you get a sense of just how important of a brand Woodford Reserve really is in the bourbon industry. From the way bottles of bourbon and photographs of the distillery are displayed around the center to the southern hospitality shown to each and every guest, you know you are in for an hour-long journey and storytelling of the making of Woodford Reserve Bourbon.
And who doesn’t like a good story well-told?
Don’t forget to browse the small gift shop before or after your tour for gifts. Some of the Master’s Collections of bourbon can only be found in stock at the distillery.
The tour is an educational look into the history of bourbon and into the bourbon-making processes that allows Woodford Reserve to create their own unique colors and flavors of bourbon. And let me tell you: every distillery has their own secrets and special touches into what makes their bourbon unique. If you pay close attention during each tour, you will notice the subtle, and sometimes the not-so-subtle, differences that sets each bourbon apart from its competition.
The Iconic Copper Pots
One distinguishing feature of Woodford Reserve is that they are the only distillery to use three copper pots in the making of their bourbons.
Where the Bourbon is Aged
The aging process is unique to the many different varieties of bourbon. And Woodford Reserve has its own aging process and time for each type of bourbon the distillery produces.
When you enter the storehouse where barrel after barrel is stored and aged for years, you are bathed in aromas of bold grains, charred wood of the barrels the bourbon rests in, and the rich, complex flavors that come from many spices, fruits, and floral notes, including citrus, cinnamon, cocoa, toffee, caramel, and chocolate, just to name a few.
At the end of the tour, you are given a sampling of the Distiller’s Select and the Double Oaked brands of bourbon. Additionally, you may taste a chocolatey and creamy Rebecca Ruth Bourbon Ball made with Woodford Reserve bourbon. Sipping the bourbon while enjoying the bourbon ball will have you gifting your entire family a box of chocolates and a bottle of bourbon for their next birthday celebration. And they will love you for it.
Have you ever been to a bourbon or whisky distillery? I’d love to hear about your experiences.
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