Editor’s note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Woodford Reserve. This in no case, by our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the purchase link at the bottom of this review, our site receives a small sponsorship payment which helps support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
Back when I was a bartender, I found many people surprised to learn that whiskey, before distillation, is essentially just beer. This often happened around releases that featured the fact that they started out as a beer, like black mound and Thug. This trend made its way to Woodford Reserve for the fall 2021 release of the Master’s Collection, a five-malt mash whisky.
For those unfamiliar with Woodford Reserve’s Master’s Collection, it started in 2006 as a way for master distiller, Chris Morris, to experiment with unique adjustments to Woodford products to see what happens. These changes include adjustments to the wort bill, what whiskeys are aged or finished in, and even additions of smoked beans. There is a nice interview with Chris Morris for the 2018 releases on Distiller. It gives insight into how decisions are made and that they really don’t know what these releases will look like.
This year’s release is the Five-Malt Stouted Mash Whiskey. The goal of this release was to really push the flavor profile towards what you expect from beer. Although I can’t find many details about it other than what was in their Press release, they mention opting for this robust beer style to match their use of the Irish three-pot method of distillation and to honor the Irish stonemasons who built their distillery. Although there are no specifics on the malts used or what makes them strong. there are hints of a roasting process normally used in stout beer.
Whiskey just before distillation is called distillery beer. What makes it different from what most people think of beer is, in general, the lack of hops. Hops impart a citrus and floral flavor profile to beer and are often the source of bitterness associated with things like IPA. Now, while I can’t tell if Woodford Reserve uses hops or not, there is a hint of that floral citrus in the flavor profile of this whisky.
These experimental lines can be random, and their price can often make betting a bit difficult. I will say that I think this one is worth checking out, especially if you like the flavors of stouts or like other whiskeys distilled from real ale. It certainly won’t be for everyone, but I’d put it in the “successful” category for the Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection.
Tasting Notes: Woodford Reserve Five-Malt Stouted Mash
Vital Stats: 45.2% ABV, MSRP $130 for 750ml.
Appearance: It is a coppery amber color. It forms thick tears that fall at medium speed.
Nose: It smells like a brewery, just tons of processed grains on the nose. Reminds me of toasted multigrain bread. Some subtle notes of caramel and chocolate are also present.
Palace: I find it has a rich flavor while still being light. Flavors of biscuit, toffee and barley are present and complemented by a slight citrus bitterness that reminds me of hops. The finish reminds me of a Japanese pastry with toasted sesame seeds. There is also a touch of oak and vanilla. There’s a bit of astringency and warmth to it all. The water really brings out the malt and a little more caramel. It tastes like chewing candied malted barley.