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Review: Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon

Woodford Reserve has released a new bourbon called Double Oaked in the last couple of months. The whiskey starts with standard Woodford, which is distilled in both copper pot and column stills before aging in heavily charred white oak barrels. Double Oaked starts off with standard Woodford Reserve before undergoing an inventive finishing process.

Once the standard Woodford is dumped, it’s then placed in a second barrel for an additional 9 months of aging. These barrels have been toasted twice as long, and charred far more lightly, than the first barrels. The result is a different type of “seasoning” to the wood that is designed to provide a dramatic impact on the flavor of the finished whiskey.

Let me say that I’m a big fan of these finishing processes. Mashbills (grain recipes) can only be tweaked so much. Significant flavor variations are hard to gain by tweaking grains a few percentage points. Same is true for distillation – it is what it is. Distillers are left with but a few weapons at their disposal, one of which is the wood – a HUGE flavor impact on the finished product. I hope to see more finishing out there. To me this is not a “tired” trend in the least.

Here are my thoughts on Woodford Reserve Double Oaked:

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, 45.2% abv (90.4 Proof), $49/bottle

Color: Dark Copper/Amber

Nose: Huge wafts of butterscotch and toffee with a bit of heady molasses. Vanilla cream, baked peaches, apricots, and clove provide some interest along with a heavy dose of toasted wood. The nose is far creamier, more buttery, and also much sweeter than the standard Woodford.

Palate: Butterscotch, vanilla, and toffee notes at the front of the palate, eventually giving way to cinnamon, clove, and rum raisin. As the sip finishes, a concentrated wood tannin and bitterness begins to emerge.

Finish: Flavors of butterscotch do their best to tone down the lingering bitterness. Moderate length with ample warmth.

Overall: It’s interesting that this is named “Double Oaked”, because it comes off literally with a bit of a dual personality. What we have here is clear evidence of standard Woodford Reserve, but it’s had a veneer applied to it that makes it quite different. The additional barrel finishing comes off best on the nose – an almost creamy quality emerges. Unfortunately from mid-palate through the finish, an increasing bitterness sets things a tad off course. The intensely sweet aromas and flavors juxtaposed against the bitterness almost speaks of two different whiskeys. I do applaud the process immensely. The results are also good, but don’t measure up to the original Woodford, which I enjoy very much. Factoring the additional $15-20 in cost makes it tougher to justify for me. But I can tell from comments and emails that many are already enjoying this new Woodford release immensely despite the price.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.1 (Very Good)

39 Comments

  1. LVWhisky says:

    I agree. I actually enjoy the standard Woodford, but I enjoyed this a little less. I usually enjoy products of some atypical finishing / aging but this just kind of takes a standard and makes it weirder. I really like what they tried to do, but it’s definitely not worth any more $ than the standard Woodford.

  2. LVWhisky sums this up well. It’s clear every day to me that some very smart whiskey folks comment on this site. The end result to Double Oaked is something that comes off a “little weird”. That’s a great way to put it.

  3. Hhmoore says:

    I’ve seen a lot of hype and positive comments, and was at least half expecting that you would rate this higher.
    As I’ve expressed in the past, I was less than thrilled with the double oaked. I’ve even revisited the bottle a few times; and, while I can get through my pour more easily, the act of doing so doesn’t hold much pleasure. For me, the price difference wouldn’t be a factor…if I liked the double oaked. Unfortunately, the bottle/experience has been a disappointment.
    I won’t be buying the Double Oaked again….but that just means there will be more for the people that like it.

  4. Mark says:

    I have to agree with everyone else, this was such a huge letdown, especially after having tried their Masters Collection Maple Wood Finish which I found to be very interesting and flavorful. The Double Oaked to me was a lot of astringency and bitterness. We tried it neat, on ice, with water, and finally in a mint julep, all attempts were futile. I was so desperate to get it off my shelf I let my girlfriend pour coke in it, and even she said it tasted funny, which I found amusing. Oh well, lesson learned, but I’ll pass on any more Double Oaked.

  5. Gary says:

    Thanks for reviewing this one! My dad and I have been waiting to “taste” it ourselves before shelling out $50 (as there are just too many fine whiskeys for under $50 to go and “try” every variant out there). I like Woodford Reserve well enough, and while I’m excited to see more variations surfacing (and even completely new brands on the shelves here in Georgia!), it is nice to not have to shell out the dough for each one since inevitably some will be a disappointment. Thanks for saving me $50 :-)

  6. SteveBM says:

    I like Woodford Reserve as a casual bourbon that’s easy to sip. It’s also my julep bourbon of choice. I thought the Seasoned Oak that they did as part of the Masters Collection was interesting too. I tried the Double Oaked and did not like it. Like LVWhiskey, I found it “weird” and overly woody. Not worth the extra coin to me.

  7. Alan says:

    Thanks for the review Jason. I would have thought being a WR it would have been much better. Hard to beat a proven product like the original. Sounds like they may have to put that one on the ‘back burner’ with all the neg comments. I’d rather spend a couple more dollars and get Van Winkle 12 yr lot ‘B’!

  8. iskch1 says:

    Thanks Jason for the review.

  9. Vince says:

    Jason,
    I agree with your review and do not think it is worth the extra $$. I am a big fan of the traditional Woodford Reserve. However, having said that the Double Oaked makes one of the best Manhattan’s I have ever had. Give it a try!

  10. Bill says:

    I also agree that this does not come off as well as Makers 46. However, in my opinion, Woodford is better to begin with. I will say that I drink Woodford neat but enjoy the double oaked with a small amount of water. It seemed to come alive after adding the water.

  11. Jon says:

    Jason,
    One thing I have learned being a bit of a wine freak with a cellar that will make my wife angry when I tell her she can not drink “these bottles” as I point to a wall of my racks is you have to find a taster that mirrors what you perceive and enjoy so the review and ratings are in step with your taste; and therefore the most information and enjoyment can be obtained from a tasting. With that being said once again everything you described is spot on. I noticed a very pungent sweetness on the nose of vanilla, hazelnut, toffee, and spice. The initial impact was excitement with the toffee and spices playing off one another on the front palate only to be somewhat let down on the finish with a huge tannic presence that rushes in and squashes the initial tones of the bourbon like a sledge hammer leaving a disjointed experience. I fell like it is right on the cusp on something great though. Thanks for your review and once again verifying I can follow your ratings with confidence. Cheers!

  12. SCmayor says:

    I think Vince might have a good angle as it sounds like this might be a great candidate for cocktails as the taste appears to be unique.

    Of course, $50 bottles are pretty high end for mixing.

    I wish distillers would consider half bottles of some of these unique items.

  13. Max says:

    This is one of my least favorite bourbons. I can’t get over the artificial banana note. It’s like a cheap candy and way to chemical to me. Kind of like getting a glass of concord Manischewitz when you’re expecint a good wine.

  14. sam k says:

    To quite sku, “Why does Brown-Forman suck so much?” Sorry, guys, this distillery does very little to appeal to the enthusiast, Birthday Bourbon being the lone exception. Why would we continue to think the next release might be the big breakthrough? Woodford Reserve is OK, but at its price point, there are any number of better pours to choose from, many of which are substantially less expensive.

    No need for me to blow $50 on another failed attempt. I just got a bottle of Old Rip Van Winkle 107 ten year today for $15 less, and I’ll guarantee it kicks ass on anything currently on the shelf from B-F at any price.

    For shame, Brown-Forman. Step your game up, already!

  15. J says:

    Not sure why this is getting so much negativity. Woodford Reserve Double Oaked is an amazing bourbon, right up there with Knob Creek.

  16. Jon says:

    Hey J. I really have enjoyed WR in the past and continue to do so. IMHO, the price to taste ratio is a bit off. The astringent quality on the back palate with an odd combination tannin and oak on the finish. In this price range I can find multiple Bourbons with a better taste profile that I enjoy much more. I do enjoy it however I would enjoy much more at about 30 dollars U.S.

    Which brings up a question to Jason. How much (if at all) does price come into your ratings or expectations of a bourbon? Thanks

  17. sam k says:

    Knob Creek in PA is $34. Double Oaked is $50. Seems like the Knob Creek would be the way to go.

  18. Andrew says:

    Jon, price does not play a part in the rating. His view on the matter is discussed here:

    http://sourmashmanifesto.com/rating-scale/

  19. Thank you Andrew. Jon, price doesn’t factor into the score. It does of course factor into my comments simply because I think it’s relevant information for a consumer I feel.

    Thanks for all of the comments on Double Oaked folks. Seems a lot of folks sense some of the same things. I want to be clear though, this is still very good whiskey, it’s just a bit weird and I think requires some tweaking to get right. I hope Woodford keeps trying to get it perfect because I like what they are doing with this. Let me also be clear before this next observation – I’m not a distiller. That said I couldn’t help but wonder if Maker’s Mark’s approach with 46 wouldn’t be a little more ideal – a little more subtle finishing.

  20. Vinny says:

    So if we all agree, at least here, that Woordford is a bit wired in flavor profile perhaps we can get at why. The pot still maybe, I may be a novice but seem to pick up similar flavors of banana in Irish pot stilled whisk(e)ys.

  21. Randy Watson says:

    Thanks for the review Jason. Picked up a pour at a local bar before your review and before I shelled out $50. I was not impressed at that price point. Your review is once again spot on. Not a bad bourbon but not deserving of the price.

  22. Theo says:

    Vinny – I think the majority thinks that Double-Oaked has a weird flavor, not Woodford in general. Which leads me to believe it’s due to the revised finish process. Apparently, there’s a pretty wide range of opinions about regualr Woodford.

    I plan to take Randy’s strategy of trying it out at a bar before buying a whole bottle. I really like regular Woodford, it’s what got me into Bourbon in the first place, but I’m not quite ready to put down $50 on Double-Oaked with such mixed reviews. Too many other good bottles out there for the money.

  23. Bob says:

    Sounds like the standard Woodford’s is the way to go, vs. the Reserve (which is unlikely to make it to shelves around where I live anyway). I had some of the standard at a bar the other night and was pleasantly surprised; the palate was quite good and stood out against those of the other two bourbons I had.

  24. Bob says:

    [sorry, I was referring to the Reserve vs. the Double Oaked] :-/

  25. Icedogs says:

    I love it. Double Oaked is delicious and the most easy-drinking 90+ proof bourbons I’ve had. But I like the oak flavors of this. People who aren’t into that will not enjoy it as much, or even dislike it. To me, this is way better than regular Woodford Reserve. Glad they made it, and glad to have Jason’s and others’ thoughts on it. Cheers!

  26. Icedogs says:

    Jason makes a great point in one of the follow-up posts–this is a “weird” bourbon. The flavor and body are so different. But I just really loved it. Finished the bottle in a week or so. I’m a big fan of Maker’s 46 (after kind of disliking it the first few times I had it), but I think I prefer Double Oaked. With 46, I need to let it settle and I need to be fully prepared to enjoy it calmly and quietly to appreciate the subtleties. With Double Oaked, I felt like I was really enjoying it right off the bat, each and every time. But it’s not a normal bourbon, for sure. Again, cheers!

  27. Bill says:

    I guess my taster is “weird” because I find the Double Oaked to be sublime. Amazing nose – toasted oak, fresh oak, caramel, vanilla creme, candied fruit and occasionally a waft of fresh cut grass and maple. I love the oily consistency,…toasty, smokey oak, vanilla, spice, buttery syrup and I think that “bitter” taste is kind of a grassy, fresh oak thing which I think off sets the sweetness perfectly. I love it — my current favorite after dinner bourbon.

  28. Diego Navarrete says:

    I love this double oak-double taste sensation. I rate this bourbon very high in my ranking, my humble suggestion is you make a tasting sample…putting this one next to some of your favs and then make a decision. To me it was the winner.

  29. Diego, thanks for the feedback. We’ve had a number of folks that love it, and that is great. Drink what you love regardless of what anyone thinks.

  30. Bill, you taster is just fine because it’s YOURS. Glad you’ve found something you love.

  31. Kevin says:

    I wonder if there’s some serious inconsistency in the bottling of this stuff. The bottle I had is a thumbs down for me. This Double Oaked tastes decent with a splash of water but I found the nose on it is just not very pleasant and inviting with or without water. The predominant note in the nose for me was Testors model airplane cement and I had a hard time getting past that to take a sip. I didn’t get any creaminess, wood notes, or butterscotch- just a raw and unfinished quality about it. The taste was much better than the nose, but I want to enjoy both (especially at a $50 price point). I see no reason to spend so much more over regular Woodford, which is one of the first bourbons I tried and really got me into it. Much better bourbons out there for less money, so I’m afraid this will be a one and done in my cupboard unless I hear about additional efforts to make it better/more consistent in the future.

  32. Kevin, I’m betting it’s pretty consistent, just polarizing stuff I suppose.

  33. Jim Listerman says:

    Tasting Reviews are mixed. Woodford Reserve Distillery Tour Review “Two Thumbs Up”. Great distillery tour on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Visitor Center sits on hill above distillery. Historic limestone buildings house fermentation & distillery, aging warehouse, and bottling. One hour tour gives guests thorough insight into making Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.

  34. RD Grant says:

    I’d Like to try it, sounds good to me.
    Send me some

  35. Tigran Kash says:

    I didn’t read nor had the desire to read any of the reviews before posting mine. Shortly, this is the worst spirig I have ever purchased and tried. Harsh flavor, crude finish and a terrible headache does noe equate into anything good. BTY – you don’t need to have more than 2 shots for the headache part. It was useful lighting charcoal.

  36. MJ Champ says:

    I recently sat through a controlled tasting with Master Distiller Chris Morris and 100 or so others at the KBF where both the original and DO Woodford were tasted with different foods, cheeses and fruits. Instead of a sales pitch to buy the Double Oaked variety, Chris was very straight forward when discussing the flavor wheel as it related to both. The original goes well with a much larger variety of foods while the Double Oaked did not. I personally love the flavor profile of the Double Oaked and is my “Go To” bourbon to drink neat with a fine cigar. I drink the original before meals on the rocks.

  37. Doug A says:

    Jason, got a chance to taste Woodford Reserve Double Oaked and talk with the Master Distiller Chris Morris last night at a tasting. I am not a huge Woodford Reserve fan (more of a Four Roses guy) but the Single Barrel Double Oak was quite unique. Heavy on the oak, which I like a heavy oaked bourbon every now and then. Long oaky finish for sure. It is definitely different. I think folks are gonna love it or hate it. I will keep a bottle on hand along with Angel’s Envy for times when I am looking for something a bit off the beaten path.

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  39. Bud Lamy says:

    I do not agree with most of the posts here, I love woodford reserve and think the Double Oaked is much more smoothe than the standard reserve. I agree they ask a little to much for it but I do enjoy its incredible smoothness.

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