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Thanks to Woodford Reserve, I now know a lot more about bourbon. I am no aficionado, but I am certainly more educated and happier for it.

Enter Woodford bourbon which is said to have been made first in 1881 by a bartender in Kentucky and is now considered one of Kentucky’s oldest distillery sites.

I thought I would share some fundamentals that helped me understand this classic drink a bit better.

So how is Woodford Reserve made? Well, according to the pro’s high rye bourbons maintain the standard three grains – corn, rye and barley – while boosting the rye content for a spicier, richer flavour.

All bourbon is made using the same five sources of flavour.

5 Sources of Flavour

A grain recipe – To gain that Woodford Reserve spiciness Rye is used. The secret recipe uses 18% rye, which is high but gives a distinctive taste.

Water Source – Iron-free limestone-filtered water is a key part of the fermentation process.

Fermentation – This is what brings out the complex flavours in the bourbon. Woodford Reserve is known to have one of the longest fermentation processes in the industry.

Distillation – the balance in the flavour is due to the careful batching of whiskey distilled in pot stills and column stills, bringing about a unique flavour combination.

Maturation – Woodford Reserve use purpose-built new, charred, white oak barrels made on the cooperage. Once the whiskey is filled in the barrels this is transferred to a heat-cycled warehouse until the flavour declares it is mature and ready.

The end product is a gorgeous amber liquid that is absolutely beautiful and ready to tickle your tastebuds with over 200 flavour notes from bold grain and wood, sweet aromatics, spice and fruit and floral notes.

So how to describe this effectively? Well, according to the website, what you can prepare your tastebuds for is:

Nose – heavy with rich dried fruit, hints of mint and oranges covered with a dusting of cocoa. Faint vanilla and tobacco spice.

Taste – Rich, chewy, rounded and smooth, with complex citrus, cinnamon, and cocoa.

Finish – Silky smooth, almost creamy at first with a long, warm satisfying tail

Woodford Reserve bourbon

This year the kick-off of International Old Fashioned Week heralded the start of the Annual Woodford Bourbon Trail campaign in search of the best cocktail bar and old fashioned recipe. Worldwide, bars compete in over 60 countries and 20 bars in South Africa alone to put their own twist on the Old Fashioned cocktail. 

Once the mixologists have finished competing at the end of November, the regional winners will shine up their glasses, grab their shakers and gather at the Woodford Bourbon Brawl in search of the very best Old Fashioned cocktail. 

The price point of Woodford Reserve Bourbon is pretty good for the quality it delivers. It is said to have the flavours of tobacco spice and dried vanilla, leaving a warming finish. 

So I took up an opportunity to mix myself and Old Fashioned this month to get in the spirit of things (so to say).

I also asked friends which is their favourite bourbon cocktail and the answers came back overwhelmingly in favour of the Old Fashioned. One with a particularly different South African twist of a naartjie peel instead of an orange. 

The ingredients to mix your own Woodford Reserve Old Fashioned are:

50ml Woodford reservepour over ice in mixing glass

1 tsp brown sugarstir ingredients for 30 seconds until well mixed

2 dashes bittersstrain into service glass

Add orange zest for garnish

Preferably enjoyed poolside with snacks and friends on a hot Summers evening. Or on a great fly fishing trip?

That being said, with load shedding back in the swing of things, it may be a good time to perfect your own cocktail. 

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