The Woodford Reserve Classic Malt review
Company: Brown Forman
Classification: Malt Whiskey
Breakdown: 100% malted barley
Price: c. £140
Ok, so this isn't a bourbon, in fact, it's not even a rye whiskey, but you won't tell anyone, right? The Gents have a reputation to keep. At least it's made in America by a company famous for bourbon, so we think we will get away with it.
The Classic Malt is part of the Woodford Reserve Distillery’s Master Collection and apparently honours the pioneering work of their former owner (Oscar Pepper) and former Master Distiller (James Crow), who back in the days of yore, used to use new and pioneering processes to create unique whiskeys. Well, this is what Woodford says, however, the Gents are not so convinced that there is anything pioneering or different about putting malt whiskey in a used cask. Scotland anyone?
All that aside though the bottle is quite fancy and attracted Mav's shallow attention when he was in the local whiskey shop, so we thought it would be a shame not to review it for our loyal readers and give you the heads up before you decide whether to buy this pricey bottle for yourselves.
For this review we drank it neat in a Glencairn glass.
What we got – Corn (Mr Pie), Grass, Marzipan, Sponge Cake (Mav), Sour (Mr Pie), young (Mr Pie), dough-like,
What they say we should get - Erm...
What we got – Dry, Fruity, Red Berries, Strawberry Jam, Grass, Earthy, young (again)
What they say we should get - We looked...
What we got – Quite dry, medium in length
What they say we should get - But couldn't find any!
Well, that was different. This has one of the oddest noses of anything the Gents have previously tried, and we are no strangers to malt whisky (having had about 45 years experience between us) yet we have never smelt anything quite like it. It's not a bad nose we should point out, just a very unusual one. Mr Pie even managed to find corn, which we could only guess was because it's likely ex-bourbon barrels were used for the maturation. Speaking of which there probably wasn't a lot of maturation. This tastes and looks very young indeed.
Now we should point out that, despite Mav's cheeky opening dig, there is an actual reason this drink exists, and that is because it has a brother. Woodford produced two bottles of malt whiskey, of which was the Classic Malt, the other (called Straight Malt) used the same mash bill but was matured for longer in new charred oak casks. The idea was to see the difference between the grain first approach (favoured by the Scots, the Japanese, and the Irish etc) and the barrel forward style we know and love from regular bourbons. We wanted to point this out because the score is given in isolation, we haven't tried the barrel aged version and nor should we have to - for £140 we believe (experiment or not) this whiskey needs to hold up on its own.
Unfortunately, as you will see from the scores, it didn't. It's an interesting experiment and one that we like to see from distilleries, after all, it would be boring if no one took chances, but it just so happens that this one didn't pay off. Well not for Mav's bank balance anyway. Unless you either love the bottle design (it would make an excellent decanter) or you're just stubborn and want to try it for yourself instead of taking our advice, we would say you probably shouldn't pick this up.
5 out of 10 - Mav
5 out of 10 – Mr. Pie