Classification: Straight Bourbon
Distillery: Woodford Reserve Distillery / Brown-Forman Distillery
Mashbill: 72% Corn, 18% Rye, 10% Malted Barley
Color: Deep Dark Copper
MSRP: $45 (2017)
Woodford Reserve Double Oaked was released in February 2012, more than 15 years after the release of standard Woodford Reserve Distiller's Select. Woodford Double Oaked is produced by re-barreling Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select in a second virgin charred oak barrel for a little under a year. The second barrel used is deeply toasted before being lightly charred.
Upon a deep inhale, I’m greeted with a nice mixture of sweet and oaky. Toasted marshmallows, sweet vanilla, lightly toasted oak, and corn are topped with a drizzle of syrup. The additional aging in a second barrel seems to have imparted less wood on the nose than I would have expected, while also pulling forward the sweeter flavors you’d find in standard Woodford Reserve. Comparably, Double Oaked presents a surprisingly more diverse and enjoyable experience.
Oak and sweet vanilla are the dominant flavors here. Beneath are subtle hints of leather, caramel, and dried dark fruits. Seeing as this was exposed to new charred oak twice, it’s surprising to see how well the sweetness of the vanilla plays nicely with the woody oak flavors. Although it doesn’t have a all-star flavor profile, Double Oaked still manages to come across as richer and heavier in comparison to standard Woodford Reserve. This is a very good thing seeing as how thin the standard expression comes across. It’s still an easier sipper, however it doesn’t taste nearly as watered down as its sibling does.
The mellowest of heat is present, which makes for a really nice clean enjoyable finish. Dry leather, oak, tobacco, burnt caramel, baking chocolate, rye spice, and sweet dried fruits are present at the start. The finish then morphs into leather, oak, and a dash of white pepper, which lingers for a surprisingly long time. The finish delivers a great flavorful experience that is straightforward and easy enough for bourbon drinkers of any experience level to enjoy.
Rebarreling whiskey to finish it in a second barrel isn’t a new concept and wasn’t new when Brown-Forman released Double Oaked. Barrel finished bourbons have been popular for a while and continue to gain popularity as the bourbon boom continues to expand. They make for an efficient way for distilleries to try to differentiate themselves in the crowded marketplace.
What was unique about Double Oaked when hit the market was Brown-Forman using a new charred oak barrel as the second finishing barrel instead of a used one. Additionally, they let it sit in this barrel for several months. While others including Jim Beam have since released double oaked products, Brown-Forman was one of the first to experiment in this area with an on-the-shelf product. This simple, yet effective barrel finish imparts a large dose of much needed flavor to the just-average standard Woodford Reserve. Sure it doesn’t transform it into a super memorable bourbon, but it makes enough of an impact to question why given the option, you’d reach for a pour of Distiller’s Select over Double Oaked.
At $10 more a bottle than Distiller's Select, Double Oaked is a fair deal. For a small upcharge consumers get a bourbon that delivers a more satisfying experience than its younger sibling. Additionally, Brown-Forman is spending extra money to use two brand new charred oak barrels for Double Oaked, versus using a less expensive used whiskey barrel for the finishing process. Taking that into account, you're not overpaying for what you’re receiving, however for what is delivered for Double Oaked’s price, there are still many bourbons that present a more unique or satisfying flavor profile.
Brown-Forman pulls a rabbit out of its hat by using barrel finishing to transform an otherwise average Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select into a more enjoyable bourbon.
It’s hard not to constantly compare Double Oaked to standard Woodford Reserve as they both share the same mashbill and initial origins. Throughout this review I kept having to remind myself that while they may have started the same, they ended very differently. It’s really interesting to see the difference that exposure to another new virgin barrel that’s toasted and charred differently than the first barrel used in it’s aging can do to a bourbon.
Woodford Reserve Double Oaked ends up delivering the flavor profile that is missing from their standard expression. While it’s not breaking any new boundaries in the bourbon world, it also doesn’t deliver a drastically different flavor profile like so many other barrel finished whiskeys tend to do. However unlike Distillers Select, it is quite enjoyable and complex enough for me to actively reach for a glass to appreciate the flavors it contains. If Distiller’s Select is what you grab to make a cocktail, there is no doubt this is what you’ll want to grab to enjoy a glass of bourbon neat. For everyone else who may ignore this line from Brown-Forman, Woodford Reserve Double Oaked is worth a try for its surprisingly easy-to-enjoy flavor profile.