Exploring America's Native Spirit
Exploring America's Native Spirit

National Landmark & Slick Bottles

Recently my good friend Brian and I visited Woodford Reserve in Versailles. The facilities are not grand in size, but the operation has a long history dating back to Elijah Pepper in 1797 and is one of three distilleries to have National Historic Landmark designation. The property has seen its share of owners, brands, and operators, but Woodford began here in 1996.

A few points that Sammie, our tour guide, called out:

  • Mash bill = 72% corn, 18% rye, 10 % malted barley
  • The grains are sourced from Shelby Co, KY and the Dakotas. They are all non-GMO and are ground on site to help guarantee freshness and full flavor
  • The vats for storage during fermentation are made of Cyprus wood from Georgia. New vats have been recently added with the same wood.
  • The yeast strain dates back to a 1929 “medicinal” whiskey made during prohibition
  • Only bourbon producer using the 3 pot still process similar to Scotch/Irish whiskey production
  • Cooperage in Louisville toasts the barrels first and then chars to a level 3 finish. The empty barrels weigh about 125 lbs and when full reach 525 lbs.
  • The property has a 500 ft., gravity driven barrel track that was put in place in 1934 for easy barrel movement between buildings.

Two products are made on site – Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select and the Double Oaked version of the prior. The Double Oaked version starts life exactly the same as Distiller’s select. The difference is when the bourbon is taken from the original barrels; some of it goes into bottles and ends up on shelves as Distiller’s select. However, other barrels are transferred to new barrels with a different finishing process and aged an additional year. The difference in the second set of barrels is that they are toasted for a much longer time, but only slightly charred. The long toasting process impacts the different sugars present in the wood and leaves stronger notes of vanilla and caramel in the Double Oaked expression leading some to call it a ‘desert’ bourbon.

The property is beautiful and the tree-lined drive through horse country is a treat in itself. One thing to note is the Visitor’s Center is currently undergoing a major renovation. Another interesting note, for as handsome as the brand’s bottle is, I was a bit underwhelmed by the promotional merchandise in the Gift Shop.

Certainly worth the trip and check out nearby Midway, KY (especially Heirloom restaurant) if you have a chance.

What's in my bar now...

Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star

Ancient Ancient Age 10 Year


Basil Hayden's

Buffalo Trace Single Oak #32

Buffalo Trace Single Oak #59

Buffalo Trace Single Oak #60

Buffalo Trace Single Oak #62


Col. E.H. Taylor Warehouse C Tornado

David Nicholson 1843 BIB

Eagle Rare

Elijah Craig 12 Year

Elmer T Lee

Elmer T Lee Commemorative

Evan Williams SB Bourbon Affair

Ezra Brooks Black Label

Four Roses Small Batch

George T. Stagg 2013

Heaven Hill Gold Label BIB

Heaven Hill White Lable BIB

Henry McKenna 10 Year BIB

Jim Beam Black 8 Year

Jim Beam Choice 5 Year

Kentucky Vintage

Maker's Mark

Maker's Mark 46

Michter's Single Barrell 10 Year

Old Bardstown Estate

Old Fitzgerald BIB

Old Forester

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon

Old Grand Dad 86

Old Weller Antique 107

Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year 2013

Spring Mill

Stagg Jr. 2013

Town Branch


Wild Turkey 81

Wild Turkey Tradition 14 Year


Willian Heavenhill 15 Year 2015

Woodford Reserve

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