Barrel Finished Rye, another addition to Woodford Reserve’s Distillery Series, briefly hit the distillery’s gift shop shelves this past spring. In the three years since Woodford began the series, this line of one-offs has highlighted some fairly straightforward experiments, like the Double Double Oaked, as well as some more unusual efforts like Frosty Four Wood. Barrel Finished Rye falls more in the former category as it simply takes standard Woodford Reserve Rye and ages it in a second lightly charred, heavily toasted barrel (essentially the same process as Double Double Oaked but for an unspecified amount of time). The additional oak influence worked well enough with Woodford’s already extra-oaked Double Oak bourbon, but how does it impact the standard rye?
This whiskey has a massively complex nose with big rye and oak notes battling for dominance. There’s buttery cinnamon and clove, dried cherry, vanilla bean, caramelized sugar, and a little red licorice. Woodier notes of cigar box and oak shavings muscle out some of the rye spice and become almost candied ginger. The body presents a similar competition of flavors with chewy butterscotch, brandied cherries, and dark chocolate malt balls finding a surprising balance with sharper notes of sandalwood, incense, and sawdust. There’s some expected astringency on the mid-palate given the extra wood aging, but it’s remarkably brief. The highlight is the finish, which fades perfectly with a vanilla-tinged blend of dried dark fruit and brown sugar. There’s plenty of push and pull in this one, but it all comes together really well in the end.
Even better than Double Double Oaked, Barrel Finished Rye is a worthy souvenir for your next Kentucky trip. Perhaps a Double Oaked Rye is on the horizon for the standard Woodford line up. If so, I imagine a Distillery Series Double Double Oaked rye wouldn’t be far off.
A / $50 (375ml) / woodfordreserve.com