Normally we see Woodford Reserve’s Master’s Collection Series releases in the fall — like late 2019’s Chocolate Malted Rye Bourbon — but lately Master Distiller Chris Morris has been dropping a spring surprise: Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Batch Proof. (Versions of Batch Proof were previously released in 2018 and 2019; this is our first encounter with the bottling.)
What’s in the bottle? It’s Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon, made with the standard mashbill and aging regimen, but bottled at cask strength — this year’s is a blazing 123.6 proof.
Batch Proof is a bit of a departure from the usual Master’s Collection Series — which typically celebrate slight tweaks to the Woodford formula like a different grain or a different type of wood — as the only change here is in the use of extra water before bottling. That said, full proof whiskey often presents itself as wildly different than its lower-proof sibling (standard Woodford is bottled at 90.4 proof).
With some extra time on his hands since he was in lockdown during the Covid-19 situation, Morris recently sat down with me over Google Hangouts to talk about the new release and taste it together. Morris said each of these releases has targeted about 100 barrels, making for roughly 12,000 finished bottles going into the market. Going forward, Batch proof is becoming a permanent member of the Woodford family — and in fact it will be the only permanent bottling that’s not released at 90.4 proof, Woodford’s standard abv.
Some thoughts on Batch Proof 2020:
The whiskey is bold on the nose with lots of wood, but there’s also lots of fruit here — apple meets grapefruit — and a touch of mint. Its nose evokes the winter, and some tobacco aromas come to the fore. The palate is warming but not hot, with notes of orange and chocolate coming together beautifully. As it evolves in glass, I get a sudden note of chocolate-covered blueberry and a reprise of mint on the lasting and mildly savory finish.
I don’t have any of the prior Batch Proof releases for comparison, but Morris notes that this year’s release is drier with more wood showing. If that’s the case, I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up either the 2018 or 2019, should you find them in the market.