Woodford Reserve has always struck me as an ideal crowd-pleasing whiskey for more traditional drinkers. There’s both a simplicity and elegance to their marketing, be it the font and logo, bottle designs, or even just images of their distillery. That appeal was enough to stick with me, since Woodford Reserve was one of the first bourbons I tried to legitimately taste neat. It was also the bottle I bought when my girlfriend and I had our first at-home dinner together. Say what you will about marketing, it does tend to go hand-in-hand with many of our fondest memories.
For all of this appeal, however, my exploration of the Woodford Reserve lineup has remained almost nonexistent. Aside from a regretful purchase of their Malt Whiskey a couple years ago, the standard expression remained the only product I indulged in. That was, until last year when I got to sample one of their Batch Proof…well, batches. Not long after that, I decided to pull the trigger on a 375ml bottle of the acclaimed Double Oaked. The premise behind Double Oaked has become an oft-repeated one these days: Take aged whiskey and put it in a second barrel, effectively finishing it. Woodford’s website mentions the barrel is “deeply toasted before a light charring.” Just how well does one of the original double-barreled bourbons hold up? Let’s find out.
Nose: Warm, melted chocolate and caramel with sweet oak and vanilla extract. Some banana and medicinal cherry. Bit of mocha or sweetened caramel mocha macchiato. Little graham cracker note buried in there. Like the start to a twist on s’mores. Caramelized dark brown sugar. Molasses without the sulfur. Smells like a coffee & chocolate combo shop.
Palate: Sweet and silky; mild-moderate viscosity. Caramels, dark brown sugar, barely any bitterness. Mostly sweet oak. Riesen candy. Mocha and semi-sweet chocolate with even more dark caramel/toffee to find. Same medicinal cherry note works its way into the mid-palate, along with a borderline candy-like banana note.
Finish: Solid length. Oak remains sweet and avoids descending into tannic territory. Graham cracker and crème de cacao. Cherry cordial.
Now that’s what I call liquid dessert. I have half a mind to pour this over some vanilla ice cream or into a vanilla milkshake—the other half reminds me that I’m lactose intolerant. The use of a second barrel does wonders, taking the sweet oak and molasses notes found in regular Woodford and amplifying them in a way that they finally feel tapped into. I still get that musty Woodford personality in full, so anyone who’s put off by that aspect may want to reconsider blindly buying a bottle.
For everyone else, however, this is a tough one to pass up. What makes Double Oaked even sweeter is its above average availability and typical price range. For $50-$60, you get a lot of flavor and a true pleaser for anyone with a sweet tooth. My only personal complaint is the relatively low proof. At 90.4, I think there’s even more flavor being left on the table. If bottled closer to 100 proof, Double Oaked could be taken to an even higher level. Otherwise? This has the potential to be an upset in blinds if thrown in as a wild card. I could see this holding its own against similarly proofed bourbons that cost upwards of $200.