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Stogie Spirits: Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select

22 Apr 2010

I don’t consider myself a big horse racing fan, but who can resist the pageantry and excitement of the Run for the Roses? Besides, if nothing else, the Kentucky Derby always provides a great opportunity to smoke a cigar and sip some bourbon.

Woodford Reserve Distiller's SelectSo with “The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports” coming up on May 1, now is an appropriate time to examine the official bourbon of the Derby: Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select. This widely available product, according to its website, is recognized as “one of the finest, most complex small batch bourbons on the market today.”

Distiller’s Select is made at the Woodford Reserve Distillery, a National Historic Landmark that dates back to 1812 when it was called the Labrot & Graham Distillery. The operation is credited with improving such vital bourbon processes as sour-mash fermentation, pot still distillation, and barrel maturation in the mid-1800s. Today, the refurbished distillery in Versailles, Kentucky, is surrounded by fields of bluegrass and scenic thoroughbred farms.

The current incarnation of Woodford Reserve was introduced in 1996 as a super-premium spirit. Its grain recipe is composed of 72% corn, 10% malted barley, and 18% rye. “That 18% figure for the rye is pretty high for a bourbon, and that’s an investment in the flavor of Woodford Reserve,” says Chris Morris, Woodford’s master distiller. “Rye is an expensive grain, but it allows Woodford to have a spicy, feisty character.”

Another unique aspect of Woodford Reserve is that every batch contains less sour than any other bourbon to enable the mash to remain crisp. Then, following a five-day fermentation process, Distiller’s Select is distilled and matured in new, charred, white oak barrels.

The care and craftsmanship that goes into making Woodford Reserve (about $30 per 750 ml. bottle) is evident before the first sip. Right from the nose, as you appreciate the bourbon’s copper color and legs, you get a bold aroma of dry wood, charcoal, and cherry. This is a fitting introduction for the flavor that’s to follow.

The taste, bold and powerful yet approachable for bourbon fans, features an interesting interplay between butterscotch, peppercorn, and vanilla. The pepper seems to win out, especially during the bourbon’s long and spicy finish.

That means Distiller’s Select, when sipped neat, has no trouble standing up to full-bodied cigars. Of those I’ve been smoking lately, the LFD Air Bender, Oliva Serie V Maduro, and the Illusione 2 have proven to be the best complements. But the pairing possibilities are endless and you only have nine days to make your selection before the Derby—so get busy experimenting.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

8 Responses to “Stogie Spirits: Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select”

  1. GentlemanJester Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 1:42 pm #

    Great bourbon. Although I thought Early Times was the official bourbon of the Derby? Obviously Woodford is much better.

  2. Patrick S Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 4:14 pm #


    I remember coming across that issue when writing my stogie spirits article on the Mint Julep:

    Here's the situation:

    Woodford Reserve is the official bourbon of the Derby.

    Early Times is what they make Min Juleps with at the Derby (unless you are in the fancy seats and want to pay a premium for your Julep).

  3. Jason Shepherd Monday, April 26, 2010 at 9:21 am #

    If you are looking for some great cigars and want to taste some great bourbon, stop by J Shepherd Cigars at 1429 Bardstown rd in Louisville all week long as we celebrate Derby!

  4. JimmyB Wednesday, April 28, 2010 at 2:18 am #

    Love the Woodford Reserve (and have for quite some time). Your suggested pairing w/ the Oliva V seems spot on – so that's what I'll be having Saturday in honor of the Derby. Jason – wish I could be there.

    • Peter Thursday, October 10, 2013 at 3:29 am #

      Have never tried that before

  5. Josh Saturday, September 28, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    You can see the quality just from the bottle.

  6. Nicholas T. Thursday, October 10, 2013 at 3:28 am #

    Yeah totally agree with you Josh, all the russian wiskeys have similar bottles

  7. Sonya T Rikam Thursday, October 10, 2013 at 9:44 am #

    Oh la la , that looks delicious