The Woodford Reserve distillery is both one of the newest and oldest distilleries in Kentucky simultaneously, with the current incarnation as Woodford Reserve first appearing in 1996, but distilling having been carried out on the grounds as far back as 1812. Like most distilleries with such a long history, it contains its fair share of interesting and amusing stories, changes in ownership as well as long periods of idleness.
Elijah Pepper (of James E Pepper fame) is credited with founding the original distillery on the site in 1812 – after earlier distilleries in Cuplpeper Virginia (1780) and Versailles, Woodford County, Kentucky (1792 – during which time Kentucky was still part of Virginia).
In 1812, Elijah bought a larger parcel of land, moving his family and establishing his largest distillery yet, which would eventually become Woodford Reserve all these years later.
On his passing the distillery was managed by Elijah’s son Oscar Pepper (changing name to the Oscar Pepper Distillery) during whose tenure a certain Dr. James Crow (later immortalised as the Old Crow Bourbon brand) worked to improve, refine and document many of the key aspects of American whiskey making, including sour mash fermentation, pot still distilling, and barrel maturation.
Oscar Pepper passed away in 1867 leaving the distillery to his son, James E. Pepper who ran the distillery until its eventual sale to Leopold Labrot and James Graham in 1878 (triggering another name change) and it remained in this state (barring prohibition when it was mothballed) until 1941, when it was acquired by Brown Forman. Brown Forman carried out distillation until selling the property to a local farmer in the late 1960’s before reacquiring and refurbishing in 1993. 3 years later Woodford Reserve was unleashed upon the world.
The distillery uses copper pot stills and sports some 100 year old cypress wood fermenters, a 500 foot (~152m) long gravity-fed barrel run and heat cycled barrelhouses. Spirit from the copper pot stills is combined with spirit distilled in the column stills at THE Brown Forman distillery in Shively, Kentucky and using an unusually high Rye mash bill – typically 18% Rye, 10% Barley and 72% Corn.
Current core and recurring range products (officially) available in Australia include the Woodford Reserve Bourbon, Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, Woodford Reserve Straight Rye Whiskey, and the annual Woodford Reserve Master's Collection. A special commemorative bottling celebrating the annual running and sponsorship of the Kentucky Derby is also produced but is not (yet) brought into Australia officially.
Thanks to our good friends at Brown Forman we have a bottle of the Woodford Reserve Double Oaked to give away, which will be added to the already existing collection of bottles for one lucky individual in our upcoming competition!
For those keeping score we have a bottle each of the Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Straight Rye, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Tennessee Straight Rye, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select Tennessee Whiskey and Woodford Reserve Double Oaked.
Stay tuned for details (and the reveal of the last bottle for our competition prize).
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