Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Whisky Workshop

Whisky Workshops at the Bellevue Hotel in Paddington kicked off in 2012 with the Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection, a tasting of four Woodford Reserve bourbon whiskeys, with canapés created to match the flavour profile of each whiskey.

Woodford Reserve
Woodford Reserve at the Bellevue Hotel

Hosted by Stuart Reeves, Brand Ambassador of Brown-Forman, and Dan Woolley, Group Beverage Manager of Riversdale Group, the Master’s Collection is the product of Chris Morris, Woodford Master Blender, who took one element of the whiskey making process, whether it is grain, fermentation, maturation process and created something different in a limited release.

Woodford Reserve

Guests are welcomed with the Kentucky Queen, a bourbon cocktail created by Dan Woolley by adapting the flavour profiles from the classic Manhattan and using Woodford Reserve with apricot brandy and chocolate bitters.

Woodford Reserve
Kentucky Queen

The whisky workshop format is informal, with guests seated on Chesterfield lounges or gathered around the bar with racing style booklets handed out for taking tasting notes.

The dégustation of whiskey and canapés takes place in 10-15 minute sessions with Stuart Reeves presenting each of the whiskeys. The food is presented by Dan Woolley, who took tasting notes from the Master’s Collection and worked closely with the head chef to specifically design flavour-matched canapés to complement each of the whiskeys.

Woodford Reserve Bourbon Whiskey

Woodford Reserve Bourbon Whiskey is the flagship product of the range and embodies the Woodford philosophy of aiming to be complex and sophisticated.

Woodford have restored a 200 year old distillery in Kentucky and produce between 70 to 100 barrels of bourbon a week. They’re the first bourbon to be triple distilled in copper pot stills made in Scotland. Other unique factors include the way they heat their warehouse during the maturation process in winter and toast the barrels on the inside.

Woodford Reserve
Stuart Reeves, Brown-Forman Brand Ambassador

At 43.2% ABV, Woodford Reserve has a top note of orange on the nose, with a lot of fruit such as baked apples and cherry. On the palate, it has toasted oak, fruit, spice and sweet aromatics such as caramel and vanilla and a bit of grain and wood from spending a minimum of 7 years in the barrel.

Woodford Reserve
Dan Woolley presenting the first canapé

The bourbon is paired with a smoked duck and peach carpaccio with mint leaf, where the smokiness of the duck goes well with sweetness of the Woodford Reserve with its fruit, apricot and peaches notes.

Woodford Reserve
Smoked duck and peach carpaccio with mint leaf

Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection: Sweet Mash

The Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection: Sweet Mash makes use of the fermentation stage and the action of the yeast on the mash. When making whiskey, a little of the backset (left over from the first distillate) is added to a new mash of grains which has the effect of decreasing the ph level/acidity. With the sweet mash, the backset is foregone which makes the yeast work a lot harder, in turn giving the whisky a lot more fruit character.

Woodford Reserve

The bourbon is left to ferment for about 6 days which is about double as much as others, in order to prolong the flavour.

Woodford Reserve
Salted caramel, date and orange zest nougat 

At 43.2% ABV, the WoodfordSweet Mash has prominent maple and nutmeg on the nose and a lot of fruit character on the palate, with enhanced apples, cherry notes and maple syrup. A rich and decadent bourbon perfectly paired with a sweet canapé of salted caramel, date and orange zest nougat.

Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection: Maple Wood Finish

The third whiskey on taste is the Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection: Maple Wood Finish, which was released in the latter part of 2011. At 47.2% ABV, it makes use of a twisted maturation process.

The bourbon is aged in new charred oak barrels, and finished for a year or more in a toasted (not charred) maple wood barrel, with the toasting process being proprietary to Woodford. Maple wood is high in potassium, and has a high sugar content in the sap, which imparts a confectionery note.

Woodford Reserve
Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection – Woodford Reserve grain composition: 72% corn, 18% rye, 10% barley

Brown-Forman is unique in being the only producers in the world that manufactures its own barrels. They view the barrel as an ingredient not just a retainer. They char the heads of the barrels which gives 20% more exposure from the wood which in turn gives more flavour and spice notes.

Woodford Reserve
Soy ginger golden syrup cured salmon Ballantine with black caviar on top

The Woodford Maple Wood finish has top notes of baked pear, spice, cinnamon, enhanced maple notes and oak. A canapé of soy ginger golden syrup cured salmon Ballantine with black caviar on top goes well with the maple notes of the bourbon.

Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection: Seasoned Oak

Finishing with the most robust whiskey of the Woodford range, Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection: Seasoned Oak has a higher ABV at 50.2% and makes use of the seasoned oak finish.

Three processes are involved in ageing whiskey: seasoning, toasting and charring. Seasoning refers to cutting the wood that will be made into barrels and leaving it outside with the changing seasons for a period of time, usually around 9 months. This has the effect of washing a lot of the acidity out of the wood before it is dries in a large kiln. Once it has a certain water content, it is turned into a barrel, then charred and toasted.

Woodford Reserve

The Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Seasoned Oak takes regular Woodford whiskey and finished in barrels that have been seasoned for 3 to 5 years, 4 to 5 times longer than a normal Woodford barrel. The process gives the whiskey a dark colour with leathery tobacco notes, a lot of spice character, black and red cherries with leathery/spice notes on the finish.

Woodford Reserve
Pork and duck liver terrine with sour cherries caramelised sherry vinegar reduction

The whiskey is well paired with a canapé of pork and duck liver terrine with sour cherries caramelised in sherry vinegar reduction.

Woodford Reserve
Bourbon whiskey and canapé pairings

A new release in the Master’s Collection has become available in the US late in 2011. The Woodford Master’s Collection: Rare Rye is made of 100% rye, triple distilled in pot stills and has 46.2% ABV. It comes in 2 x 375 ml bottles; one has been aged in new Woodford barrels, the other in used barrels giving each whiskey different characteristics. It is not available in Australia at this point in time.

Woodford Reserve
(L) Dan Woolley, Riversdale Group – Group Beverage Manager) and (R) Stuart Reeves of Brown-Forman

The Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Whisky Workshop was held on 1st February at the upstairs bar of the Bellevue Hotel in Paddington, a venue that is fast becoming renowned for whisky events such as the Johnnie Walker Double Black Launch and the Macallan, Highland Park & Laphroaig Whisky Workshop.

The Bellevue Hotel
59 Hargrave Street
Paddington NSW 2021

Main Page (Pub)

Gourmantic attended the whisky workshop as media guests.

Photography by MrGourmantic.


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About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the Founder/Editor of popular online magazine Gourmantic and Cocktails & Bars, a website dedicated to cocktail culture and the discerning drinker. She is named in Australian Bartender Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential List since 2013, is a member of The Academy responsible for judging the World’s 50 Best Bars. She has also judged the inaugural Australasian Whisky Awards and various national cocktail competitions.