Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Into the Woodford

Here's an item from this week's Time Out New York about Woodford Reserve's newly released and limited edition 1838 Sweet Mash. I like the bourbon as a change of pace, though I rather understand why, after distillers started adding sour to the mash, they kept doing it.

Barrel fever

It takes a lot to stump a roomful of whiskey aficionados. But at a recent tasting event, bourbon brainiacs—who know everything from the minimum percentage of corn used in legal varieties to how many times different brands char their barrels—were at a loss to explain what “sweet mash” is. Why it came up? Bourbon maker Woodford Reserve had just released a third offering in its Master’s Collection series, the Woodford Reserve 1838 Sweet Mash. Every other bourbon in the U.S. is created using a sour mash, a process in which the detritus of a previous distillation—grains, yeast, water—is folded into a new batch. But long before secondhand mash became the industry standard, the liquor was made using fresh ingredients only—a sweet mash. Woodford’s new product revives this erstwhile method and, according to the distillery, the 1838 is the only such whiskey on the market. “The process is riskier, which makes it more expensive,” says Woodford master distiller Chris Morris, offering his theory as to why modern distilleries eschew the method. The resultant elixir is lighter in body than its status quo counterpart, with a high cinnamon-clove spiciness and unusual fruit notes of berries and apples. If you want to sample this lost breed, you’ll have to hustle. Woodford only made 1,045 cases, and has no plans to make it again. $89 for 750 ml at Park Avenue Liquor, 292 Madison Ave between 40th and 41st Sts (212-685-2442), and Astor Wines & Spirits, 399 Lafayette St at 4th St (212-674-7500)
— Robert Simonson

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