Inside the Woodford Reserve Barrel Selection Program and a Review of Kerry’s Private Selection

Last April, around Easter at that, my brother in law invited me to help him and Glenn Dauzat pick a Woodford Reserve pick for Glenn’s store, Kerry’s, in Marksville, LA. Knowing that I had participated in store picks for Hokus Pokus, and this being Glenn’s first store pick, they wanted my help. So, I met with Glenn, my brother in law, a few other of Glenn’s customers, and a sales rep for the distributor of Brown Forman product at Kerry’s on April 20, 2022. Glenn was appreciative of my advice and let me keep the tasting kit and the samples. A few weeks ago the pick came in and my stepson was down there and picked up a bottle for me. One thing I want to point out is the Glenn had a dual motive for doing this pick. His customers have high demand for Woodford Reserve, and he was having difficulty keeping it on his shelves. So, not only could he have a special bottling, he was able to get a guaranteed supply of something his customers want. Hokus has had to do the same thing at times to keep certain whiskies in stock.

There are a few things to know up front. The Woodford Reserve personal section program is NOT a single barrel program. Rather, it is a small batch program, and Brown Forman has created three different batches for the program, each with a different flavor profile. You get to sample those batches and pick which batch you want for the selection. Now, I am under no illustions that we sampled the actual batch that was going into the bottle. Rather, we sampled the various flavor profiles that could go into a bottle.

Since I got to keep the tasting kit and it has been seven months since the selection, I re-sampled the various batches. These are all 90.4 proof. The ultimate bottling comes in a one-liter bar bottling which I like (I just like bar liters). Kerry’s is charging $45 a bottle, which is very reasonable to me.

Batch A – this is pretty much the standard Woodford Reserve profile, only lighter, more delicate, and more floral. Very drinkable and smooth and something I would recommend for bourbon drinkers just starting to drink neat. Some nice corn sweetness and vanilla on the palate with a light dusting of oak on the finish. While I would recommend this batch for those starting to sip neat, regular neat sippers would give this a so-what rating. Surprise, this was not the batch we picked.

Batch B – I really love this batch. Loaded with vanilla and turbinado sugars with a nice healthy dose of oak on the finish, this is the standard Woodford Reserve profile but just really amped up. Which, really is the reason behind store picks of certain whiskies in my mind – it is that whiskey, but just better. The Hokus Pokus barrel picks of Buffalo Trace that tasted like 90% Stagg were the ultimate example of this. I was really all about this one, but I got outvoted in favor of Batch C. Because Batch C is, well, different.

Batch C – This batch is very interesting. The flavor profile is almost closer to Woodford Double Oaked. Some nice vanilla meets candied dark raisin cake. Lots of raisins and oak on the finish, which after a bit becomes quite drying. I like this flavor profile, but preferred Batch B because of my own preference is store picks that it should be that whiskey’s flavor profile just amped up, rather than being an outlier from that flavor profile. But, as I said I got outvoted, because Glenn’s customer’s really liked Batch C precisely because it was different. I attribute the differences to heavy barrel influence, and if I had to guess, these were in the upper tier’s of Woodford’s warehouses.

The actual bottling of a Batch C for Kerry’s – full review – Color is a really nice deep dark amber. Definitely a lot of barrel on this bourbon. On the swirl are nice big thick oily long legs and droplets. Nose has a good bit of oak and dark fruits, raisins mostly, and vanilla. Nose is quite refined compared to regular Woodford. On the palate, heavy vanilla and candied dark raisin cake is there just like on the Batch C sample, and it is definitely less sweet than the Batch B sample. The actual bottling is true to what I sampled. Its lack of sweetness is kind of perfect for the holidays, since it will offset sweet desserts and cockatils and pair magically with crispy pecan cookies or dessert pies or cakes. This bourbon has a really good backbone and would work well in an egg nog or a coke or sprite cocktail.

My final thoughts are first, that if you are passing through Marksville, or rather, Mansura, Louisiana, definitely stop in to see Glenn at Kerry’s. His whiskey selection for a smaller store is top drawer, and his Woodford Pick is worth getting. Second, a Woodford Reserve personal selection is worth doing, even though it is not a true single barrel program, because the bottles actually delivered were true to what we sampled and picked.

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