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Woodford Reserve 1838 Sweet Mash - Whiskey Review

Woodford Reserve 1838 Sweet Mash

Mash From the Past

by Jeff Hoyt

Although it is not a hard and fast rule, bourbon whiskies are usually crafted using a sour mash process in which ingredients — grains, yeast and water — from a prior distillation are introduced into a new mash mixture. The result is a sour mash which is fermented for several days before being distilled. Woodford Reserve is reviving the original bourbon production practice of sweet mash, in which entirely fresh ingredients are used before being distilled.

As to be expected, sour mash creates a more consistent product with less variation from batch to batch. But consistency is not a factor here, as there is only one bottling planned of the Woodford Reserve 1838 Sweet Mash as part of their limited edition Master’s Collection series. The year 1838 celebrates the year the present-day Woodford Reserve Distillery was constructed and commemorates the end of the sweet mash bourbon-making era.

We were most surprised by the orange-brown liquid’s almost creamy texture, which is rare for bourbons, resulting in a pleasant mouthfeel. Along with the typical vanilla and caramel flavors, there is a unique maple aroma and taste. The proof is also slightly lower than the standard Woodford Reserve (86 vs. 90), while the pH level is supposed to be higher than sour mash bourbons.

Only 1,045 cases of the individually hand-numbered whiskey bottles were produced. The spirit will be introduced in 25 US markets by the end of 2008, and it will also be released for the first time in Canada. Believed to be the first product of its kind to be bottled in 150 years, this rarity makes a fine holiday gift for bourbon aficionados.

Price: $90

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(Updated 02/17/11 BH)


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