Woodford Reserve Distillery (#7 of 19) is not only historic, but a wonderfully immaculate distillery. Warm by the fireplace, enjoy a well-informed tour, and enjoy a tasting pairing with your bourbon.

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About the Woodford Reserve Distillery Tour

kentucky woodford reserve front

Takeaways

  • Woodford Reserve's distillery is on the National Register of Historic Places, with a well-manicured and pristine campus. You'll want to kick the dust off your heels when stepping into the distillery, it's that clean. And the distillery itself dates back to 1838.
  • This is the first tour where they suggested I buy a bottle of water, as it gets very warm in the distillery. Personally, I take a bottle of water with me on all of these tours. it not only helps with the heat, but also with counteracting the dehydrating effects of alcohol in your tasting events and as an excellent source of distilled water for reducing your whisky if needed. Make sure it's distilled, reverse osmosis water, as water with iron clashes with the bourbon and fresh Spring Water will most likely contain some.
  • Woodford Reserve is one of three tours that I think could stand on their own. If you could only visit one place in Kentucky, I would suggest either this, Old Forester or Maker's Mark. Maybe it was because it was the 7th time I had heard the bourbon making process explained to me, but this time the process actually sunk in. I think having a good tour guide also makes all the difference and we had a great one.
  • Marketing Confusion: They said that Woodford Reserve is the only major distiller using a three pot still process (stay tuned because another distiller coming up says that is not a good process). 
  • Note: I did buy some Woodford Reserve Malt Whiskey a couple days later, as it had been released a couple weeks earlier. It has became an instant favorite.

kentucky woodford reserve tasting

Beyond the Marketing: Who's the Oldest?

Woodford Reserve claims they are the oldest active distillery. Hmmm, so does Buffalo Trace and apparently that distinction my actually belong to Maker's Mark, who didn't seem to claim it. However, Burks Distillery is named as the oldest and that is where Maker's Mark resides. They started making whiskey on site in 1805. While someone was distilling on the grounds of the current Buffalo Trace distillery in 1775, it didn't become a distillery until 1812. The site of Woodford Reserve saw it's first distilling occur in 1780, but the actual first distillery didn't open until 1838. Jack Daniel's claims to be the oldest "registered" which may be an official mark, but puts that distillery at 1866, well after the others. This is almost as convoluted as the origins of baseball or the name of bourbon itself. So, all of this nonsense leads marketing companies to claim each distillery as the oldest. Enjoy each for what it is. They are all steeped in history. Next time you're sipping their whisky, I want you to think whether the age of their facility really had anything to do with what you're drinking and the experience you're having with it. 

By the way, Old Forester would later claim they were the oldest continuous running brand (cir. 1870) and the first to bottle their bourbon. Who will be the first not to claim being the oldest at something (wink)?

Next up, Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, KY.