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The Woodford Reserve Distillery
Terry Sullivan

Summary: The drive to the Woodford Reserve Distillery from US Route 60 takes one past bucolic landscapes in horse farm country. The beautiful countryside reflects one of Kentucky’s treasures. The Woodford Reserve Distillery is one of Kentucky’s most historic distilleries. The sour mash process was refined at the distillery prior to the Civil War. Visit the distillery and take the tour. Discover another one of Kentucky’s treasures.

The Woodford Reserve DistilleryFrom the parking lot, walk to the visitor center and retail shop. The tour begins in a room where our tour guide, Joe Umansky warmly greeted everyone. During the tour, Joe remembered where each person was from and related a concept to their hometown. Joe passed out several recipes that use Woodford Reserve Bourbon in the recipe. Then we watched a short video.

From the video, one learns of the importance of the limestone water from this area. As early as 1812, Elijah Pepper was the distiller on this site. Later Dr. James C. Crow improved the distilling process. For example he experimented with charring oak barrels. Several other people owned the property through the decades. After the video, Joe led the group to the deck where he pointed out the buildings on the distillery property. We then boarded a bus for a short drive to the distillery.

The group learned about the government house. The Woodford Reserve was one of a handful of distilleries that was permitted to be open during Prohibition. Doctors could write a prescription for medicinal purposes. A government official would live and work from the government house.

The Woodford Reserve DistilleryThe Woodford Reserve DistilleryThe tour entered the distillery. Joe discussed the recipe for making bourbon. There were samples of corn, rye and barley. From the first floor you can observe the outside walls of the 7,500-gallon fermenters. Walking up to the second floor, one can look over the side to see the mixture fermenting. Next to the fermenters was a 7,500-gallon mash cooker.
The tour then entered a room that housed three large copper stills. Woodford uses a triple distilling process. Joe discussed the alcohol percentages from entering the stills to entering the white oak barrels. He pointed out that barrels are toasted and then charred. He had toasted and charred staves to show the group.

The Woodford Reserve Distillery      The Woodford Reserve Distillery

Joe led the group to the next building where barrels were aging. Barrels were stored twelve high. Unlike wine, bourbon barrels are not topped off. They remain in place for years. The distiller will drill a hole in the barrel’s head to thief some of the bourbon. He can then smell and taste the bourbon to see how it is aging. From the barrel room the tour went to the bottling room. At the time of our visit, workers were bottling bourbon.

The Woodford Reserve Distillery      The Woodford Reserve Distillery

The Woodford Reserve DistilleryThe group returned to the visitor center to taste Woodford Reserve. The bourbon had a dark gold color and offered caramel and vanilla on the aroma. It had a smooth caramel taste and finished sweet with heat.

While in the visitor center, take time to view the displays. One display shows a model of the structure of a warehouse. A model of a still is another display. Another display shows the color of the whisky at different years of aging in charred barrels. A gift shop is also available.

The Woodford Reserve Distilery produces about 150,000 cases of bourbon. It offers a delightful tour that includes an overview of Kentucky history and the process of making bourbon.

Woodford Reserve Distillery
7855 McCracken Pike
Versailles, KY 40383

GPS: N38º 06.783' W84º 48.696'

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Copyright: Terry and Kathy Sullivan 2016