Thursday, November 24, 2016

Woodford Reserve Master's Collection Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noir Finished Kentucky Straight Bourbon

VITALS:
- $90
- 90.4 Proof
- NAS

Each year Woodford Reserve releases its Master's Collection limited edition bourbon, something different from their usual offerings, and typically carrying a much higher price tag. This year Woodford released a brandy cask finished bourbon. Last year it was a white corn bourbon, and in 2014, they released this bourbon, finished in Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noir barrels.

Because this particular release happened two years ago, I did not even have it on my radar. I figured by now, the supply had likely dried up, and I have no interest in searching for anything on the secondary market. However, on a stop into a random liquor store I just happened to be passing while on an errand, I saw two bottles sitting on the top shelf. In fact, I had to do a double take, because, quite frankly, the selection at this particular store left much to be desired. But yet, they had two bottles of the Sonoma-Cutrer Finish, and they were on sale, discounted to $90.00 from the usual $100.00 price. As a fan of wine barrel finished bourbons, this was an opportunity I was not going to pass up.

On the nose I expected to be hit with strong dark fruit notes, but it simply wasn't there, at least not to the extent that I've noticed it in other wine barrel finished bourbons. Rather, it was the more traditional bourbon scents--vanilla and caramel--that stood out.

On the initial sip, the vanilla and caramel were there, but were not a bit buried by the wine flavor. Interestingly, though, rather than compliment the traditional bourbon notes, the wine influence seemed to fall flat. It was just another flavor in the background, rather than something to set this bourbon apart. My first impressions were underwhelming.

It is a very viscous bourbon, with a thick, oily mouthfeel. Flavors of cherry and raspberry were prominent, but yet there was no sweetness to accompany them. It was just the fruit flavor without any fruity sweetness. I realize that this wasn't finished in port or muscat barrels, but rather finished in barrels that were previously used for less-sweet wine. So perhaps my expectations were unfair, but it just didn't do a whole lot to impress.

Don't get me wrong, it was still a very good bourbon, one I enjoyed drink after drink, and I didn't hesitate to go back to whenever I reached into my cabinet for my next drink. It's a properly aged bourbon with the added flavor from the pinot noir barrels to interact with the vanilla, caramel and wood tones of the bourbon. But, it just didn't stand out as something special, despite being a limited, annual, special release from Woodford. That being said, I was still very pleased to have gotten the chance to grab a bottle I figured I likely would not come across again.

Grade: B

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