Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noir Finish Review

Whiskey Name: Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noir Finish

Distillery: Woodford Reserve

Whiskey Type: Finished Bourbon

Release Date: November 2014

Price: £154.45

Age: NAS. 8-ish. 10 months of which was in the Sonoma-Cutrer casks

ABV: 45.2%

Mashbill: 72% corn, 18% rye, 10% malted barley


Introduction/Background: Have you ever hauled the innards out of a mallard? I have. And a thoroughly miserable and unpleasant business it was too.

About the only thing that could be said in its favour is that it was less tedious than wrenching the feathers out of the rotten thing, which took about a million times longer than it should have done, because nobody told me that there’s a special sort of wax you’re meant to use.

All of which added up to my former housemate’s first encounter with me being of walking into an Inverness kitchen to be greeted by a berserk-eyed, swearing Englishman; gore to the wrists and using his nose to access youtube ‘how-to’ videos made by vicious-looking duck hunters in the Southern States. I must say he took it awfully well. He was Australian, and they’re difficult folk to perturb.

I mention all of this, because the three mouthfuls of bludgeoned-to-hell, miserably-cooked mallard I eventually gleaned after all this endeavour (crispy bits of feathers still resolutely clinging on) went jolly well with a Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noir. 2010, in case you care, which I don’t imagine for a moment that you do.

And it is into barrels which formerly held this very Pinot Noir that Woodford Reserve tipped the bourbon for the 9th in their ‘Master’s Collection’. The Master’s Collection, on the whole, being Woodford’s tilt at the title of ‘most stupidly overpriced US whisky’. (They’ll never win that title. Whistlepig have it sewn up.)

Anyhow, after shoving their 8-ish-year-old bourbon into Sonoma-Cutrer casks for 10 months and posting a youtube video Woodford slosh it out of the barrels again, give it a good old watering down and then pop it into fancy bottles for 150 pounds British. Tempted yet?

Appearance: Dark and ruddy

Nose: Pudding-tastic. Thick, sweet, and soft. Treacle tarts and cherry pie. Jammy black fruits and brown sugar. Sticky toffee pudding. A little corn oil. Not very spicy, and there’s no alcohol vapour bun. Medium intensity.

Mouth: Palate follows through in near-eerily similar fashion, except that all the flavours now seem to be ever-so-slightly charred, which is the lingering impression. The sweetness is superficial and fleeting too; the sticky toffee pudding has lost its stickiness. The fruits have largely made way for the cakey aspects, though dark cherry jam remains. All just feels a little tamed and dilute though.

Finish: Dries with the char. A little pecan nut and brittle pops up.

Value for Money: Don’t make me laugh.

Summary: There are some nice flavours here, but it’s ridiculously far off being anything like a £150 bottle. The Masters Collection is conspicuous by its absence when people start talking about top-tier bourbon, and this gives you a pretty good idea why. It’s a premium price on a distinctly un-premium product. I actually prefer the Double Oaked, which costs £100 less.

If you’re going to charge that kind of money – BTAC money – and you’re a distillery with the size and resources of Woodford Reserve, then you’d bloody well better give us some decent age, or some decent proof. Otherwise vicious little runts like me will start writing vicious little reviews like this. And the people who actually matter – the people who don’t stand on soap-boxes, but do have the disposable wherewithal to actually vote with their wallets, will continue to buy elsewhere.

The bottom line is this: if, in this day and age, a fancy limited release has sat on Master of Malt for over 3 years, there’s probably a good reason. And if you spend £155 on this bottle of whiskey, you are likely to end up in the same state as my mallard: gutted. Messily.

Overall Verdict: I’d rather have the Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noir sans Woodford Reserve, to be perfectly honest.