Tour Excellence: Woodford Reserve

Those days after Thanksgiving when you have family in town and need outings? Woodford Reserve's Bourbon Discovery Tour—the basic introductory tour that runs several times nearly every day of the year— pleases me each time I go. Reservations are not available for this tour, at least not at this point in 2013. Go early, get your tickets for the next available tour, and then enjoy the porch. If you go on Saturdays, expect large crowds of fellow tour enthusiasts, and longer waits.

From Lexington, the drive through narrow Woodford County roads deserves its own medal. Enjoy the unparalleled combination of natural beauty and gorgeous human tending, and drive slowly, please.

During a recent visit, I learned about two longer tours, each requiring reservations. Both sound intriguing. The National Historic Landmark tour focuses on the property's architecture and history. The Corn to Cork tour delves into the many chemical, mechanical, and technical processes required to make bourbon. For these $25 tours, Woodford Reserve suggests making reservations a week in advance, either online or by calling 859-879-1921.

Woodford Reserve owner Brown-Forman announced expansion plans earlier this year, and got financial support from us, Kentucky's taxpayers, for making more bourbon on the banks of Glenn's Creek. The Visitor Center, too, is growing, with work underway to add a planned tasting room and other changes to accommodate all of us who are curious about Kentucky's signature spirit.

While taking the Discovery tour in October, 2013 with Handsome Older Brother, who doesn't spend a lot of time in Kentucky, we heard several references to "Bourbon Bill," an expert on Woodford Reserve who could answer questions after the tour. Without really planning it, after our tour ended, we found Bill Gaunce in the gift shop and ended up in a delightful, informative, lengthy conversation. We talked particularly about Woodford Reserve's Double Oaked bourbon option, introduced in 2012. I'll talk about anything that's reported to have "sharp honey," chocolate, and marzipan in the aroma, plus a long, creamy finish "with lingering hints of honeyed apple." 


We tasted (and bought) this smooth, soft drink, which derives its special qualities from a year or so of extra maturation in a second white oak barrel, deeply toasted and lightly charred, after the initial, multi-year barrel treatment all Woodford Reserve bourbons enjoy. Bill G. shrugged a bit about the term "expert" and even raised his eyebrows at the handle "Bourbon Bill," but, like that second barrel aging on the Double Oaked, the second steeping he gave us in bourbon information and lore made our tour experience sweeter and softer, and graced it with a particularly long, fine finish.

Rona RobertsComment