Today we visited one of the oldest bourbon distillery in Kentucky – Woodford Reserve Distillery. It is located at Versailles City and 50 miles southwest from Louisville.

Bourbon is a type of American Whiskey. It’s a distilled spirit made at a minimum of 51 percent corn and aged in oak barrels. It’s acknowledged to be a symbol of south America and strongly associated to Kentucky. Although the origin of Bourbon is not well documented, the distilling industry was brought by Scots to Kentucky since 18th century.[1]

Kentucky Distillers’ Association developed Kentucky Bourbon Trail to help locals and visitors better experience ten of the worlds’ famous bourbon distilleries. The trail includes Woodford Reserve, Four Roses, Jim Beam, and Wild Turkey, etc. I have no doubt that this is a great opportunity for Bourbon lovers.




– The History of Woodford Reserve –

I’m going to introduce the history briefly. Woodford Reserve Distillery was established by Pepper Family in 1838. Since then, it was passed down through the generations and was sold to Leopold Labrot and James Graham in 1878. Brown-Forman Corporation bought it in 1941 and operated it until the brand was introduced in the market in 1996. Dr. James Crow is the expert I’d like to mention since he took an important role in Woodford history. Although no one can illustrate him as the creator, he was a perfecter of the sour mash process used in making Bourbon.[2]



– How was Bourbon made in Woodford? –

  • Grain selection

The mix of grains used to make Bourbon are always called mash bills. The mash bills differ from brands and distilleries. A Straight Bourbon usually refers to whiskey consisting of at least of 51% content of corn, wheat, rye, or barley.[3] Mash bills were also associated with name designations. For example, at least 51% rye content makes rye whiskey. The US law requires a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey to have a at least 51% corn.


  • Water

Limestone filtered water is the key ingredient of Kentucky Bourbon. The limestone water has high calcium carbonate which could help control PH and improve yeast growth during fermentation. It minimizes bad flavors and preserves bourbon with the gold color by filtering out the iron.[4]


  • Sour-mash Fermentation

After cooking mash bills, they can be put into a fermenter. Nowadays, most of Bourbon distilleries use sour mash process in fermentation. The sour mash process is referring to add part of the distillation residues in the mash again. The purpose of this is to provide a ideal acidic environment for yeasts to grow.



  • Pot still distillation

The three pots distilling process makes Woodford Bourbon special aromas. The first pot is done with both beer and distilling remains used for sour mash. The second distillation in high wine and the third in spirit, both only collecting liquid. The reflux bowls in each of three pots promote a continuous catalytic interaction which leads to the fruity flavors.[5]



  • Barrel maturation

When season alternating each year, the expanding and contracting of Bourbon could promote interactions with wood to create great aromas. To speed up the maturation, the warehouse has its own heating and air conditioning systems to increase more times of these reactions. Additionally, Bourbon matures differently on each floor. The warehouse has extra heating tubes at the very bottom level to make sure temperatures stay regular in winter. Nowadays, only few distilleries rotate barrels to guarantee each barrels can profit from the best positions in the middle of the warehouse.[6]



  • Bottling

Woodford has its own unique transporting line without using manpower to send selected barrels into bottling warehouse. The Bourbon is pumped into a storage vat and then fed to the bottling line.




– End –

My most recommended Bourbon recipe is with some lemonade. But other options are here: Crafted cocktails with Bourbon.