A visit to Woodford Reserve Distillery

Woodford Reserve Distillery

My camera’s battery died just a few photographs into our tour of the Woodford Reserve Distillery, between Frankfort and Versailles in central Kentucky. It’s a shame, because the place is so picturesque. I would have liked to photograph it extensively.

The distillery is also historic, one of the oldest in Kentucky. Known previously as the Labrot and Graham Distillery and before that the Old Oscar Pepper Distillery, whiskey has been made here since 1812. Woodford Reserve is a Johnny-come-lately on the scene, having been distilled only since 1996.

Thanks to my iPhone for making it possible to document this visit at all. Here are Woodford Reserve’s famous copper pot stills, and also my wife Margaret from behind.

Woodford Reserve Distillery

Those pot stills make up only part of Woodford Reserve bourbon. The rest of it comes from the column stills of the Brown-Forman distillery in suburban Louisville, an hour to the west.

Woodford Reserve Distillery

Its rickhouse, where the bourbon barrels are left to age, is unusual in that it’s made of stone. So many are made of wood.

Woodford Reserve Distillery

One odd thing I noticed is that barrels in the rickhouse, the ones I could see anyway, carried distillery number DSP-KY-52. But newer barrels, including ones recently filled, bore the number DSP-KY-15018. This must be something quite new, as an Internet search on DSP-KY-15018 turns up nothing. A search on DSP-KY-52 returns all sorts of references to the Woodford Reserve Distillery. I wish I’d asked the tour guide about it.

Woodford Reserve Distillery

As a fellow who is seriously into bourbon, I appreciate a bar with a wide selection that includes some esoteric whiskies. But Woodford Reserve is a very nice bourbon, and most every bar carries it. Anywhere I go, I’m perfectly happy with a pour of Woodford Reserve. Neat, of course.

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15 responses to “A visit to Woodford Reserve Distillery”

  1. J P Avatar

    Thanks for the background on Woodford Reserve, I see it on shelves when I look for other things but didn’t know anything about it.

    I love how distilleries maintain the coopering craft.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      What’s interesting is that only Brown-Forman and its brands make their own barrels. Everybody else outsources it.

  2. Passport Overused Avatar

    Great post 😄

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Happy you like it!

  3. jon campo Avatar
    jon campo

    Thanks for the behind the scene tour Jim. I am a fan of this great all-American beverage also, although I stick to the less expensive brands myself. I’ll bet this was a fun trip. I’ve thought about it but I doubt I’ll go that way again, the south scares me frankly.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Oh! I’m surprised to hear it. I’m only 2.5 hours north of Kentucky so it hardly feels that far south to me.

  4. DougD Avatar

    Neat, of course!

    What’s not neat is that once again too far west for me to visit on my trip :( at least there’s craft breweries in Asheville.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      There are always future trips to take!

  5. tbm3fan Avatar

    Woodford Reserve is one of my favorites along with Maker’s Mark. Has been since around 2000 but didn’t know it is circa only 1996. Had a shot last night buy always put a chip of ice in to release the aromatics.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m 99% a neat man but every once in a while a single wee ice cube finds its way into my bourbon for just that reason

  6. Terry Avatar

    I live in Woodford County and I’ve never been to that distillery. I must go. A little farther down the same road is the Old Taylor Distillery. It stood abandoned for years and was a photographer’s dream. It has been fixed up now and they do conduct tours there…but it is not as much fun to photograph now. I’m attracted to ruins. :-)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Well, it certainly wouldn’t be inconvenient for you! Thanks for the tip about Old Taylor, which I didn’t know about.

  7. Heide Avatar

    What a pity about your camera battery, Jim! But you got some lovely images just the same, plus a great appreciation of a bourbon even your non-drinking friend here has heard of. :)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      That is a major gripe of mine with my K10D — the battery indicator has two apparent levels, “full” and “about to die.”

      1. Heide Avatar

        Sounds like my two settings at the typical buffet, ha ha.

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