I always want to like Oregon whiskies. They have a lot of new distilling going on there and, well, I was born there and spent many summers there. So I like to think I connect with them. One of my favorite non-Kentucky bourbons, Temperance, comes from Oregon. Today’s tasting – Crater Lake Rye Whiskey – was a stocking stuffer from my mom who grew up in Oregon and worked a summer at Crater Lake.
The other taste for today was one I picked up at the Woodford Reserve Distillery in Kentucky from their Distiller Series, which means they let the distiller play around a little bit with the regular recipe. Their sweet mash redux is a straight bourbon, but they didn’t use sour mash – a bit from the batches before to jump start the distillation in the next batch. This is supposed to do something to its PH, but I’m more interested in what it does to the flavor.
Neither of these whiskies has an age statement, although the Woodford is older than 4 years. Right away, though, you notice the difference in color. The Crater Lake is very pale compared to the more caramel-colored Woodford Reserve. That ended up being a good indicator of the taste in these – the Woodford Reserve had a stronger character against the Crater Lake Rye.
Crater Lake Rye
What I knew: Rye whiskey (95% rye in fact), 80 proof
What I discovered: Smelled very citrusy and the taste followed the smell – it was tart, like biting into an orange peel. And you could tell it was rye from that spiciness, especially cinnamon. It also had some grassy notes around the edges that made me think of dandelions. It had a fresh sense to it – I could see this as a lakeside whiskey – but it wasn’t particularly rich or complex. Although it offers something unique, it is a little weak in character.
Woodford Reserve Sweet Mash Redux
What I knew: Straight bourbon, 90.4 proof
What I discovered: I felt like I needed to taste this one compared to the regular Woodford Reserve to understand what the difference was. The signature Woodford Reserve is a well-balanced bourbon with your classic bourbon greatest flavor hits – oak, caramel, honey, and vanilla. By comparison, the Sweet Mash Redux had herbal notes with green apple edges. It had a fruit syrup tinge, like someone dropped an orange Lifesaver – just one – at the bottom of the bottle and it slowly dissolved into the whiskey. Left to sit on the tongue, it had a nutty and piney aftertaste and gave a Kentucky hug – the warmth that spreads down the throat. This one had a shifting personality – it smelled sweet, had a bit of edge on the tongue, and then faded into sweetness. It’s a nice whiskey, and a fun souvenir of my visit to Kentucky, but maybe I’m just an old-fashioned gal when it comes to my bourbon – I'm fine with the classic Woodford Reserve.