Woodford Reserve’s new master distiller releasing her first pick; how to get rare bourbon.

You only get to do your first special release once. Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Elizabeth McCall was very aware of that when she made her first Personal Selection.

McCall, who was named master distiller in February, selected the barrels before going on maternity leave to have her second child.

Now the finished release is coming at a special party Dec. 13 at the distillery.

The release of only 179 bottles (there were 180 but one was snagged for McCall) makes it the rarest of the rare for Woodford Reserve, the company’s most limited edition in the series, which began with master distiller emeritus Chris Morris.

What does the bourbon taste like?

McCall said when she was making this selection, “I said I know exactly what barrels to put in the batch.”

She selected two barrels that had been aging for 9 to 10 years on the third floor of Warehouse C, the historic stone rickhouse that visitors tour (yes, those barrels are really all full of bourbon and aren’t just for show).

Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Chris Morris and Assistant Master Distiller Elizabeth McCall and other Woodford employees raise glasses in toast of the distillery’s 25th anniversary and to an expansion of their facility to double production capacity, October 12, 2021.
Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Chris Morris and Assistant Master Distiller Elizabeth McCall and other Woodford employees raise glasses in toast of the distillery’s 25th anniversary and to an expansion of their facility to double production capacity, October 12, 2021.

“As you know I spend a lot of time in the warehouse and I’m always tasting barrels for various things ... these barrels were up high, near the windows, so they had a lot of angel’s share (evaporation loss),” McCall said. But what whiskey was left had “big bold oak character, totally unique ... it tastes like Woodford Reserve but with a twist, more oak, more chocolate character, more spice notes. I’m anxious to see what people will think.”

She thinks she first tasted them in 2016, not long after she came to Woodford County as master taster and started pulling samples for private barrel selections. She called Warehouse C the “fun warehouse ... where we house all of our one-offs, things for the Masters Collection series, and any kind of ‘oops’ things that happen.”

How to get a special Woodford Reserve bottle

If you’d like a bottle of this special release, you can go online to buy tickets to the release party, which will include a 1 liter bottle of McCall’s bourbon, a meet and greet bottle signing with her, two holiday-inspired cocktails (or alcohol-free options) and appetizers for $250 per person.

Register at woodfordreserve.com to become a Friend of Woodford to receive an email on how to buy a bottle.