I’ve been back home from Florida for long enough now to give two of my purchases a good going over, so let’s get right down to it: how good are the Woodford Reserve Double Oaked and the Jim Beam Black 8 year old?
Ok, no messing about: I can confirm the WRDO (which is not a regional american radio station…) is superb. So much flavour is packed in there. Absolutely the best bourbon I have sampled up to this point.
If you peruse various opinion about the WRDO on the internet, it seems to swing wildly between love it and think it’s all right. Then there’s the issue of price. It seems Americans think $50 is a lot for 750ml of liquor. They should think themselves lucky because, to put that in context, that’s less than £30. It’s not often you can get a single malt scotch for under £30 here in the UK, never mind one as playfully tantalising as this bourbon is. So it stands to reason: I still think the WRDO is reasonably priced, in fact… I think it’s a bargain because it is superb.
I can’t really do a direct comparison with the standard bottling but, while I remember enjoying that one, I felt it was too woody – almost like gnawing on your parents’ furniture, not in a bad way just, in a way that keeps it from being great. This Double Oaked however, does have a bit of woodiness coming through, but it seems very much toned down – which seems counterintuitive since the product is just standard Woodford Reserve that has been aged for several extra months in new oak barrels that have been toasted (for longer than usual) and then charred (for as brief a time as possible – it would be interesting to know how briefly it is possible to char something for). For some reason this has resulted in all the great flavours that I suspect are in the original Woodford Reserve but sadly subdued, coming to the fore and literally pogoing around your palate. You get a surprising jolt of pleasure in your first taste, every time you pour a glass. It’s tingly like sweets but also woody with a bit of tobacco.
You also get an extra 2 ABVs on the standard bottling with the Double Oaked (so, 45.2% is the overall standard), so it’s a case of slightly more all round.
So let’s move on and have a think about the Jim Beam. I wouldn’t advise trying the WRDO and Jim Beam Black 8 side by side all that often because the outcome is that the Jim Beam pales in comparison. That is not telling the whole story though - in fact, you’d be doing the Jim Beam a disservice as it still achieves quite a high standard – just not quite as high. Like the WRDO, in comparison to its younger, standard bottling brother, it packs in a good heft more flavour, a damn sight better texture, and removes many of the more unrefined characteristics.
The Jim Beam Black 8 (43% ABV) really comes into its own in terms of value – at $25 for a litre (in Duty Free) it would be rude not to give it a go. Since I bought both these products at the same time, I have the best of both worlds – the WRDO for occasions when I’m confident my tasting faculties haven’t been diminished by spicy food (and I fancy something special), and a litre of surprisingly enjoyable but great value Jim Beam for when I don’t want to think too hard about what I’m drinking, and I don’t want to worry about whether what I’m drinking is going to waste.
So in summation, you can’t go wrong in considering either of these. You want a lot of something cheap but full-flavoured? Allow me to introduce the 8 year old Jim Beam Black. You want something more expensive but correspondingly special? WRDO.
Two impressive bottles out of the three I’ve bought is a good return so far. Join me next week when I’ll be breaking the seal on a Four Roses Single Barrel.