Meeting the Master Distiller at Woodford Reserve and Bourbon Sweet Potato Biscuits

Kentucky certainly comes to mind as the bourbon making capital of the world, although there are distillers in several other states. In fact, there are only ten distillers in the entire country that produce over 300 different brands of bourbon.

One of our favorites is Woodford Reserve, so we were thrilled to be able to meet with Chris Morris, the Master Distiller at Woodford Reserve, while we were in Lexington, Kentucky last month.  Woodford Reserve is also the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby, so we could not have visited at a better time, considering Derby Day is today!

Bourbon making is an art that dates back as far as 2,500 years ago and was first discovered by the Venetians (and we thought they just knew how to make wine!). It is a complex process and hasn’t changed too much over the years.  In fact, Woodford Reserve is making bourbon today much the same way they did when the distillery was first started in 1812.

The property that Woodford Reserve sits on was at one time a 500 acre working farm with cattle. Today they have a total of 72 acres just outside of Lexington in Versailles, Kentucky.  It is known as the most beautiful bourbon facility due to its picturesque setting and historic stone buildings surrounded by thoroughbred horse country.  The property is also a National Landmark. Nothing but bourbon has been made there since 1812 (although there were periods when the facility was idle, especially during prohibition).

The current owners, Brown-Forman, purchased the property for quite the deal in 1940 (six years after prohibition).  They bought it from the Lebrot family knowing there were 25,672 barrels of bourbon untapped on the property which made the purchase price for the property $3.25 per gallon! 🙂

Brown-Forman’s other bourbon labels include Jack Daniels, Old Forester, Gentleman Jack, Early Times and Canadian Mist. Woodford Reserve is the only small batch bourbon that they make. There are only 21 barrels produced a day compared to their sister bourbon Jack Daniels which produces 2,100 barrels a day.

This barrel run is the longest in the world. Installed by Lebrot in 1934, it is still used today to transport the barrels.

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