Pepper & Crow. Kind of sounds like a turn of the century vaudeville team. Actually, Elijah Pepper (who founded the oldest distillery in Kentucky still producing bourbon) and James Crow (a doctor who created the sour mash method of fermentation) never met each other; but their respective skills led to the creation of what eventually became Woodford Reserve.
Pepper began distilling in 1780, Crow worked at the company in the mid 1800’s, and the Woodford Reserve brand was introduced in 1996. So, over 200 years of bourbon making skills go into each bottle. This is reflected in the Master Collection, of which Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noir Finish is the latest and ninth in the series. The distillate is aged in Pinot Noir barrels from the Sonoma-Cutrer Winery, therefore it doesn’t legally qualify to be called a bourbon. So, now you know!
Woodford Reserve Sonoma-Cutrer Finish (90.4 proof)
Visual: Burnished bronze with a few particulates.
Nose: Sweet malt and corn lay the foundation on which a lighter almost effervescent grape nose lingers. There is a vast expanse between the two olfactory bookends.
Taste: Tangy, slightly sour and with a curious dark grape character that casts a penumbra over the bourbon landscape. The bourbon in a sense almost plays second fiddle to the wine barrel edge. Not that this is a negative, but it definitely makes for a different spirit. Watering down the proof actually makes the wine even more evident.
Finish: The Pinot Noir definitely has the stronger hand here. Lingering grape notes are what leave a lasting impression. Dare I say, even a bit of grappa character.
Overall: Unusual. Collectible. Not for everyone, but definitely an interesting exercise in the nouveau style of blending spirits and ex-wine product barrels.
GSN Rating: B
For more information go to: Woodford Reserve