Woodford Reserve is a brand of premium small batch Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey produced in Woodford County, Kentucky by the Brown-Forman Corporation. It is made from a mixture of pot still spirits produced at the company's Woodford Reserve Distillery there, and column still spirits from the Brown Forman Distillery in Shively, Kentucky. Each 45.2% alcohol by volume (90.4 US Proof) bottle bears a unique batch and bottle number.
The Woodford Reserve Distillery, formerly known as the Old Oscar Pepper Distillery and later the Labrot & Graham Distillery, is approximately eight miles from the town of Versailles in north-central Kentucky, off U.S. Route 60 between Interstate 64 and Versailles.
Distilling on the site began in 1780, with today's distillery building erected in 1838. Although the site has not been continuously operational as a distillery since, the structure stands as the oldest of the nine bourbon distilleries in operation in Kentucky as of 2010. In 1995 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and in 2000 was designated a National Historic Landmark.
Originally established by Elijah Pepper, the distillery was passed on to his son and known as the Oscar Pepper Distillery when Dr. James Crow worked there in the mid-19th century. During this time Dr. Crow undertook a series of activities that improved and codified the understanding and quality of key bourbon-making processes such as sour-mash fermentation, pot still distillation and barrel maturation. After Oscar Pepper died in 1867 the distillery was passed to his son James E. Pepper. The Pepper family sold the property to Leopold Labrot and James Graham in 1878, who owned and operated it (except during Prohibition) until it was sold to the Brown-Forman Corporation in 1941. Brown-Forman operated it until 1968, then sold the then-mothballed property in 1971. Brown-Forman re-purchased the property in 1993, refurbished it, and brought it back into operation. The Woodford Reserve brand was introduced to the market in 1996.
The company expanded its product line with Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon in February 2012. The "Masters Collection", a series of limited bottlings produced using the older pot still method, followed. Woodford Reserve Rye Whisky, an American style rye, was introduced in 2015.
The Woodford Reserve Distillery offers tours and is part of the American Whiskey Trail and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail promotional programs.
In a contract arrangement with Churchill Downs, Woodford Reserve has been declared the "official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby" and is used in a $1,000 mint julep cocktail that is sold to patrons on Derby Day. (Although Woodford Reserve is the Derby's "official bourbon", its sister brand Old Forester serves mint juleps as the "official drink" and is featured in the more moderately priced juleps served at the event.)
The Brown-Forman Corporation is one of the largest American-owned companies in the spirits and wine business. Based in Louisville, Kentucky, it manufactures several well known brands throughout the world, including Jack Daniel's, Early Times, Old Forester, Woodford Reserve, Canadian Mist, GlenDronach, BenRiach, Glenglassaugh, Finlandia, Herradura, Korbel, and Chambord. Brown-Forman formerly owned Southern Comfort and Tuaca before selling them off in 2016.
Name, ticker symbol if publicly traded, location of main distillery/headquarters: Brown-Forman owns Woodford Reserve. NYSE: BFA and BFB. Brown-Forman is headquartered in Louisville. Woodford Reserve is at 7855 McCracken Pike, Versailles.
When established, by whom; owned by now: Brown-Forman was founded in 1870 by George Garvin Brown in Louisville. His original brand, Old Forester Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky, remains one of Brown-Forman's brands. George Garvin Brown IV, a descendant of the founder, is part of the fifth generation of the Brown family members engaged with the company and serves as the presiding chairman of the board.
Historical importance: Woodford Reserve is the smallest and oldest operating distillery in America. Whiskey was first produced on its site in 1812, and it was here that some of America’s earliest distilling pioneers including Elijah Pepper, Oscar Pepper and James Crow honed their craft. Another Brown-Forman product, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, was officially registered by the U.S. government in 1866 and based in Lynchburg, Tenn. The Woodford Reserve distillery is the oldest registered distillery in the United States and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Major labels of bourbon and bourbon-related products: Woodford Reserve, Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection
Other significant brands the company owns: Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, Southern Comfort, Finlandia, Jack Daniel’s & Cola, Canadian Mist, Korbel, Gentleman Jack, el Jimador, Herradura, Sonoma-Cutrer, Chambord, New Mix, Tuaca, Woodford Reserve
Number of barrels of bourbon: Not disclosed.
Number of employees: Nearly 4,000 for all Brown-Forman brands. 52 at Woodford Reserve Distillery. 31 at Brown-Forman Distillery.
Distillery and related sites (warehouses, visitors center, other): Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles. Brown-Forman Distillery in Louisville. Warehouse locations not disclosed.
Websites, contact info for tours, admission cost if any, etc.: Brown-Forman: www.brown-forman.com. Woodford Reserve Distillery, www.woodfordreserve.com. Woodford Reserve tours: Distillery ($7, free for military personnel with ID), National Historic Landmark tour ($25), Corn to Cork in-depth tour ($25). (859) 879-1812.