Chris Morris, the Master Distiller Emeritus at Woodford Reserve, believes that the long-term growth of American rye whiskey in the United States hinges on the vitality of the on-trade sector. Speaking in a recent interview, Morris emphasized the importance of a thriving on-trade craft cocktail culture for the growth of the rye whiskey category. He noted that markets with limited cocktail innovation might face challenges in expanding the rye whiskey category.
Woodford Reserve Rye, a brand known for its quality and craftsmanship, has found success in established craft cocktail markets such as the US, the UK, Germany, France, Australia, and Canada. In fact, it has become one of the leading super-premium rye whiskeys in the US. However, Morris also pointed out that for the category to grow further, it needs to cultivate a broader off-trade consumer base.
Morris explained that the current sales of rye whiskey are largely driven by on-trade promotion and usage. This is partly because many new rye whiskey brands have high rye percentages in their recipes, resulting in spice-forward flavors that work well in cocktails but may be too intense for neat or on-the-rocks consumption at home.
Woodford Reserve Rye has experienced such high demand that the distillery cannot produce enough to meet current and foreseeable future demand. While there are no plans for new rye expressions beyond those in the brand's rare Distillery Series, Woodford Reserve has committed to sourcing rye grain from local farmers in Kentucky to bring rye production back to the state, in collaboration with the University of Kentucky.
One challenge in using Kentucky-grown rye is ensuring it doesn't alter the fermentation yield or flavor of Woodford Reserve. Therefore, the Kentucky rye initiative aims to identify a rye strain that can seamlessly replace the current rye types commonly used, and so far, the results of their research have been promising.
About Chris Morris
Chris Morris is a highly regarded figure in the world of American whiskey, known for his extensive knowledge and expertise in the distillation and maturation of fine spirits. As the Master Distiller Emeritus at Woodford Reserve, one of the most distinguished bourbon brands in the United States, Morris has played a pivotal role in the brand's success and reputation for exceptional craftsmanship.
With a career spanning several decades in the whiskey industry, Chris Morris has amassed a wealth of experience and insights into the art and science of whiskey production. He is recognized not only for his technical expertise but also for his commitment to preserving and advancing the traditions of American whiskey-making.
Under Morris's leadership, Woodford Reserve has achieved numerous accolades and awards, solidifying its position as a leader in the super-premium bourbon category. His dedication to quality and innovation has been instrumental in shaping the brand's portfolio and ensuring the consistent delivery of exceptional bourbons.
Morris's influence extends beyond Woodford Reserve, as he is often sought after for his expertise in the whiskey industry. He has contributed to the growth and development of American whiskey through his involvement in industry organizations and his willingness to share his knowledge with fellow enthusiasts and professionals.
As a Master Distiller Emeritus, Chris Morris continues to be a respected and influential figure in the world of whiskey. His contributions to the craft, his commitment to quality, and his role in elevating American whiskey to new heights have earned him a well-deserved place among the industry's most prominent experts and advocates.
About Woodford Reserve
Woodford Reserve is a renowned American bourbon whiskey brand known for its exceptional craftsmanship, rich history, and commitment to producing high-quality spirits. Here are some key aspects of Woodford Reserve:
Distillery Heritage: Woodford Reserve is produced at the Woodford Reserve Distillery, located in Versailles, Kentucky. This distillery is one of the oldest and smallest working distilleries in Kentucky, known for its picturesque setting and historic significance.
Bourbon Pioneers: The distillery's history dates back to the early 19th century when it was originally known as the Old Oscar Pepper Distillery. It was here that the process of sour mash fermentation was perfected by Dr. James Crow, a Scottish chemist and one of the early pioneers of bourbon production.
Distinctive Flavor Profile: Woodford Reserve is celebrated for its distinct flavor profile, characterized by a balance of rich, full-bodied flavors. It is often described as having notes of dried fruit, vanilla, toasted oak, and a hint of spice. This complex and well-balanced flavor is achieved through careful crafting and unique maturation processes.
Small Batch Production: Woodford Reserve is known for its commitment to small-batch production, which allows for greater control over the quality and consistency of its bourbons. Each batch is crafted with precision, ensuring that the final product meets the brand's high standards.
Triple Distillation: Woodford Reserve is one of the few American bourbon brands that triple distills its whiskey. This extra distillation step contributes to the whiskey's smoothness and refined character.
Distinctive Copper Pot Stills: The distillery uses traditional copper pot stills for distillation, which play a crucial role in shaping the whiskey's unique flavor profile. These stills are a nod to the brand's commitment to time-honored methods.
Iconic Packaging: Woodford Reserve is easily recognizable by its iconic bottle design, featuring a squat, rectangular shape and a cork stopper. The label often carries the image of the Woodford Reserve Distillery.
Expanding Portfolio: While Woodford Reserve's flagship bourbon is highly acclaimed, the brand has also expanded its portfolio to include limited-edition releases and special expressions, showcasing creativity and innovation while staying true to its core values.
Visitor Experience: The Woodford Reserve Distillery offers guided tours and tastings, providing visitors with an opportunity to learn about the distillation process, explore the historic distillery, and sample a range of Woodford Reserve bourbons.
Awards and Recognition: Woodford Reserve has received numerous awards and accolades for its bourbons, solidifying its reputation as a top-tier American whiskey producer.
In summary, Woodford Reserve is a brand steeped in tradition, known for producing exceptional bourbons with a distinctive flavor profile. Its commitment to quality, small-batch production, and adherence to time-tested methods have made it a beloved and respected name in the world of American whiskey.