Woodford Reserve Distillery is located in the heart of Kentucky's
Bluegrass hidden away between some of the most scenic Thoroughbred
horse farms in the country. The Bluegrass Region sits on a
huge limestone aquifer. The limestone serves as a giant filter,
removing unwanted materials from the water and adding calcium.
This is important to us because the calcium reacts quite favorably
with the yeast during production, making for a better Bourbon.
It's also that same water that promotes strong bones and good
bone conformation in horses - more specifically - Thoroughbred
All of the Woodford Reserve stone buildings are over a 100
years old, but the Distillery building is the oldest. The
first section went up in 1838, and although it expanded over
the years, it kept its classic design.
Open Tuesday thru Saturday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Open on Sundays from 12:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m.
April thru October
Closed on all major holidays
$5 per person age 18 and older (guests under 18 are
Directions from Louisville
Take I-64 East to U.S. 60 (Frankfort / Versailles exit). Turn
right towards Versailles. Travel for 2.6 miles to Rt. 3360
(Grassy Springs Rod). Turn right and follow the road until
it ends. Turn right onto McCracken Pike to the Visitors Center.
Directions from Lexington
Follow U.S. 60 (Versailles Rd) from Lexington towards Frankfort.
Shortly after passing the intersection of U.S. 60 and state
road 1685, turn left onto Rt. 3360 (Grassy Springs Rd). Follow
this road until it ends. Turn right onto McCraken Pike to
the Visitors Center.
Distillery Tour Information
Until you can make it to the Woodford Reserve Distillery,
we'll take you through a tour now.
Cooking & Fermenting Corn, rye and malted
barley start the life of a batch of Woodford Reserve. The
corn brings the sweetness to the taste while the rye adds
spice. The grains are milled then cooked with limestone water.
To keep things consistent, we use a portion of the prior batch
(called 'set back') to sour the next batch. While cooking,
the corn and rye release starch, which is then turned into
fermentable sugar by enzymes in the malted barley.
Next we pump the mash into our small cypress fermentation
tanks. Some distillers might use stainless steel, but we've
found that cypress doesn't add any unwanted flavor to our
Bourbon. Plus, we like to stick to tradition. It's in the
tanks that we introduce our proprietary strain of yeast to
the mix converting the fermentable sugar into alcohol. We
let the sour mash ferment up to seven days being sure to take
our sweet -and sour - time.
When fermentation is complete, you've got what is known as
the 'distiller's beer'. The next stop for the 'beer' is the
Still Room. At this point, it's only about 18 proof, so it
has some growing up to do.
Distilling Specially made all the way from
Rothes, Scotland, our copper pot stills hold our product during
this process. The first 2,500 gallons (called a 'charge')
is pumped from the fermenter into still #1 which is known
as the 'beer still'. It's during distillation that the alcohol
is separated from the water. The copper pot still process
is one that's not so commercial - just another small detail
that sets our distillery apart.
Next we inject steam, and the alcohol vaporizes up the gooseneck.
It then cools as it passes through a condenser and is turned
back into a 40 proof liquid - a little something we call 'low
wine'. Now, we're ready for the second round of distilling.
The low wine is pumped into the 'high wine' still and gets
heated, causing the alcohol to vaporize again. It goes through
condensation and comes out as a 100 - 110 proof liquid that
we call - you guessed it - high wine.
The high wine goes into the 'spirit still' and is distilled
a third and final time resulting in a lovely 158 proof spirit.
At this point, we're done distilling and ready to put our
new spirit into barrels.
Barrels We don't fill an enormous amount
of barrels each week, so we're sticklers about their quality.
We have to be. The barrels play a critical role in the maturation
of our Bourbon. While oak barrels became the standard because
of their strength, sugar content and other excellent properties
for maturing whisky.
We buy our barrels from Bluegrass Cooperage in Louisville,
KY. A barrel maker - called a 'cooper' - is a craftsman in
every sense of the word. After sanding and tapering the rough
white oak, a cooper uses skill and experience to make the
staves fit perfectly into the iron circle. No nails, no glue.
Just a steam fitting to achieve the proper permanent shape.
Next, the barrel gets toasted for approximately 22 minutes.
This causes the sugars in the wood to caramelize, providing
the Bourbon that sweet vanilla taste and caramel aroma. The
barrel then gets set on fire for about 20 seconds, forming
a layer of char on the inside surface of the barrel. It's
the char that contributes to the rich amber color of the finished
Finally, our specially and charred barrelheads are installed
and the barrels are ready to receive the product.
Maturation Demineralized water brings the
158 proof product down to 110 which is 'entry proof'. The
barrels move from the Distillery Building to the warehouse
via our 500 foot barrel run. It's in the warehouses that the
new spirit matures into Bourbon. It goes in clear and comes
out years later a rich amber color. And, yes, there is an
explanation for this magical color change. It's all in the
The hot Kentucky summer causes the whisky in the barrel to
expand, forcing its way into the layers of the barrel and
charred wood. Wintertime makes the barrel contract, bringing
the whisky back through the layers. This passage in and out
of the layers is called a cycle and every cycle gives the
product more color and aroma.
As previously stated, we're sticklers about quality. Throughout
maturation, every barrel is sampled. We have to be confident
that the taste, aroma, and color are exactly where they need
to be to become Woodford Reserve Bourbon. And, it's only official
when Master Distiller Chris Morris and Distillery Manager
Dave Scheurich say so. They give the word and the product
Woodford Reserve Information...