DRIVEN correspondent Eric Kater recently traveled to the wilds of Kentucky to watch renowned bourbon distiller Woodford Reserve uncork their new rye whiskey.

Here’s his report from the field:

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If your image of rye whiskey is watching John Wayne belly-up to the bar to send a stampede of angry cattle down his throat, then lend an ear.

Woodford Reserve has used this cereal grain to create an exquisite drinking experience with the latest offering of its limited release Master’s Collection.

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Named the Rare Rye Selection, it comes in a matched pair of 375 ml bottles for a side-by-side taste comparison.

The contents are the same basic ingredient: 100 percent rye spirit triple distilled in copper pot stills.

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The difference in color and taste is entirely due to the different barrels used in the maturation process.

It’s an opportunity to experience the difference between whiskey aged in a virgin charred oak barrel versus aged in a barrel that has been used.

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It’s really a showdown between the old world and the new in the sense that distillers in Ireland and Scotland purchase used barrels from their American counterparts to mature their whiskies.

Because barrels play such a critical role in the flavor of whisky, Woodford Reserve makes their own to insure the quality and seasoning of the oak, as well as the amount of charring.

We were fortunate enough to see them in action.

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The whiskey is crafted outside of Louisville in the 19th century buildings that once housed the historic distillery of Oscar Pepper and James Crow, the two men credited with writing the rulebook of the proper construction and use of casks.

We suspect that The Duke would have been suspicious of a rye whiskey of remarkable delicacy with notes of cinnamon, mint, and spice – but a good old-fashioned shoot out like this was right in his bunkhouse….

– E.K.