It might make sense to frame this experiment as bourbon makers venturing off the beaten path, but this release actually shouldn’t be much of a surprise, especially from Woodford.
Malted barley is actually in every bourbon recipe, as a small portion of grain that aides in the fermentation process (corn doesn’t ferment well on its own). Think of it as a kind of jump start. But more to the point, master distiller Chris Morris has been doing experiments like this for most of his long tenure at the helm of this distillery. Messing around with different grains, tweaking recipes, and trying new things is just who he is—and what Woodford is as a result. Straight malt is just the next logical bottle: a corn majority recipe, a rye majority recipe, and now a malt.
This isn’t a single malt, by the way. Woodford uses 51 percent malt and includes other flavoring grains to round out the taste. In comparison with some of the more bold and aggressive American single malts on the market right now, this is quite softer and smoother.
It did something very similar a few years ago with Woodford Rye, which is a low-rye, high corn rye recipe. The high proportion of malt makes this whiskey heavy on the chocolate and nutty notes. There’s a nice sweetness to it, and a tiny touch of spice on the finish, but those things are just the corn and rye grains speaking up from the background.
At $35, Straight Malt is interesting to sip and to play with in cocktails. And for a night when you just can’t decide between a bourbon and a single malt, well, you’ll have your answer.