Wednesday, November 13, 2013
With Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Chris Morris on a Whiskey Tour in Frankfurt, Duesseldorf and Berlin, Germany
Chris Morris is the Master Distiller of Brown-Foreman, including Woodford Reserve, the ultra-premium Bourbon Whiskey from Kentucky in the US. I accompanied him on a recent tour through Germany.
Woodford Reserve is the smallest of the about 20 distilleries in Kentucky. It is unique in using a triple distillation method. This employs three copper pot stills, built in Scotland. Woodford Reserve is operated by the Louisville-based Brown-Forman Distiller Corporation, which also owns Jack Daniels.
Woodford Reserve traces its origins back to 1797, when Elijah Pepper moved from Virginia to Versailles, where he distilled corn whiskey in a small distillery behind the county courthouse. In 1812 he moved his operation to the present site on Glenn's Creek. In 1941 Brown-Forman bought the distillery used it to produce their Early Times whiskey. By the 1960s Bourbon sales were falling and Brown- Forman sold the distillery to a local farmer. The buyer proceeded to make the car fuel substitute 'gasohol' in the distillery for a short period, but when that venture failed, the distillery lay silent for 23 years. Then, in 1994, with interest in 'small batch' Bourbon rising, Brown-Forman bought back the semi-derelict site and restored it to showpiece condition. In 2003, the present Woodford Reserve name was adopted for both the distillery and its whiskey.
Between 40 and 50 barrels a day are filled at Woodford Reserve distillery. The resultant whiskey is bottled at six to seven years of age. The mashbill comprises 72 per cent corn, 18 per cent rye and 12 per cent malted barley. Bourbon whiskey must be at least 51% corn, and many bourbons are as high as 80%. A bourbon mashbill with 18% Rye is fairly high and helps distinguish Woodford Reserve’s slightly spicy character.
In the Brown-Forman family, a lot of time and attention is paid to Jack Daniels, the whiskey from Tennessee, and for good reason: it’s one of the best selling spirits in America. Although Jack Daniels gets lots of attention, it’s Woodford Reserve that is the crown jewel in Brown-Forman portfolio. Run by master distiller Chris Morris, Woodford Reserve focuses on producing small batch premium bourbon.
Chris Morris is sevent Master Distiller for Brown-Forman, since the company began in 1870. A Louisville native, Chris Morris has grown up around bourbon his whole life. His dad was a production manager, and his mother worked in the art department at Brown-Forman. His career with Brown-Forman began in 1976, as a trainee. Chris Morris holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Bellarmine College in Louisville, a master’s degree in liberal arts from Texas Christian University, and a master’s degree in marketing from Webster University.
At Asbach Uralt in Ruedesheim
Our first stop in Germany was at Asbach Uralt in Ruedesheim. We had lunch in the famous Drosselgasse at Breuer’s Restaurant with wines from Weingut Bernhard Breuer. We then moved to the Asbach Uralt company, where General Manager Christopher Dellee introduced us to the company and led us through a brandy tasting. Asbach Uralt is a German brandy produced by the company Asbach Gmbh, which also makes other spirits and chocolate. Asbach's history dates back to 1892 when Hugo Asbach founded the company. The Treaty of Versailles decreed that the word Cognac could only be used for French products, so Hugo Asbach coined the term Weinbrand for German brandy.
We tasted 5 different Asbach Uralt brandies: Asbach Uralt, Asbach Privatbrand (aged for 8 years), Asbach Spezialbrand (15 years), Asbach Selection (21 years) and Asbach Vintage 1972.
At Grand Cru Bistro in Frankfurt
In the evening, Chris Morris presented 4 Whiskeys to a group of whiskey lovers at the Grand Cru Bistro in Frankfurt. The aim of the tasting was to give a broad overview of the world of American whiskeys. The tasting was followed by a great dinner with wines of Walter Schug, Carneros, California.
The excellent food, the large, well-chosen and ever changing wine list – with about 300 wines by the bottle and by the glass - and the French brasserie/bistro atmosphere of Grand Cru always bring back fond memories of the 3 years which I spent in Paris. The expertise and the passion for wine and food of owner Kai Buhrfeindt – a Staatlich gepruefte Weinnase (a government certified wine nose) - shows clearly and everywhere at Grand Cru.
At Weingut August Eser in Oestrich Winkel
The next day, we drove from Frankfurt am Main to Duesseldorf and stopped at Weingut August Eser for a cellar tour and tasting with winemaker and owner Desiree Eser.
Weingut August Eser is a small, family owned winery in Oestrich in the Rheingau, producing 6000 cases of first class Riesling and Spaetburgunder annually. Desiree Eser: “Our family-winery in the heart of the German wine growing region Rheingau has 10 hectares of 90% Riesling and 10% Pinot Noir grapes. Our cellar dates back to 1650 and it is here that our wines mature and develop their lively aromatic character which is fruity and floral. Our wines are made in both dry and balanced sweet styles. As a member of the VDP, our goal is to produce top quality, distinctive wines. 95% of our production is sold in Germany. I have justed started to export to the US."
At Im Schiffchen in Duesseldorf
In Duesseldorf, Falstaff organized a whiskey tasting with dinner in the “Im Schiffchen”. Chris Morris led an entertaining and educational tasting with four very different American whiskeys. The aim of the tasting was to give a broad overview of the world of American whiskeys. Following the tasting, guests were treated to an excellent four-course menu. It was a terrific evening, which all who were present will remember as an extremely successful symbiosis of German and American delicacies.
At Press Conference and Bar Convent in Berlin
In Berlin, Chris Morris joined a group of 18 small and large distillers from America, who had come to Germany to present their products at the 2013 Bar Convent Berlin. The day before the Bar Convent Berlin, the American Ambassador had invited for a press briefing, reception and tasting at the American Embassy in Berlin, which, however, had to be moved to a Berlin Hotel on short notice because of the US Government Shut down. Nevertheless, the event turned out to be a big success.
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