Straight No Chaser: Woodford Reserve’s master distiller Lincoln Henderson


Ace, Food, April 18, 2002

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Have you ever noticed, when eyeing a bottle of Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, that the name Lincoln W. Henderson is signed on the bottom front label and then possibly wondered, what does Mr. Henderson have to do with the bourbon and branch water that is in my immediate future?

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The answer is that he is a master distiller. Actually, to be exact, he is the Director of Whiskey Development and the Master/Maturation Distiller for Brown-Forman Beverages Worldwide, which is the parent of Labrot & Graham Distillery who creates the award-winning Woodford Reserve. He is world renowned for being an expert on whiskey production and maturation, even recently being inducted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame. His expertise of taste, aroma, and color takes him all over the world to speak at seminars and to judge competitions, as he will this year at the International Wine and Spirit Competition in Great Britain, and, fortunately for us and little closer to home, he will be speaking locally at a dinner next week that we can attend.

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On Tuesday, April 23rd, 2002 at 6:00 p.m., Ed & Fred’s Desert Moon will be presenting Bourbon, Distilled Spirits and Cuisine, a three course meal wherein Mr. Henderson will discuss the three different types of Brown-Forman spirits involved in the menu and how they complement the food. The cost for the meal and presentation will be for $45.00 per and seating will be limited so call early, as reservations are required.

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The first course of this meal will be Gentleman Jack roasted salmon with grilled shitake relish, baby spinach, and pine nuts. Gentleman Jack is a super-premium whiskey from the Jack Daniel’s Distillery that has been charcoal filtered, “mellowed”, for impurities before aging, as is Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whisky, but then filtered again after it has reached maturity, four years later, to create its smooth taste. Created from an old recipe, it is the first new whiskey to come out of Jack Daniel’s distillery for one hundred years.

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“Mmm. Nice, earthy undertones.”
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The entrée for the evening will be Woodford Reserve smoked duck breast, (smoked with wood from a actual bourbon barrel) with pear chutney and sweet potato gratin. Because Woodford Reserve is a small batch bourbon made in Woodford County at the oldest aging house in Kentucky, it may have a slight advantage over the other two brands of the evening due to its hometown advantage. It is the product of an intensive, long process culminated from the laws of bourbon and historical process. According to Saveur Magazine, “Labrot & Graham’s 90.4 proof masterpiece is soft and delicate, with an irresistible apricot and honey flavor.”

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The dessert course is a delicious sounding Appleton Rum-banana-espresso crème brulee. Appleton Estate Rum, the oldest of Jamaica’s sugar plantations, was established in 1749 and today produces 160 tons of sugar a day and distills around ten million liters of rum annually for international sales. They purport themselves as the finest rum in the world.

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Ed & Fred’s Desert Moon is a wonderful place for this dinner; it is charming inside while being contemporary and eclectic. The event will be served in the fireplace room, which is cozy and the design makes it feel like you are not in Lexington, but visiting another city. The food on their regular menu is consistently tasty and interesting as I am sure that this special dinner will be as well.

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Many restaurants are now offering the marrying of food and beer, wine, and distilled liquor in the form of informational dinners. This is a happy marriage: we learn hands on what makes a delectable pairing, how to infuse different liquor flavors into our cooking, some background on different alcohols such as geography and process, and enjoy a chef’s creative menu that veers from their daily while enjoying pleasant surroundings.

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Lincoln Henderson began working at Brown-Forman in 1964 and has advanced his learning of distillation and skills of tasting to the point that he is considered an expert on the subject and an evening speaking with him and listening to him could only be fascinating. Is there a better job than the one of tasting and approving of excellent bourbon?

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