Does Woodford Reserve have sugar in it?

Quick Answer

Woodford Reserve does not contain any added sugars. As a straight Kentucky bourbon, Woodford Reserve is made from a mash of at least 51% corn, with the remainder being rye and malted barley. No sugar is added during the fermentation or distillation process. The natural sugars present in the corn, rye, and malted barley are converted to alcohol during fermentation. So while Woodford Reserve contains no added sugars, it does contain natural sugars from the grains used to make it.

Ingredients in Woodford Reserve

As a straight Kentucky bourbon, the ingredients in Woodford Reserve are relatively simple:

  • Corn – makes up the majority of the mash bill, providing sweetness
  • Malted barley – provides enzymes for fermentation and adds depth of flavor
  • Rye – adds spiciness and complexity

No sugar is listed among the ingredients for Woodford Reserve. The sweetness in the bourbon comes from the natural sugars in the corn used in the mash bill.

Mash Bill

The mash bill, or grain recipe, for Woodford Reserve is:

  • 72% Corn
  • 18% Rye
  • 10% Malted Barley

As you can see, the majority of the mash is corn, which contributes sweet notes to the bourbon. The rye and malted barley make up the remainder.

No Added Sugars

Bourbon is distilled from this grain mash and aged in charred oak barrels. No sugars are added at any point in the distillation or maturation process. The natural sugars from the corn, rye, and malted barley get converted to alcohol during fermentation by yeast.

So while Woodford Reserve contains sugars naturally from the grains used, no extra sugar is added to sweeten or enhance the flavor profile.

Tasting Notes

When tasting Woodford Reserve straight bourbon whiskey, you can detect sweet notes from the corn used in the mash bill along with spice from the rye and depth from the malted barley:

  • Sweet aromas of caramel, toffee, and vanilla
  • Flavor profile of brown sugar, honey, and fruit
  • Spicy rye notes come through on the palate as well
  • Medium body with a rich, satiny texture
  • Long, warm finish with lingering oaky sweetness

These sweet tasting notes are derived from the natural sugars in the corn and malted barley used to make Woodford Reserve. No extra sugar is added to achieve the bourbon’s sweet, smooth flavor.

In Comparison to Flavored Whiskeys

Some flavored whiskeys do contain added sugars to enhance sweetness. For example:

  • Fireball Whisky contains sugar and honey
  • Red Stag by Jim Beam is infused with natural flavors and sugar
  • Bird Dog Peach Whiskey is blended with peach and other natural flavors plus cane sugar

These flavored whiskeys use added sugars to boost the sweetness. Woodford Reserve relies solely on the natural sugars from the grains used without any extra sugars added in.

Nutrition Information

Looking at the nutritional information for Woodford Reserve provides further confirmation that it contains no added sugars:

Serving Size 1.5 fl oz (44ml)
Calories 149
Carbohydrates 0g
Sugars 0g

With 0g of sugar per serving, this backs up the fact that Woodford Reserve contains no added sugars. The bourbon has 149 calories per serving from the alcohol content but contains no carbohydrates or sugars.

Reasons Woodford Reserve Does Not Need Added Sugar

There are several reasons why Woodford Reserve does not need extra sugar added:

  • The high corn content provides natural sweetness
  • Malted barley also contributes sweet, malty notes
  • No need to mask flavors like some lower quality spirits
  • The Master Distiller aims for a balanced, complex flavor profile
  • Bourbon drinkers expect no adulteration with additives like sugar

In short, the quality of the ingredients and distilling process means no added sugar is required. The Master Distiller at Woodford Reserve focuses on bringing out the natural flavors of the grain mash.

Distillation Process

To understand why Woodford Reserve contains no added sugars, it helps to look at how bourbon whiskey is distilled and aged:

1. Milling

The grains are milled into a coarse flour called grist. This exposes the starches in the corn, rye, and malted barley so they can be converted into alcohol.

2. Mashing

The grist is mixed with water to create mash. Enzymes from the malted barley convert starches to sugars. This creates a sweet liquid called wort.

3. Fermentation

Yeast is added to the wort, which consumes the natural sugars and converts them to alcohol. No sugary additives are included.

4. Distillation

The distiller heats the wash in a still to evaporate the alcohol. This purified, concentrated spirit comes off the still at approximately 125 proof.

5. Maturation

The spirit is aged in charred new oak barrels for several years, taking on color and flavor from the wood. Again, sugar is not added at any point.

6. Bottling

The aged spirit is diluted with water to bring it to bottling proof of 90 proof (45% ABV) for Woodford Reserve. It’s now straight bourbon whiskey, with no sugars or additives besides water.

As you can see throughout the process – from mashing and fermentation through distillation and aging to bottling – there are no sugars added at any point.

Ingredients List

Looking at the ingredients list on a bottle of Woodford Reserve also confirms no sugar is added:

  • Grain Mix: 72% corn, 18% rye, 10% malted barley
  • Yeast
  • Oak
  • Water

The grain mix provides the fermentable starches and natural sugars needed to make bourbon. There is no mention of added sugars on the ingredient list.

Why Sugar is Not Added to Bourbon

There are several reasons why extra sugar is not added to straight bourbon whiskies like Woodford Reserve:


By definition, straight bourbon must be distilled from a grain mash and aged in oak barrels without any additives besides water. Sugar would disqualify it as straight bourbon.


The Master Distiller aims to create a complex, balanced flavor profile showcasing the quality grains. Added sugar would interfere.


Bourbon drinkers want to taste corn, rye, oak, and barrel char without adulteration from sugars.


Top distillers like Woodford Reserve do not need to mask flaws with sugar. Their bourbon’s quality speaks for itself.


Law requires straight bourbon to be distilled and aged without added flavors, colors, or other additives besides water. Sugar cannot legally be added.

In summary, tradition, quality, flavor, and consumer expectations dictate that straight bourbon like Woodford Reserve contain no added sugars. The natural sweetness comes from the grains used.

Comparison to Other Whiskeys

It’s instructive to compare Woodford Reserve’s no sugar approach to other styles of whiskey:

Scotch Whisky

By law, Scotch whisky cannot contain added sugar. The sugars needed for fermentation come from malted barley. Some Sherry or Port-finished Scotches may seem sweet due to the casks used.

Irish Whiskey

Like Scotch and bourbon, Irish whiskey contains no added sugars. Grains including barley provide the needed sugars to make Irish whiskey.

Tennessee Whiskey

Tennessee whiskies like Jack Daniel’s also contain no added sugar. The sweetness comes from corn and other grains in the mash bill.

Canadian Whisky

Some Canadian whiskies do contain small amounts of added sugars. This helps provide a sweeter, smoother flavor profile.

Flavored Whiskeys

Flavored whiskeys like Fireball contain sugar to enhance the sweetness of the flavorings used. Plain Canadian whisky may also have some sugar added.

As you can see, Woodford Reserve aligns with most straight bourbon, Scotch, and Irish whiskies by not including any added sugars. A few other whiskies add sugar for extra sweetness.

Should You Add Sugar to Woodford Reserve?

Some whiskey cocktail recipes may call for adding sugar to bourbon like Old Fashioneds and Whiskey Smashes. However, most bourbon purists and aficionados would caution against adding sugar to quality straight bourbon like Woodford Reserve for the following reasons:

  • Masks the complex flavors and aromas
  • Alters the flavor balance intended by the Master Distiller
  • Interacts unpredictably with the oak flavors
  • Goes against tradition of enjoying straight bourbon
  • Adds unnecessary calories and carbs

While added sugar may be warranted in some cocktail recipes, many would argue you lose the ability to enjoy the nuanced flavor experience of a well-crafted spirit like Woodford Reserve when you adulterate it with sugar. Savoring the bourbon lightly diluted with a few drops of water or on the rocks is recommended.

That said, it’s a matter of personal taste. Those with a sweet tooth may find a teaspoon of sugar or simple syrup rounds out the edges nicely in an Old Fashioned or Mint Julep using Woodford Reserve. But purists will maintain the distiller crafted the bourbon to need no extra sugars.

Examples of Cocktails Without Added Sugar

Many classic bourbon cocktails allow Woodford Reserve’s natural flavors to shine without added sugars:

Old Fashioned

The original Old Fashioned was simply bourbon, bitters, water, and citrus zest. Modern twists add sugar, but traditionally no sugar was used.


A Manhattan combines bourbon, sweet vermouth, and bitters, letting the bourbon take center stage.

Whiskey Sour

These are made with bourbon, lemon juice, and egg white or simple syrup. Balance the sweet and sour to suit your taste.

Kentucky Mule

Spicy ginger beer and lime complement bourbon’s flavors without needing added sugar.

Bourbon Neat/On the Rocks

Sipping bourbon neat or over ice allows you to savor the spirit’s pure flavors unfettered.

These cocktails highlight the natural sweetness and flavor complexity of a quality bourbon like Woodford Reserve without adulteration from extra sugars. Adjust proportions to taste.

Does Adding Sugar Change Bourbon’s Taste?

Adding sugar to Woodford Reserve or other straight bourbons does impact and change the flavor profile and experience:

  • Boosts sweetness masking subtle flavors
  • Changes alcohol burn and mouthfeel
  • Obscures complex oak influences from aging
  • Alters aroma and flavors like caramel, vanilla, spices
  • Makes the finish one-dimensionally sweet
  • Reduces ability to detect craft qualities
  • Overpowers the nuanced experience

While sugar may provide a sweeter, smoother taste, it also overpowers the subtle nuances of a well-made bourbon. The Master Distiller intended a complex experience showcasing the quality grain mash and oak barrel influences.

Many aficionados argue extra sugar is not needed to improve the natural flavor balance. But adding sugar to suit individual taste preferences is understandable in cocktails, as too much can oversweeten the drink.


In conclusion, Woodford Reserve contains no added sugars. As a straight Kentucky bourbon, it is distilled from corn, rye, and malted barley grains with no sugars or other additives (besides water) added. The natural sugars needed for fermentation come from the grain mash ingredients, resulting in Woodford Reserve’s sweet aromas and flavors detectible when sipping. While some whiskey cocktails may benefit from a touch of sugar to balance and sweeten, many argue extra sugar masks the nuanced experience of a well-crafted spirit like Woodford Reserve. When in doubt, tasting the bourbon lightly diluted with a few drops of water or on the rocks allows you to savor its flavor subtleties unfettered.

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