Jefferson’s Reserve Bourbon

This bottle, from Jefferson’s, displays both the highly-respected “very old” AND “very small batch” epithets, so you know it must be good. I jest, of course. The brand has taken (one of the) laudable paths to official distillery-hood in transitioning from a NDP (non-distiller producer) to a “real” distillery by buying Kentucky Artisan Distillery in Crestwood, Kentucky. That said, some large percentage of the barrels still aging in their warehouse (and, likely, being blended into their whiskeys) are from other distillers.

Jefferson’s sprang into the whiskey-buying public consciousness a number of years ago via the gimmick of aging barrels of bourbon on seagoing vessels for 6 months. I have not tried one of the “Ocean” bottlings, so I can’t verify their claims that the motion of the waves accelerates barrel maturation. Still, it makes for a good story.

Jefferson’s Reserve is a straight bourbon whiskey which is actually a blend of several (rumor is 4-5) bourbons and aged for an undisclosed period of time (again, rumor is around 8 years on average) and is bottled at a reasonable 45.1% ABV. Jefferson’s keeps their sourcing and production secrets pretty close to the vest, which leaves whiskey nerds like yours truly without much to chew on.

Nose: Full aroma, with a prominent nose tickle. Woody – the dominant notes are dry: dry oak, wood chips, birch beer. There’s a suggestion of rye grain – not quite vegetal, not quite pine-y, but also bare amount of clove, cinnamon, and cherry cordial. A rest in the glass does allow some sweetness to develop in the form of butterscotch.

Palate: Thin body. Dry wood is dominant on the tongue, as well, after a moderate tongue burn. A little sweetness creeps in – cinnamon rolls, vanilla cake frosting, cherry pie filling, and (again) birch beer.

Finish: Medium-long. Consistent through the finish, with a lot of the same flavors. Some mouth-drying tannins, a little charcoal bitterness, and a fading ghost of menthol.

With Water: Several drops of water confuse the aroma, necessitating a rest in the glass. The palate feels a little rounder, with less tongue burn, and the finish picks up a “candy corn” note. Try this without water first, then see if it changes for you.

Overall: This is a fairly dry bourbon, with the scale tilted decidedly away from typical sweet bourbon notes of caramel or corn syrup. Still, there’s a nice array of wood-forward flavors and no off notes. A competent bourbon, but not one I’m likely to seek out again, especially for its slightly-above-average price. That said, if you find bourbons too sweet in general you might enjoy this drier take.

Jefferson’s Reserve Bourbon
45.1% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $46 - $60
Acquired: (750ml bottle) Total Wine & More, San Jose, CA, $43

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  • Just purchased a bottle today. It smelled great. I thought that I was in for a good experience. I definitely felt the tongue burn that was described. Very harsh at first. It never tasted smooth at all. This will have to be mixed with something. I would not get this again. Major disappointment.