Crisp, easy going, and approachable. It's gentle enough for novices to enjoy, but has enough flavor to hold the attention of seasoned bourbon drinkers.
Both the palate and finish are a bit thin. While far from bland, after the initial flavor "pop", this dram fizzles quickly. Given its proof and age, this bourbon also sits at a somewhat unreasonable price.
The Jefferson’s brand of bourbons was created in 1997 by Trey and Chet Zoeller. Jefferson’s, named after American Founding Father and 3rd President Thomas Jefferson, started as – and still is – a non-distilling producer who sources the bourbon it bottles from various distilleries. In the early 21st century, the Jefferson’s brand was acquired by Castle Brands, Inc.
The folks behind Jefferson’s pride themselves on innovation, as evidenced by their series of experimental “ocean voyage” releases and various wine/rum cask bottles. Their core range bourbons, comprised of the Very Small Batch, Reserve, and Presidential Select are all traditional Kentucky straight bourbons aged only in American new charred oak on American soil.
Deciphering where the contents of Jefferson’s bourbons come from is no easy feat. Due to nondisclosure agreements, we’ll likely never know the source of Jefferson’s original stock or current higher-age stock. What we do know is that Castle Brands has a 20% ownership stake in Crestwood, KY’s Kentucky Artisian Distillery, a relatively small craft distillery started in 2013. A good portion of bourbon blended into Jefferson’s bottles likely comes from KAD, whom Jefferson’s claims as its “home”, and who has a visitor’s center featuring Jefferson’s.
According to Jefferson’s website, the Reserve was originally a 15 year old sourced bourbon, but since 2003 has been a blend of around 4 different bourbons of varying ages and mash bills. Given KAD’s age, a portion of the bourbon must be no more than 4-5 years old, as of the time of this writing. The Reserve is marketed as the “middle child” of Jefferson’s bourbon range, more premium than the Very Small Batch but less than the Presidential Select.
- No age statement
- Sourced from at least 2 distilleries (one being Kentucky Artisian Distillery)
- Bottled at 45.1% ABV
Nose: Crisp apple and light oak initially explode from the glass. Making their way up next are caramel and vanilla in equal parts with a candied fruit undertone I find somewhat akin to butterscotch-covered granny smith apples.
Palate: A touch thin with an entry note of briny, oaky, crisp apple peels. As it develops, a bit of barrel spice and char come through alongside earthy butterscotch and caramel with hints of pepper. The flavor is easy going and approachable.
Finish: Creamy oak and vanilla that are on the thinner side, but followed by a nice caramel and crisp green apple. The dram lingers with a good sweet corn and butterscotch for a short span of time that is not quite as long as I’d hoped for.
Buying Recommendation: Worth buying a pour. I’ll admit that I have a soft spot for this bourbon, as it was one that really helped initiate me into the realm of spending a bit more cash to try new whiskeys. At around $60, this is expensive for a lower proof and non-age stated bourbon. While it’s borderline-excellent with a nice overall flavor profile, if you’re like me you’ll find yourself longing for bigger and bolder notes than you find here. If you typically use the “smooth” moniker to describe your ideal bourbon, then this whiskey will hit the sweet spot for you, but I’d still recommend trying before buying given its retail price. Returning to this whiskey a few years after my initial encounter with it, Jefferson’s Reserve still has enough going on to hold my attention. Full of crisp notes that pop but fizzle quick, this dram is anything but bland.
At WBSE we use a true 100 point scale for scoring to allow whiskeys to further differentiate themselves (as opposed to a letter grade scale where 90% of whiskeys fall between 78-92). This allows you to more easily compare scores between different whiskeys. Here is how the scale breaks down:
1-49: Varying degrees of bad
60-69: Better than average
90+: Truly Exceptional
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