Jefferson’s Bourbon Selection

Jefferson’s Bourbon has been around for almost 20 years, after being launched in 1997 by Trey Zoeller and his father Chet under the company name McClain & Kyne. Castle Brands bought McClain & Kyne in 2005 and production of Jefferson’s has continued since.

The name Jefferson was chosen as Trey was inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s ‘curiosity, experimental spirit and good taste’ and the Bourbon is known for its experimental approach to aging techniques, including maturing the whisky at sea.

Jefferson doesn’t actually distill it’s own spirit, but instead sources bourbon from other distillers before blending and maturing to create its own expressions, including the previously mentioned Jefferson’s Ocean: Aged At Sea, 10 Year Old Straight Rye and 18 Year Old Presidential Select.

We were lucky enough to receive some samples of Jefferson’s Bourbon as part of the Whisky Wire Tweet Tasting. These were the Very Small Batch Bourbon, Groth Reserve Cask Finish and a Manhattan Barrel Finished Cocktail.

Our tasting notes are below.

Jefferson’s Bourbon (Very Small Batch)

This is Jefferson’s entry-level expression and is produced by blending four bourbons of around 6 to 10 years old. The mashbill (grain ratio) is 60% corn, 30% rye and 10% malted barley and the spirit aged in very lightly charred barrels to encourage a different flavour profile to typical bourbons.

It’s bottled at 41.5%.


Light, golden amber.


Immediate corn sweetness with vanilla and a slight nuttiness. There are some creamy, buttery cereal notes and perfumed resin / cedar wood with just a hint of acetone.

As it opens up, the perfume becomes more fruity (peach?) but waxy floral notes like cherry blossom also appears. I also got some desiccated coconut and little citrus.

A huge nose for a bourbon; really interesting.


Perfumey citrus arrival, with spiced orange and some tobacco bitterness. Dark cherry too.

Good length of finish; oily and slightly soapy (in a good way) like Cherry Lips sweets, then a base cereal sweetness right at the end. Rich, but not cloying.


This is a lovely bourbon and although the taste doesn’t match the nose in terms of complexity, it’s beautifuly balanced and I could imagine drinking this regularly.

It is slightly more expensive than the mainstream bourbons we get in the UK, though based on this sample, I’d argue it’s worth it.

Jefferson’s The Manhattan Barrel Finished Cocktail

This limited edition pre-mixed cocktail was created by Trey Zoeller in partnership with David Granger, Editor-in-chief of Esquire US. Taking Jefferson’s Bourbon as the base, is it mixed with Sweet Vermouth and Spiced Cherry Bitters, before being barrel-aged for 90 days in oak. It’s is bottled at 34% and a 750ml bottle should be good for 10 cocktails.


Well, like a Manhattan Cocktail! Orange amber.


Big punch of orange initially, with cinnamon spice and the cherry blossom detected in the Bourbon along with floral white wine. Grassy notes are in the background too and also some pencil shavings (I have to thank Whisky Wednesday for that one!).

It’s surprising how much it changes over time and I was getting Cinnamon Rolls at one point.


First taste is very light fruit, like honeydew melon before the orange and cherry bitters come in and dominate. Turns dry and slightly bitter overall with notes of green tea before the sweetness returns with cherry flavour.

Slightly oily texture and dry finish.


Not nearly as sweet as I would have expected, but a very pleasant drink. My first impression was that it was a little too dry for my tastes, however having tried it again I quite enjoyed it.

Definitely a grown-up cocktail for Bourbon lovers, but I think I’d buy a bottle of this.

Jefferson’s Reserve Groth Reserve Cask Finish Very Old Straight Bourbon Whisky.

It’s got a long name and an interesting production; Jefferson’s Reserve is typically created by blending four old bourbons at around 6 years old, but this limited edition expression is then matured for nine months in ex-Cabernet Sauvignon barrels from Napa Valley’s Groth Vineyards to give it a much more interesting flavour profile. It’s limited edition and bottled at 45.1%.


Deep coppery amber.


Initially, I detected light peach but was very subtle. After a short time however this all changes and a christmas monster is unleashed.

Sweet mincemeat raisin spice and buttery almond pastry. Plenty of vanilla, a whiff of fresh tobacco, black tea and coconut, some mace and ginger too.

There’s a lot of alcohol on the nose — not overpowering, but indicates higher strength than it actually is.


Given the amazing nose, I was fully expecting to be disappointed with the taste however it stands up well.

Quite a rich mouthfeel, it alternates from almost savoury to sweet fruits before a tannic bitterness appears and carries through to the slightly orange zesty finish.

Not an amazingly long finish, but it’s lovely and warm.


This was my surprise of the night as I’ve had wine-cask finished whiskies before and they’re not always successful. The Jefferson’s Groth is lovely though and seems a great balance of the bourbon with the Cabernet Sauvignon.

Definitely unique and well worth a look if you get a chance.

Thanks to Steve Rush of The Whisky Wire and Jefferson’s for the samples.

Originally published at on November 25, 2015.

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