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Jefferson’s Reserve Bourbon (Very Old)

Review: Jefferson’s Reserve Bourbon (Very Old)  90.5/100
Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published August 29, 2015

Jefferson’s Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey is considered to be the flagship brand of the Jefferson Bourbon line-up. It is a small batch bourbon reportedly produced by marrying a selection of only 8 to 12 barrels of aged bourbon. The spirit has no age statement although the bottle makes a point of mentioning that the spirit is ‘very old’. (Of course this could mean practically anything, and whether a significant amount of whiskey younger than 8 years enters the blend is unknown to me.)

The spirit (owned by Castle Brands) was created in 1997, by Chet and Trey Zoeller. It is bottled at 45.1 % alcohol by volume and named for the third president of the United States who apparently repealed the Whiskey Tax after his Republican Party came to power in 1801.

Jeffersons Reserve SAM_1688In the Bottle 4.5/5

Jefferson’s Reserve is sold in the rectangular ‘flask style’ bottle shown to the right. The label contains very little useful information about the brand, and this minimalist style is carried forward by the Jefferson’s Bourbon and the Castle Brands websites. With no age statement, and no information regarding the mashbill published on either the bottle or their websites, Castle Brands is free to make whatever changes (or compromises) to their bourbon that they may believe economics dictate. (Hopefully my fears are merely phantoms with no real substance.)

I would prefer just more information upon the label to help guide the consumer. Perhaps some tasting notes, just to give the public some reliance that the overall taste profile of the bourbon was not going to change radically the next time they purchase it. Perhaps this is an unrealistic sentiment, as blending a whiskey from only 8 to 12 barrels is not a task which lends itself to consistency.

I should note that each bottle is identified by both bottle number and by batch number on the back neck of the bottle. My bottle is No. 1717 of 2400 from batch number 218.

In the Glass 9/10

The whiskey displays a very nice copper colour in the glass hinting that the promise upon the label of a whiskey which is ‘Very Old’ may indeed be realized. When I tilt and twirl my glass I see a stubborn crest which does not want to give up its legs. When the legs form and drop they are thickened and move rather slowly down the side of the glass. This is another indication that perhaps we do have a well aged spirit after all, although it should be pointed out that the high alcohol content of the spirit is also contributing to the thickened legs.

The initial aroma from the glass is steeped in oak and cedar spice. I can smell wood sap and freshly sawn oak planks. Mingled within the oak is a deep rich caramel toffee which smells delicious. As I let the glass sit and breathe, I notice some chocolate and cola aromas entering the breezes with notes of honeycomb and delicious barbecued corn on the cob. Some baking spices (vanilla, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg) rise upwards as well. Evidently, my misgivings over the term ‘Very Old’ have been soothed. The breezes above the glass have brought forward both the rich oak spice and the luscious caramel chocolate aromas which come forward only after a whiskey has spent a good amount of time in the oak barrel.

In the Mouth 54.5/60

The whisky enters the mouth with a dry brash flavour which delights me. I taste a firm presence of oak and cedar as the dry flavour oozes sap and spice. There is also a grassy component which reminds me of fresh hay which has been allowed to dry in the windrows before being put up into stacks. Alongside the dry wood spices is a lightly sweet mixture of butterscotch, honeycomb and corn syrup. These sweet impressions are mild in comparison to the overtly dry spice, yet they are firm enough to bring about a balance of sorts, and I am quite happy to continue to sip. Rounding out the flavour profile are bits of bittersweet chocolate and impressions of the somewhat pungent presence of baking spice (cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg).

When I add a cube of ice, a creaminess develops, however the flavour profile remains relatively consistent. When I add a splash of cola, The resulting ‘Buckeroo‘ tastes absolutely delicious. (Of course sipping is delicious as well.)

In the Throat  13.5/15

Jefferson’s Reserve has a medium length exit which is remarkably smooth for a spirit which is just over 90 proof. The whiskey does swat the tonsils a little on the way down, and it does heat the palate as you indulge yourself. However, the glowing warmth that rises from the stomach back up through the throat is absolutely delightful. A dry spiciness which hints at baking spices is left glowing on the palate.

The Afterburn 9/10

Jefferson’s Reserve is a delightful bourbon. I found its dry spiciness and building oak flavours very appealing. The spirit shows evidence of age in both the aroma and in the flavour, and that age has given rise to a spirit which displays character, balance, and smoothness.

You may read some of my other Whiskey Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)


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