Jefferson’s Presidential Select 21 Year

Batch No. 15, Bottle No. 038 (2013)

MASH BILL – unknown

PROOF – 94

AGE – a blend of 21 to 24 year bourbons according to the 2013 press release

DISTILLERY – Bottled for McLain & Kyne (sourced from an unnamed distillery)

PRICE – about $180 (I “paid” that much in trade; original 2013 msrp was $120)

WORTH BUYING? – I’ve seen it online for twice+ what I paid in trade, so, not at those prices, no. But for a good trade? Absolutely!

Jefferson’s Presidential Select 21 Year was released in 2013. I picked this bottle up in the Spring of 2020 via a trade. I’d had the UK release of the Jefferson’s 20 Year and quite enjoyed it, so the prospect of a similar outing was irresistible.

Regarding the trade, back in 2018 over the course of a few months I managed to find seven Weller 12 Years at various corner stores, priced from $40 up to $70—a now impossible feat of chance I do not hope to luck into again. The prices I paid for those Wellers, in combination with my not actually finding Weller 12 particularly spectacular, meant their value to me was more for trading opportunities than drinking. I’m not into flipping whiskeys on the secondary for hiked prices. I consider that business one of the great contributors to the down (and dirty) side of the bourbon boom. But trading bottles for bottles? Sure.

So for two bottles of Weller 12 Year and a Weller Antique 107 store pick, I gained this well-aged rarity. Seemed to me a great swap! Though hard to get, new Wellers come out every year, whereas this Jefferson’s 21 Year came out once, eight years ago, never to be repeated. The guy I traded with was very happy with his Wellers. I was happy. Everybody wins—with no more cash spent either way than already had been.

And how is it? At uncorking it was indeed the celebration of cherry, oak, and chocolate I’d hoped it would be based on my experience with the Jefferson’s 20 Year. The 21 Year had just a bit too much of a bitter edge from the prominent oak notes, making it not quite as refined as that Jefferson’s 20. But as a fan of oaky bourbons, I knew I’d enjoy seeing this bottle through. 

So here we are, a bit over a week after uncorking, and about four pours into the bottle. Here are some brief notes, tasted in a traditional Glencairn.

COLOR – rich, deep, vibrant oranges

NOSE – strong dry grassy rye notes reach right out of the glass, then behind them comes the dark cherry and thick solid oak, some sweet caramel, very faint savory herbs like basil and some black tea leaf, everything very densely packed together, and very present as opposed to reserved or forthcoming

TASTE – very true to the nose, the flavors complex and well integrated, with a stronger caramel note keeping the prominent oak in check

FINISH – long, easy, warm, rich, that sense of presence in no hurry to rush off…

OVERALL – this is an exceptional, timeless bourbon

Well now. That bitter tannic edge I’d picked up on at uncorking has dissipated, leaving the sweet rich oak behind. The rye notes are much stronger now, beckoning up front in the nose. The complexity of flavors is at once familiar and very unusual, mixing classic well-aged bourbon notes—cherry, oak, caramel—with a spritely grassy rye bouquet.

I’m struck most by the sense of patience I get from this bourbon. It’s in no hurry. Neither is it coy or reserved. The density of its vibrant herbal, fruit, oak, and sweet flavors makes it feel strong, confident, definite, yet generous. It’s giving a lot. Not making me wait. And not holding back.

A couple nights ago I shared this with a friend in town from New York. He let out a slow and heavy “whoa” when he nosed it. He’s a wine sommelier and has a good nose and palate. Tasting it, his simple “That’s good” summed it up neatly. His whole demeanor seemed to relax when he sipped the bourbon. And I think this is an aspect of what I mean when I describe it as “patient.” It’s like a very comfortable easy chair made of wood and leather. It’s not going anywhere, yet it’s both relaxing and enlivening. That said, it’s not quite something one can drink unnoticed alongside another activity. It compels your attention, with ease, not eagerness, leaving room for conversation around it.

That’s good bourbon doing what good bourbon should, participating in the conversation without either taking over or having nothing to say.

I do have a second bottle of that Jefferson’s 20 bunkered. When this 21 Year eventually reaches its end I may wish to compare them. To my sense-memory, this is quite different than the 20 Year. It’s the wild rye notes that stand out as the distinction. Jefferson’s does not reveal its sources anymore. We know neither the 20 nor 21 Year are among their fabled Stitzel-Weller offerings. They could be Heaven Hill, Barton, Buffalo Trace, MGP, Wild Turkey, Jim Beam, who knows…

What I’m tasting here in the 21 Year doesn’t take me to any distillery in particular. Some secondary bottlings today are so obviously Barton or MGP, one need not wonder too hard. But this, barreled in 1992 and bottled in 2013, tastes of another era—an unhurried era not yet running on social media time. This is classic, timeless bourbon.

So glad I traded those Wellers for this!


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