JEFFERSON’S RESERVE VERY OLD KENTUCKY BOURBON
Single Barrel #217 selected by BevMo (likely 2021)
MASH BILL – Unknown (rumored 60% corn, 30% rye, 10% malted barley)
PROOF – 100
AGE – NAS
DISTILLERY – Bottled for McLain & Kyne (a.k.a. Kentucky Artisan Distillery)
PRICE – $65
WORTH BUYING? – Yes
When I posted notes on the standard Jefferson’s Reserve release back in 2019, I dubbed it an unsung stalwart—dependable, available, great quality, not a whole lot of hubbub around it in whiskey social media. I even related it to that classic stalwart, still among the best openly kept secrets in bourbon, Wild Turkey 101. My overall summation of it read: “Grandma’s old antique parlor late one early Autumn night, a fire going, with Grandma steadily matching you drink for drink!”
The brand’s 100-proof single barrel program commenced in late 2020, and hardly seems to have taken off—to the point I actually wondered if it’s still a thing! It’s listed on the Jefferson’s website. But I don’t see many social media posts or online reviews about it, and in my area I’ve only seen single barrels selected by Costco and BevMo. I’d wanted to wait for one of my local, non-chain shops to pick a barrel. But none have!
So finally I went down to BevMo and picked up a bottle. I opened it that night, and it was worth the wait. Oaky, syrupy, a rich cherry note like an undertow pulling the old oak along. The standard Jefferson’s Reserve is known to blend older bourbons together, rumored up to 15 and even 20 years. At uncorking the age on this one wasn’t particularly obvious, though the prominent oak notes did creak a bit, in a good antique way, and left me wondering if it might be a two-digit-aged barrel.
I’ll never know. BevMo isn’t a joint that offers details, just shelves with bottles.
In any case, here we are, six days after uncorking and four pours into the bottle. These brief notes were taken using a traditional Glencairn.
COLOR – a pale dirty amber
NOSE – a lovely autumnal bouquet of dried long-stemmed grasses and flowers, drying oak cut for firewood, cinnamon and clove on fresh apple slices, drippy caramel, baked cherry, fresh oily peanut butter
TASTE – Mmm that’s good; an initial billow of brightness from the spices and proof gives way to that drippy caramel, now darker, as well as oak, fresh oily peanut and almond butters, and a wave of oak tannin at the end; and there’s a sticky syrupy quality to the texture paired with an incongruous dryness that’s very striking
FINISH – lingers lightly but warmly with the oak tannins, caramel, some chocolate, a bit of the nut butters
OVERALL – dry, autumnal, and cozy
This bourbon is the sun setting earlier after the long hot Summer. It’s Autumn just getting going, everything starting to dry out but the weather hasn’t turned cold yet and wildflowers are still getting their last blooms in.
The oak tannins do lean forward more than I’d prefer, so there’s that pulling the whiskey back from the line of perfection. But that caramel note is so deliciously drippy. And the herbal medley, blending dry grassy and floral and wood and baking spice notes, is very nice. The added fruit notes on the nose are a welcomed sweetness, and I miss them on the taste and finish. But all in all an excellent pour for the price.
Given the overall dryness and tannic aspects, I can well imagine someone not taking to this. I’m a big fan of Autumn, and grew up in a very arid Northern Californian climate. So for me these aromas and flavors are comforting. I do believe this is likely a barrel aged two digits. The oak notes lean me in that direction. They verge on “over oaked,” and might be just that to some tastes. But for me there’s something cleansing about it.
Because there are certain aspects of this that remind me of things I like in Wild Turkey 101, I tried it in a simple brandy glass. This style glass often shows off Wild Turkey bourbons well, so.
Now I get much more chocolate up front on the nose, very well balanced with a solid dusty oak note. Lovely. On the taste, more chocolate and caramel, and the oak now less tannic than in the Glencairn. On the finish, though, those tannins come rushing back to settle in like the dust on the oak.
All in all a great pour. I hope more of my local shops eventually get on the Jefferson’s Reserve SiB bandwagon. It’s a good ride.