Bourbon Breakdown: Jefferson’s Bourbon

September 18, 2021

While Jefferson’s Bourbon does have a historical look (and name), the brand has only been around since 1997. Since then, it’s become one of the most respected and popular bourbon brands out there. But while you may have enjoyed a glass of Jefferson’s Bourbon, perhaps you’re unaware of how it’s made.

One important thing to note is that the brand is made from a blend of bourbon distillates made at various distilleries. This makes the brand similar to a Scotch whisky blend like Johnnie Walker or Dewar’s and unlike most of the major bourbon brands sold today which are distilled in-house. But when Trey Zoeller founded the brand with his father Chet, blending and experimenting with bourbon is what he had in mind.

Over the years, Jefferson’s has sourced whiskeys for its numerous limited edition products such as a barrel-aged Manhattan and a blended whiskey made with rye and bourbon which he created with Chef Edward Lee. There was also a recent Rye finished in Cognac Cask Finish that we loved. But the brand’s Ocean Aged At Sea is the whiskey that has gotten a lot of attention, and rightly so. We’ll cover that product below. However, the two core bourbon bottles in its portfolio — Very Small Batch and Reserve — are the most widely available and moderately priced.

You can read more about each core expression below along with a brief expert tasting note and our Distiller Community Rating.

Jefferson’s Very Small Batch Bourbon

Introduced in 1999, this is the entry-level bourbon expression in Jefferson’s portfolio.

What to Know:

It’s made from a blend of up to four different bourbons with varying mash bill recipes and ages. It’s bottled at 82.3 proof

What Our Experts Think It Tastes Like:

Buttered and peppered corn, vanilla, caramel, honey and oak.

Avg US Price: $36
ABV: 41.15%
Community Rating: 3.55 out of 5 stars (1,808 Ratings)

Jefferson’s Very Small Batch Bourbon /Photo Credit: Jefferson’s Bourbon

Jefferson’s Reserve Very Old Bourbon

First introduced in 1997, this is the oldest bourbon in the core portfolio.

What to Know:

This small batch bourbon is made from just 8-12 barrels in a batch. It’s bottled at 90.2 proof

What Our Experts Think It Tastes Like:

Avg US Price: $55
ABV: 45.1%
Community Rating: 3.65 out of 5 stars (1,504 Ratings)

Jefferson’s Reserve Very Old Bourbon /Photo Credit: Jefferson’s Bourbon

Jefferson’s Ocean Aged At Sea

In 2012, the first batch of Ocean Aged at Sea first hit shelves, but as it was just one single barrel, it only yielded 300 bottles. Since then, what started as an experiment has become more scientifically minded. As it turned out, the constant rocking by the waves coupled with the extreme temperature fluctuations does make quite an impression on the whiskey. Since the first release there have been numerous “voyages” with thousands of bourbon barrels traversing the sea.

Mature bourbon barrels are placed onto a ship for several months. Notably, on average each ship visits over 25 ports, 5 continents, and crosses the equator twice.

Jefferson’s Bourbon has released some cask strength Ocean Aged at Sea voyages as well as a few wheated mash bill expressions (typically, rye is the flavoring grain for Jefferson’s). You can track the voyages on Jefferson’s interactive website here. Here you can also read the Captain’s Log if you’re so inclined.

Jefferson’s Ocean Aged At Sea /Photo Credit: Jefferson’s Bourbon

Ready to do your own Jefferson’s Bourbon comparisons?

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