Jefferson’s Bourbon Review: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Whiskey

Distillery- McLain & Kyne (Clermont, KY)

Type- “Very” Small Batch Straight Bourbon Whiskey

ABV- 41.15% (82.3 proof)

Age- 8 years

My Review

Thomas Jefferson has been credited with many accomplishments, some of them deserved, some of them he’s been credited for seemingly because no one had any other idea who invented what. We all know that he composed the original draft of the Declaration of Independence, but did you know he also invented macaroni and cheese? No? Well that’s because he didn’t, but no one really knows who did. Jefferson was a fan of mac and cheese, served it at Monticello, and BAM! Thomas Jefferson introduced macaroni and cheese to the world. Flash forward to the present. Thomas Jefferson is disappointed that that their are no flying horse chariots, and wondering why McLain & Kyne Distillery has named a line of bourbons after him that has supposedly invented the phrase “very small batch.”

I imagine all of the bourbon distillers in the country gathering around like teenagers in the locker room, arguing over their “size.” Only in this case, the most bragged about size is not the one claiming to be the biggest, but the most minute.

“Mine’s small!”

“Well, mines very small!”

This particular whiskey is named Jefferson’s Very Small Batch Bourbon. It’s the first “very small” batch bourbon I’ve tried to date, so it must be the best, right? Just like most things in life, however, size doesn’t tell the whole story.

*Cues Reading Rainbow story-time music*

Bourbon is typically aged in large warehouses, with giant shelves built in so that dozens of stories of barrels can be aged. As you can imagine, there is much more volatility in the temperature near the roofs of these warehouses, as opposed to those on the floor. Large fluctuations in temperature, as well as high temperature in general, cause whiskeys to “age” faster and lose more to “the angel’s share,” or the amount of liquid lost to evaporation. To combat this, some distilleries move the barrels around to get them closer to the same “age.” But this is just a complete pain in the ass; barrels are heavy and warehouses are hot. So most distillers just say “F*ck it” and don’t bother. Why, you ask? If the bottle you’re drinking does not say “Small Batch” or “Single Barrel,” that means the bourbon is a conglomeration of every matured barrel in the distillery. They mix it to create a uniform taste, so that you, the consumer, know exactly what to expect.

The best barrels in the bourbon warehouse are, without a doubt, from the very center of the building. If your bottle says “single barrel,” then it is just what it sounds like: the contents of a choice single barrel from the center of the distiller’s warehouse. “Small batch” bourbons are in between regular and “single barrel” bourbons in terms of how they’re produced. Basically, the distillery will take all of the barrels from the center of the warehouse, sample each one, and combine them to produce their desired flavor profile. Jefferson’s Bourbon is made the same way as every other small batch bourbon, the “very” part is used just because the total amount of those prime, middle of the warehouse barrels used is smaller. Since consumers associate smaller with higher quality, it’s a great marketing tactic. But does very small make it better? Follow along as the Baron begins this noble quest.

Before we begin, here’s a video re-enactment of how the Baron drinks his bourbon:

As you can see, the whiskey goes down, and is never heard from again. Another shot is poured; it suffers a similar fate. The Baron’s belly is a whiskey graveyard.

  • Appearance Jefferson’s pours a vibrant shade of brown; not quite an amber color like most quality bourbons. Still, it looks much more palatable than Evan Williams or Jim Beam White Label. 8/10
  • Aroma Jefferson’s Bourbon smells of vanilla, caramel, and brown sugar, with slight notes of peaches and berries. It’s always nice to find aromas outside the typical scent of an oak-aged spirit. Nice job, Mr. President. 17/20
  • Taste This bourbon does not have the most aggressive flavor, but it’s still very pleasing. You can pick up caramel, vanilla from the oak, corn, and a bit of cinnamon spice. It’s good, but I prefer my bourbons to be a little more ballsy. 35/40
  • Palate- Velvety smooth and delicate body that warms the palette. The finish is moderate in length, with the tiniest bit of burn going down. 9/10
  • Value At $28 for a 750mL bottle, Jefferson’s Bourbon is about the same price as the Baron’s standby, Maker’s Mark. It’s also cheaper than Baron favorites Woodford Reserve and Knob Creek. This is a pretty good price point for a spirit of Jefferson’s caliber. 18/20
  • Overall 87/100

My Recommendation

The Baron ranks Jefferson’s Bourbon just above 1792 Ridgemont Reserve, and several large notches below Baker’s Bourbon. Despite this, I think it is a very good bourbon for those beginning to test the delicious, brown and amber waters of small batch and single barrel bourbons. It’s also a good, affordable change-up for regular bourbon enthusiasts. The Baron buys a bottle every year. I’ve also been donating a case every Christmas to my local homeless shelter. I checked out their website recently to see if they wrote a thank you to the Baron and listed my site, hoping it would garner some page views. “**** Shelter would like to thank the ancestors of our Founding Father Thomas Jefferson for personally hand donating a case of their family’s bourbon to us for the last three years. Your holiday cheers have warmed our spirits.”

Thomas Jefferson: 697, World: 0

Bonus Baron Bartending

The Washingtonian

Ingredients

2.5 oz Small Batch Bourbon

0.5 oz Sweet Vermouth

Dash of bitters

Pour over 1-2 pieces of ice in an old-fashion or rocks glass, enjoy quickly.

Since the Washington Capitals entered a battle to the death with the New York Rangers a few weeks ago, the Baron has avoided anything New York related. This includes pretty much the only mixed beverage the Baron regularly drinks: the Manhattan. A traditional Manhattan is mixed in a 2:1 ratio of bourbon to sweet vermouth, with a dash of bitters. It is then shaken with ice in a cocktail mixer and poured into a martini glass with a maraschino cherry. F*ck that noise. The Baron’s version is called the Washingtonian, and has a higher bourbon to vermouth ratio because we’re using the good shit. F*ck the cherry and f*ck the martini glass, this drink is too ballsy for that. Go Caps, 2013.


Salud!

5 Responses to Jefferson’s Bourbon Review: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Whiskey

  1. Chuck says:

    Absolutely great write-up! Informative and hilarious. I’ll admit I did find myself feeling a little suspicious at the label very small batch. It does just seem to be a one-up marketing tactic.I did have one thought since the Baron its such a fan of Woodford reserve, I was wondering if he had a chance to try the new double oaked? It really is fantastic. I did a review if it recently over at http://whiskeyworldtour.com/2012/05/11/woodford-reserve-double-oaked-94100/ . Stop by and check it out some time. You’ve got a new reader to be certain.

    Slainte,
    Chuck
    http://www.whiskeyworldtour.com

    (p.s. please use this version of the comment. The other one was from my phone and really messed up because of it. Thanks)

    • Chuck,

      First of all, thanks for reading my post and for all your kind words regarding the blog. Glad to have a new reader, I really need to start writing more frequently.

      I’ve heard of the new Woodford, but none of the liquor stores in my area carry it yet (damn you Virginia ABC). Judging by your review, it sounds like it will become a regular fixture in the Baron’s whiskey cabinet. I’ll definitely grab a bottle the first chance I get.

      Salud!

      The Baron

  2. Chuck says:

    Reblogged this on Whiskey World Tour and commented:
    This blogger is just the right balance if insanity, hilarity, and talent. Besides he has probably new favorite blog quote of all time This beer is so dark that I saw Kim Kardashian humping a case of it at Whole Foods.” This should give you an idea of what he has to offer. Anyway, give it a read. Its worth it.
    Slainte,
    Chuck

  3. Jack says:

    Baron,
    good review, I like the honesty. It good but I have my favs. Anyway, this distillery has Jefferson’s Rye Whiskey. I almost bought it but decided on something else. Have you ever tried it? Is it worth it to get some Rye Whiskey in the cabinet? I am a fan of Seagrams (Crown Royal and Gold). Worth a try?

    Jack

    • Thanks for commenting, Jack!

      I’ve only recently begun to get into rye whiskies, but I’ve heard great things about the Jefferson’s Rye. Many have compared it to the much more expensive WhistlePig Rye. Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye is sure to be awesome if you can find it. Bulleit makes a pretty good rye whiskey that’s a good starting point IMO. If you like a little more spice kick to your whiskey, definitely try a rye when you have a chance.

      Salud!

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