One of the fondest memories of a whiskey was born during the winter of 2009, while house-sitting in a beautiful, multi-decked a-frame, nestled serenely and privately in the woods. It was a cold night, a determined snow was falling, and on the deck within reach of the sumptuous hot tub, quietly sat man’s best friend … ready to serve at a beckoning glance. The bottle of Jefferson’s Reserve had warmed for itself an oval depression in the snow, revealing the depth of the snow on the deck, and prior to each sip, it happily allowed the snow to be whisked off its cork. This was such a perfect bourbon to play the part of the happy puppy that evening.
Meanwhile, back in Louisville, Kentucky, McLain & Kyne are busy distilling Jefferson’s Reserve (JR), its little brother just Jefferson’s, the Presidential Select and cousin, Sam Houston. JR is distilled from corn, malted barley and rye. And, what do all these have in common besides fine quality ? They are all created from a “very” small batch. I have recently gleaned that the term “small batch” could mean 200 to 300 barrels, but “very small batch” here, means 8 to 12 barrels of various ages. The bottle next to the tub was 172/2400 from batch 86.
Bottle Nose: Distinctive old wood (not piney), leather, tobacco, some vanilla and butterscotch, and a little soaked raisons. Quietly engaging, but deeply mature … no alcohol. Reminds me a little of the respectfulness of Bulleit bourbon, but even more so, and less wild.
Glass Nose: Similar to bottle, but more open and less focused … ever so slight alcohol, some glueyness and caramel. Still, there is the sense that a quality bourbon is coming. With water there is vanilla, caramel and a little more alcohol. I would go with the bottle nose for everyday sniffing!
Empty Glass Nose :) Butterscotch and tobacco desert … to die for … and wow, it is still there in the morning!
Palate: Deep, not too sweet, brown sugar, old wood (not piney, but maybe old oak cask, of course), pipe tobacco. This is very unique and hard to place … maybe a little cinnamon and toasted grain. No bitter, sour, hot or alcohol distracters ... just pleasant, admirable and easy to drink; this just seems like an important whiskey. With water, raisons are added to the mystery.
Finish: Medium to long, pleasantly warm, and dry … leaving a long lingering dry toasted leather experience in the mouth … easily for 20 minutes or more.
Conclusion: Rather than attempting to sweeten, excite or demand your attention in any way, Jefferson’s Reserve is deeply authoritative, mature, respectful and satisfying, perhaps as Thomas Jefferson himself might have been. I would add this, as the quiet and stately one, in the ultimate rank of Vintage 17 or Pappy Van Winkle 15.
Some descriptions place Jefferson’s Reserve at 15 years. It is readily apparent that Jefferson’s (non reserve) Bourbon (the little brother of 8 years), shares the same genes; but though it is lighter, it carries the same flavors, and is a delightful, pleasant and quiet drink … at about half the price (30 vs. 60 USD).
My score is 95/100, but I cannot imagine that any bourbon could be any better … only different.