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Jefferson's Reserve Bourbon

Average score from 3 reviews and 13 ratings 91

Jefferson's Reserve Bourbon

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Jefferson's Reserve Bourbon

I'm not much of a Bourbon guy, and had concluded a long time ago that I just don't like Bourbon. The style always seemed far too aggressive, rough, heavy-handed, and, lacking in subtly. I say "had" because tonight I had a "Bourbon Epiphany", and its name is Jefferson's Reserve Very Small Batch Bottle #2157 of 2400. This expression was unbelievably smooth. The nose was gorgeous with vanilla, and sweetened fruits. On the palate, I was amazed at the creamy smoothness. That, combined with the vanilla, made it quite reminiscent of the Redbreast 12 I had last year--one of my favorites! The alcohol was still forward a bit but not enough to distract or burn, just enough to remind us that I was, in fact, drinking a Bourbon. Even then, the alcohol burn hit me about mid-palate then stepped aside for a beautiful velvety and pleasantly long finish of vanilla and sweet fruits.

This will definitely by my go-to Bourbon from now on.


The reviewed bottle, from batch # 133, bottle #117/2,400, has been open for 10 1/2 months, is 75% full, and has been preserved for nearly all of that time with inert gases. At one time this Kentucky Bourbon Distillers product had a 15 year age statement. There is no longer an age statement, other than the words "very old" on the label

Colour: moderately dark

Nose: rich and perfumed, roses and carnations, deep rich maple and oak, tons of natural caramel and vanilla, lush. Beautiful

Taste: excellent translation of the lush nose flavours to the palate. Excellent and most delicous

Finish: long, rich, and sweet finish. Lush and luscious

Balance: there is a ton of nuanced complexity here and everything is in excellent balance. This is just a great bourbon, rich and full-flavoured. I highly recommend Jefferson's Reserve Bourbon. In the US, this is also quite an excellent buy for the money

Will look out for this one! Think it's not too bad a price here in Europe actually. Thanks Victor

Erratum: the various Jefferson's brands are owned by independent bottler Castle Brands, and not by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers.


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.

@SlowPuffs, batch variations are a continual occupational hazard for the whisk(e)y drinker. One of the things I like best about Jim Murray's work is that he annually updates SOME of his observations about the (somewhat) recent batches of well-known whiskies. The whiskies do change from year to year. It is an unusual distiller or bottler who can keep the taste profiles very uniform for multiple years running. That is not only quite an art to do so, but also requires on-hand stocks of aged whiskies which will allow the possiblity of near-reproducing of the on-going flavour profile. In some years the available stock will not fully approximate the desired taste profiles for a brand.

And there is the occasional outlier bad bottle even in a good batch. Bad corks perhaps, or bottled too close to the tail of the run.

By all means learn all you can. I had to learn the hard way that some top quality whiskies may not survive the bottle open a year without going seriously down-hill in their flavours. Now I use gases routinely for preservation.

As far as distillers go, "McLain & Kyne" are a fiction. The Jefferson's brand is owned by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, who also own the Willett, Noah's Creek, Rowan's Mill, Vintage Bourbon, Johnny Drum (etc., etc.) brands. The owners of KBD are the Kulsveens, and Even Kulsveen is married into the Willett family. As for who distills the stuff, your guess is as good as anyone's.

You're right to have noticed the difference between the Jefferson's Reserve and the Jefferson's Presidential Select, @AboutChoice. The Presidential Select is one of the few KBD products that clearly advertises its origins: the juice is from the venerable Stitzel-Weller distillery. It's a wheater, and a rare one at that!

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