While NAS (no age statement) single barrel Bourbon picks from NDPs (non-distiller producers) have become rather blasé in the American whiskey world, there’s a bit of a backstory about our latest Jefferson’s selection that will intrigue you.
Kentucky Artisan Distillers, where we went to make our barrel selection last September, starts the experience with a tour of the bottling line where many brands (not just Jefferson’s) are dumped, vatted, and put into glass. The Pinhook Vertical Series 7 year old was being bottled as we walked through the facility and there was some Cream of Kentucky lined up as well. While the Jefferson’s distillery has a pot and column hybrid like some of the other small Kentucky producers, none of that juice has been bottled for public consumption under the Jefferson’s label. All of the Jefferson’s juice currently in bottle was sourced from other distillers.
Before tasting through the available single barrels, we asked Jefferson’s Chief Barrel Officer Dan Burke if we could walk through the warehouse where the barrels are matured to get a sense of their operation. We hiked through the lush green trees that separate the tasting room from the rickhouses and proceeded to tour the buildings. This is where things get interesting if you’re someone who likes to know where your whiskies come from.
We didn’t ask permission to share the information we gleaned from walking through the warehouse (so we can’t write about any specifics here), but what we can say is that a great number of the barrels from the Jefferson’s rickhouses have tags on them. Those tags also designate which brands own which barrels, so you can easily tell which barrels are owned by Jefferson’s specifically and which are being stored for other brands. Based on the tags we saw under the Jefferson’s lot, we couldn’t wait to head back into the tasting room for our single barrel sampling.
While the standard Jefferson’s Reserve is a marriage of four different Bourbons from four different distilleries, the single barrel selections are taken from a single distillery. According to Dan, one particular Kentucky distillery makes up 65% of the Jefferson’s Reserve Blend with the other 3 comprising the remaining 35%. The single barrels allocated by Jefferson’s to retailers come from that 65%. We can’t say for certain what that majority Bourbon distillery is because it’s a proprietary secret, but via deduction from what we saw in the rickhouse it’s one of the big boys.
Even if we’re wrong with that educated guess, the barrels we saw all came from the core distilleries in Kentucky. The barrel we picked was more than six years of age and it wasn’t distilled in Indiana, so you can narrow it down from there.
This Jefferson’s Single Barrel Bourbon has an inviting aroma of bread pudding drizzled with bananas foster – making way to hints of butterscotch and baking spices. On the palate, it has a rich flavor profile of hot cocoa with a generous dose of vanilla bean. As the whiskey developed, slightly oaky notes and some mixed berry jam added depth and complexity. The finish is malty and creamy with a subtle, refined, sweetness. Overall, this Jefferson’s Single Barrel Bourbon is a welcomed addition to any whiskey cabinet, especially at 100 proof.