While many bourbons have a short journey from the distillery to the aging warehouse, Jefferson's Ocean travels in some cases, literally, around the world before being bottled. Today, we review one of the Jefferson's Ocean expressions - Voyage 23.
Ports of Call
The Jefferson bourbon lineup pays homage to Founding Father Thomas Jefferson - architect of the Declaration of Independence, first Secretary of State, and third President of the United States. Part of the Pernod-Ricard lineup of spirits, the Jefferson's brand operates out of the Kentucky Artisan Distillery in Crestwood, Kentucky, not far from Louisville.
Current releases of Jefferson's products contain a blend of their own distillate as well as sourced bourbons. Jefferson's has pushed the envelope when it comes to their products, including various finishing and barreling techniques. But perhaps nothing is more unique than when it introduced Jefferson's Ocean a decade ago. Initiated as a collaboration between Jefferson's and the non-profit ocean research organization OCEARCH, barrels have been aged on deck exposed to the rocking of the waves and subjected to salty ocean spray.
The Jefferson's website allows you to go in an in-depth view of the journey that each voyage undertakes. Voyage 23 began aboard a cargo ship that departed Savannah, Georgia. From there, it traveled halfway around the world, passing through the Panama Canal, traveling along the equator to Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, South Korea, Japan, back across the Northern Pacific to the Pacific Northwest and California, before passing once again, through Central America back to Savannah. From the Captain's log, the voyage was quiet and the weather was uneventful.
Jefferson's Ocean comes in an attractive bottle featuring an etching of an ocean-going vessel displayed over top of a world Mercator map on the reverse of the bottle. The label indicates it is a blend of straight bourbon whiskeys from batch number Voyage 23. The finished product is bottled at 90 proof - slightly higher than Jefferson's Small Batch (proofed at 82.3).
While there is no age statement displayed, most barrels are aged 7-8 years on land before spending 5-10 months at sea. The website shares little about the mash bill for this Voyage, though many of the other Jefferson's brands lean towards a high-rye mix of grains.
Color: Medium copper with similar medium legs when swirled in the Glencairn glass.
Nose: Vanilla and caramel followed by grains and dried fruit.
Palate: Vanilla with gentle spice and lightly toasted oak. There are light cinnamon and raisin notes. Smooth and gentle with a thin mouthfeel
Finish: Medium in length. Soft with vanilla, spice and dried tobacco.
Overall: This is a "nice bourbon". The higher proof hits my palate a little better than the lower-proof Small Batch rendition. The problem is - is it truly worth the premium price?
MSRP for the 750ml bottle is easily into the $70-$80 range; I paid half that for a 375ml size. At those price points, there are a lot of other great bourbons, such as Wild Turkey Rare Breed, Russell's Reserve 10-Year, and even some of the newer, similar high-rye expressions from New Riff. This was worth it to taste it, though for me, it left me a little washed-up.