Jefferson’s Ocean Aged Bourbon Review

Distiller: undisclosed (Kentucky). Producer: Jefferson’s. ABV 45%. Mashbill: undisclosed, but 25-30% rye. Price: $80. Voyage 4 reviewed.

I promise I wasn’t waiting until the whiskey hit the waterline on the graphic — just a happy accident. But I didn’t want to jump out too quickly with a review on this given the controversy. Better to be sure what I thought.

This is v.4 of 5. The first I tried was v.2, which was a knockout — really special, and for me, a revelation (BreakingBourbon has a great review of multiple voyages, plus a good Q&A with Jefferson’s master blender Trey Zoeller). V.3, which I haven’t had, disappointed many.

So on to v.4. It’s both subtler and more complex than v.2, and, I think, more approachable. V.2 had a distinct and to my palate undeniable briny character, as you’d expect (or at least hope) from a bourbon that sloshed across the equator multiple times on a freighter.

V.4’s special touch is something closer to the pulpy bittersweet decay in the stacks of a university library. That leads the nose. Then clove. Dry vanilla. Wisps of rye and mint (the mashbill is a fairly high 25-30% rye). The palate has a blast of Christmas spice together with the brown sugar and raisins that so reminded me of Willett Pot Still Reserve, I had to try them side by side multiple times. Could they be from the same source, with the Ocean rounded out and given a touch more mature oak from the sloshing? I wouldn’t be surprised. Sweetish, medium finish.

I’m a big fan of this. The price is steep, but the finishing method is not only unique, it’s labor-intensive enough that there’s some justification for paying a premium. (Zoeller is justifiably touchy when people call it a “gimmick.”) If you’re looking for pure value, spending $80 on this may leave you grumbling. But if you’re looking for a bottle that offers a truly delicious pour with a great story to match — one not invented (at least purely) by the marketing team, have at it.

Looking forward to v.5 and the planned v.6. Cheers, friends! – BO

Buy Jefferson’s Ocean Aged Bourbon online at Mash + Grape

2 thoughts on “Jefferson’s Ocean Aged Bourbon Review”

  1. If not a gimmick then what? An experiment? Who is the target consumer?

    If Zoeller is targeting enthusiasts and wants them on-board (pun intended), then why not give some vessel and sourcing specifics? If it is, indeed, Willett Pot Still then the at-sea process is commanding an incredible $50/750 bottle difference. That’s over twice the value of the whisky itself.

    These bottles sit on shelves because the layman won’t pay $80 for a bottle and the enthusiast who would pay gets almost no information to substantiate the price surge.

    1. I’d be surprised if he weren’t feeling the pressure. I think if there’s one thing shown by the recent controversy over this, the Orphan Barrel series, Blade & Bow, etc., it’s that non-transparency comes with a heavy price in online PR. Of course, some producers/marketers factor that in and still decide against transparency. There’s more hype than ever out there — fortunately there are more resources than ever to try to cut through it. – BO

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