Today I ended up with Jefferson’s in a liquor store stare down between Jefferson’s and my old favorite Elijah Craig 12. I am a pretty big fan of EC12 for a mid-high $20 bourbon. Really, thats right before you get to plastic bottle money so EC12 is hard to beat at that price, but my friend swears by Jefferson’s, not Jefferson’s Reserve, not a Presidential Select, but Jefferson’s. Judging a book by its cover, but 41% ABV is a bit low for me. I like mine at least 45% ABV, and then there is the art. Oh what a travesty this is, our beloved Thomas Jefferson looks more like the bad guy Vigo from Ghostbusters II than he does the 3rd President of the United States.
The bottle is the same old Jefferson’s bottle. Not much going on with the bottle besides the ghoul version of Thomas Jefferson. Fairly plain presentation overall which is fine by me.
The color as you can see is quite apple juice’y, not much past amber or copper. It is their youngest bourbon of the 4 products the Jefferson’s line offers and there is no age statement but the info page of the website claims it is a blend of barrels 8-12 years old. Decent maturation in the blend with a lighter color, so lets see what it taste like.
Nose: Right away you get some sweet corn, some spice and vanilla, toffee and my nose can’t seem to get away from the oak. I got a bit more alcohol than I expected with the low proof. On the back end of the nose it has what seems to be a bitter smell, but that might be the oak again. Pretty decent nose actually. With the weak ABV and the light color, I was expecting a snoozer, but there is life in this glass.
Sip: A surprising amount of thickness and body. There are faint hints of oak in the flavor profile, but it is sorely lacking age. Overall, a good clean sip with a decent amount of vanilla, sweet corn and a bit of oak. It is smooth, kind of sweet and hardly spicy. The oak doesn’t show up in any impressive way, the sweet corn is the most prominent flavor, and it really misses some sweet spice like cinnamon or clove. Just seems a bit one dimensional.
The full body helps leave behind a nice, vanilla and oak finish with a light spice. Very smooth, almost no burn at any stage, but it is a low proof bourbon so that is to be expected.
Swirl: The longer Jefferson’s sits in the glass, the more the oak and vanilla come out and hide the corn. Either way, I think the nose is the most pleasurable part of Jefferson’s.
Final Grade: B-
In the $30 and under category, Jefferson’s is OK, but there are too many that are better for it to be a B or a B+. It is boarder line C+ but the price and expectation is in line with the end product. If you buy Jefferson’s at 41% ABV, this color profile in the jar and the younger age statement you could expect it to be a little tamer so it is great for beginners.
I think there has to be a reason for holding back the proof, and I hope it’s a good one because I think the spice and kick was what was dearly missed in this bourbon. The flavors came together well, but nothing was jumping out. It has good attributes, none of which are complexity. What it comes down to is I think other bourbons do it better. Its well priced. Can’t complain there. It is easy to find and has a unique taste that comes together OK, I just wish it came together a little louder.
Drink this, not that: For the lower proof bourbons, I think Blanton’s is king. Hancock’s President’s Reserve, another lower proof bourbon, has a better, stronger flavor profile. If low proof is what you are after, not necessarily price, Blanton’s and Hancock’s are just plain better.
In the $30 range, I think, again, Elmer T. Lee would be a much better option. Elijah Craig 12 Year and 1792 are both cheaper, higher proof, and in my opinion, just plain better. Eagle Rare and even Buffalo Trace are more enjoyable to sip than I found Jefferson’s, but I enjoyed Jefferson’s more than Old Weller and just about equal with Evan Williams Single Barrel.
If it is spice and kick you are after, go for Bulleit & Bulleit 10 if you can jump a price range, as that line has stronger characters.
If you can go up in price, the Jefferson’s Reserve is far better than Jefferson’s. Blanton’s does the “soft and sweet” better, and E.H. Taylor Small batch and single barrel have a better balance of flavor for about the same price.
The most striking resemblence I noticed what that Jefferson’s taste like a poor mans Black Maple Hill. BMH has the sweet corn, the spice and oak, it just does it better. I would definitely recommend forking over the extra $8 and getting Black Maple Hill instead of Jefferson’s.
Jefferson’s is a great beginner whiskey that will allow you to sip and study some flavors without much consequence. If you are looking for depth, it is OK at best…