Clarifying the Jefferson’s Presidential Select Lineup

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UPDATE: Yes, the price ranges are huge. Jefferson’s has not set an official MSRP since the 21 year bourbon from early 2013, and retailers are taking advantage of that. My price range comes from the lowest and highest prices I see.

In a few short years, Castle Brands will have released seven Jefferson’s Presidential Select offerings. In 2013 alone, there was a 25 year rye mashbill bourbon, a 25 year rye, a 21 year rye mashbill bourbon, and a 21 year rye. In 2012 there was an 18 year wheated Stitzel-Weller bourbon, and a 17 year wheated Stitzel-Weller bourbon before that. There is also a 30 year JPS which will be a rye mashbill bourbon set to show signs of life in early 2014, as well as a 26 year Tennessee whiskey that just hit the TTB. Aside from the Tennessee which has yet to come out and the 17 year version which is long gone, there is a chance you could run in to any of these releases heading in to the holiday shopping season. Knowing that, it is important you know what you are looking at.

Because the Jefferson’s Presidential Select (JPS) line has used the same bottle and design template for all of the JPS releases, there has been a ton of confusion for consumers. Unless you have been paying attention since 2009, trying to differentiate between them when standing in the bourbon aisle can be quite difficult. The most important thing to keep track of are the four different factors that vary with each release: age, recommended price/retail price, mashbill, and source.

The fact that they have pumped them out in rapid succession has put retailers on the ropes, keeping them from understanding exactly what it is they have on their shelves. Because of this, you may or may not get accurate advice from a liquor store employee. When you are talking about $100 to $200 bottles, a clear distinction needs to be made between the 21 and 25 year rye whiskies and the 21 and 25 year rye mashbill bourbons, as well as the three rye bourbons and the two wheated bourbons, so that customers go home with what they intended to buy.

To stem the confusion during the holiday season, here is a quick road map to understanding the difference between the seven Jefferson’s Presidential Select offerings in chronological order, with the coming Tennessee JPS and the second Ocean Aged release at the end.

1. Jefferson’s Presidential Select 17 Year “Stitzel-Weller” Bourbon (2009)

JPS17

  • 1st JPS Release
  • Age: 17 Years
  • Price: $90-$130
  • Mashbill: Bourbon/wheated mashbill (>51% corn, wheat, no rye)
  • Source: Stitzel-Weller Distillery, Kentucky
  • Proof: 94 proof
  • The JPS17 is Stitzel-Weller, and it is “wheated”
  • This was the first JPS release. Castle Brands purchased dozens of Stitzel-Weller barrels for the JPS line, but only bottled a fraction of them at the 17 year mark. The remaining barrels were left to age for another year, and were then bottled as the JPS18. The consensus is that the JPS17 was better, and far more consistent than the JPS18. I agree with the consistency mark, but I have had batches of JPS18 that I enjoyed more than the JPS17.
  • A very select number of JPS17 barrels were bottled as a single barrel.

2. Jefferson’s Presidential Select 18 Year “Stitzel-Weller” Bourbon (2012)

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  • 2nd JPS Release (Review HERE)
  • Age: 18 years old
  • Price: $90-$200
  • Mashbill: Bourbon/wheated mashbill (>51% corn, wheat, no rye)
  • Source: Stitzel-Weller Distillery, Kentucky
  • Proof: 94 proof
  • The JPS18 is Stitzel-Weller, and it is wheated
  • The JPS18 also came out in a single barrel version in very limited quantities, for only a handful of markets. The barrel sticker looks like THIS, which will list who the single barrel was bottled for. Don’t expect to stumble across any of these out in the wild.
  • The JPS18 came out in 2012. Its popularity was driven by the fact that it was sourced from the same distillery as Pappy Van Winkle, but this release also had a ton of people stocking up on it towards the end of the release because of the quality and multiple positive reviews.
  • The infamous JPS wording dilemma: Recently, BourbonTruth.com posted a video of Trey Zoeller copping to later batches of JPS18 being mixed with a 20 year old rye’d bourbon. This proved that the phrase, “Aged in Stitzel-Weller barrels” used on the bottle was some smoke and mirrors tactic to get “Stitzel-Weller” on the bottle without it being S-W distilled bourbon, but that still doesn’t explain how they can get away with the “Distilled from wheat” claim?
  • As you can see HERE, there is a visible difference between the early batches and the later batches.

3. Jefferson’s Presidential Select 21 Year Bourbon (2013)

JPS21

  • 3rd JPS Release (Review HERE)
  • Age: A minimum of 21 years, with older barrels blended in.
  • Price: $120-$160 (MSRP $119)
  • Mashbill: Bourbon/rye mashbill (>51% corn, rye, no wheat)
  • Source: Distillery unknown
  • Proof: 94 proof
  • Not a Stitzel-Weller bourbon, not a “wheated” bourbon
  • After two consecutive Stitzel-Weller releases, many people assumed that this was another S-W release. It is important to keep in mind that only the 17 and 18 year releases have been Stitzel-Weller, and the 21 year bourbon is a rye bourbon, not a wheater.
  • JPS21 Markup Problems: Many retailers are under the assumption that this is another wheater from S-W, and that it will have the same demand as the JPS17 and JPS18. Retailers still had customers coming in looking for the popular JPS18 when the JPS21 came out, so they decided to mark up the JPS21 an extra $50 because they assumed it came with built in demand. Consumers got smart to the difference pretty quick when their bottles weren’t moving, but retailers have been stubborn to bring the price down to the recommended $119. Since this was the last JPS to actually have an MSRP, it is much easier to talk the price down.

4. Jefferson’s Presidential Select 21 Year Rye Whiskey (2013)

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  • 4th JPS Release
  • Age: 21 years old
  • Price: $120-$175
  • Mashbill: Straight Rye Whiskey (>51% rye)
  • Source: Canada, TTB lists it as from Paramount Distillers, but odds are it is from Alberta, one of the only Canadian distilleries to produce any high age ryes.
  • Proof: 90.4
  • Not a bourbon, not Stitzel-Weller, not “wheated”
  • The silver wax stamp, the word “RYE” under the JPS script, a “Straight Rye Whiskey” claim, as well as a “North American Rye” claim indicate that this bottle is one of the rye whiskies, not a rye bourbon. The most obvious of these clues is the silver stamp. Silver is rye, red is bourbon.
  • A Canadian rye may or may not have been aged in used barrels. It may or may not be blended with the whiskey of multiple distilleries. Without “big brother” watching over the process, and without a clear distillery as the source, it is impossible to guess the quality of this rye, and it will cost you a pretty penny to find out for yourself.

5. Jefferson’s Presidential Select 25 Year Bourbon (2013)
jeffersons_presidential_select_25__08038.1383933036.1280.1280

  • 5th JPS Release
  • Age: 25 Years old
  • Price: $140-$200+
  • Mashbill: Bourbon/rye mashbill (>51% corn, rye, and no wheat)
  • Source:  Distillery Unknown
  • Proof: 90.4 proof
  • Not a Stitzel-Weller bourbon, not a “Wheated” bourbon
  • The 25 year old JPS bourbon came out at the same time as the 25 year old JPS rye. Be sure to ensure you are getting the one you are looking for.
  • The bourbon is very old, and it is very expensive. It is well beyond the age where you can assume the time in oak was beneficial, which means it could be over-oaked and harsh, or it could be refined and exceptional. Unfortunately, again, there is no MSRP, so you are at the mercy of the retailer if you are looking to buy one.

6. Jefferson’s Presidential Select 25 Year Rye (2013)

Photo courtesy of Gregg T
Photo courtesy of Gregg T
  • 6th JPS Release
  • Age: 25 years old
  • Price: $140-$200+
  • Mashbill: Straight Rye Whiskey (>51% Corn)
  • Source: Unknown Distillery
  • Proof: 86 proof
  • This is NOT a bourbon
  • Note the silver stamp and the North American rye claims. This means it is probably a Canadian rye, just like the 21 year rye and the standard 10 year Jefferson’s Rye.
  • The 25 year rye is only 86 proof compared to the 90.4 proof 21 year rye. A low proof Canadian whiskey for $200 is not exactly calling me name, no matter how old it is. This is another release without a price recommendation from Jefferson’s, so if you want to try this whiskey, you may have to accept the fact that your wallet may have to be violated in the process.

7. Jefferson’s Presidential Select 30 Year Bourbon (12/2013 in select states, early 2014 everywhere else)

Updated 12/26/13

JPS30

  • 7th JPS Release (Review HERE)
  • Age: 30 years
  • Price: $200-$499
  • Mashbill: Bourbon/rye mashbill (See below)
  • Source: Unknown
  • Proof: 90.4 proof
  • Not a wheated bourbon
  • The total production of this guy is something like 300 bottles.
  • The price range for this is huge, partly because Jefferson’s failed to set an MSRP, again (the wholesale for this bottle is somewhere just below $190). On top of that, as you probably expected, you don’t know the source, mash bill (officially, anyway), the state where it was produced or aged, and you don’t even know the puffed up tasting notes a company will normally put out with a new bottle. All you know is that it exists, it is 30 years old, it comes in very limited numbers, and you should pay whatever your retailer tells you to. Considering that many consider the age to be non-potable, and there is absolutely no information about the bourbon’s provenance, it probably would have been a good idea to help limit the gouging by setting an MSRP.
  • A good friend of mine in Georgia says the retailers that have been offered the 30 year JPS have been told that it is a rye mashbill bourbon, not a wheater, by the reps.

* Jefferson’s Ocean Aged II 

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  • 2nd Ocean Aged Jefferson’s
  • Age: 4 to 8 years before hitting the open seas
  • Time at sea: 7 months
  • Price: $90
  • Mashbill: Bourbon/rye mashbill
  • Source: Unknown, most likely MGPI
  • Most important note is the source of the bourbon changed. Ocean I was Kentucky bourbon, Ocean II is not which means it is probably MGPI bourbon.
  • Before there was a JPS line, there was the Jefferson’s Ocean Aged Bourbon. To me, Ocean I was pure gimmick, but some people swear that the bourbon was actually quite good. The first run only had five barrels in total, and it was labeled “Kentucky Bourbon”. The low quantity of barrels made it rare, but I bet the Kentucky distillery, whichever it was, is what contributed to the positive reviews. The second run will have 72 barrels, AND IT WILL NOT BE KENTUCKY BOURBON. So, it will be less rare and from a lesser distillery, but probably still expensive after markup. Sure, I may be pretty snobby with my bourbon, but I am holding out for the “aged in space” release.

* Jefferson’s Presidential Select 26 Year Tennessee Whiskey (2014)

JPS-Tenn26-ACL-FINAL

  • 8th JPS Release
  • Age: 26 years old
  • Price: TBD
  • Mashbill: Unknown (probable straight bourbon w/”Lincoln County filtration process”)
  • Source: Unknown. Probably Dickel? Maybe a barrel from some guys basement?
  • This will be one of the more interesting releases in the JPS line. A high age Tennessee Whiskey is very rare to the market. I got pretty excited when Dickel announced they would be releasing 9 and 14 year barrels, so a 26 year Tennessee whiskey will be a unique addition to the market.

27 responses to “Clarifying the Jefferson’s Presidential Select Lineup

  1. Thanks for the tutorial Josh! I’ve studied up now and I think I got it even though it IS a pretty confusing. Mr Zoeller certainly knows his stuff and maybe CB does too but that later group is way below forthcoming and to my limited taste they are all missing the boat in making a string of releases non of which are wheated. I have about half a bottle of their JPS 17 which I am now going to treasure. It incidentally came from the same store that recently had the 21 and 25 YOs that I mentioned. So I got that going for me…

    Once again, I appreciate your time and expertise!

    Sent from S Tilghman’s bad iPad.

    >

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    • Thanks Sidell, this post was for you! At least you know where to find a JPS as they come out, but with the Vintage Bourbon/Rye brand now gone, and JPS three releases removed from a wheater, I am not sure if/when we will see a sourced wheater again. Willett might get their hands on one, but you will never know if it is wheated since they do their level best to keep that under wraps.

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    • Me too! I can’t wait to see what price Colorado retailers try. After seeing so many $150 JPS21′s sit on the shelf untouched, I hope that they have learned a lesson in price setting.

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    • Thanks. $180 for the JPS25 was crossing the line for me. That is pricing yourself above the 20 year Pappy, and 2.5 times a BTAC. I can’t imagine a scenario in which they acquired 25 year old honey barrels from the bottom level of a well maintained rickhouse, but they did acquire those S-W barrels when no one else could, so who knows.

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  2. I purchased the JPS 21 Bourbon about a month ago from a local retailer… cost/benefit is really impossible to nail, but I can tell you it was a total delight! Love the flavor profile. As far as taste comparisons, it is similar to OFBB 2103. I have unopened (newly purchased) bottles of Parker’s “Hope” and PVW 15 that I will eventually compare it with. But in a word, sipping JPS 21 is SUBLIME!

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    • Right on Mary. I really struggle with factoring in cost/quality into the grade. Part of me wants to get rid of grading all together because of how hard it is to justify high prices. If it wasn’t for the high price tag, I would be really high on the JPS21. I really enjoyed it, and polished my bottle off pretty quick. You are going to have quite a nice flight of bourbon to compare the JPS21 too, when you get them all open, let me know which you prefer. Very interested to hear how the 10 year PHC stacks up against the JPS21!

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      • I got the PHC mainly because of Beam’s ALS issue; otherwise, dont know that I’ve ever had a Parker bourbon. So I am trying to manage my expectations, relative to the $80 price tag. I purchased twin bottles, one for me, one for a friend, and I dont think he has cracked his PHC yet either, with holiday travel and whatnot. Can’t wait to compare notes with him. And I will certainly post back here with any results. The JPS21 I got discounted a tad ($110) because I know the owner’s mom. Price is so …. ? Not always indicative!

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      • That is about as good of a reason to buy bourbon as any. I think you will be surprised. It easily surpasses what you might expect from a 10 year single barrel. It really is classic Heaven Hill, and it is for a great cause.

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    • All of the 18′s are gone from online retailers, but people are still pulling them from local stores. Not so much around my parts, but someone just messaged me two weeks ago after finding two bottles in PA. The 17 is long gone. I got my last bottle a year ago from the Nederlands.

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  3. What is a 17 worth these days? A friend of mine turned introduced it to me and I loved it so much I stocked up on all I could buy. I still have 5 unopened bottles I’ve been holding on to. Batches 1, 3, 5, 6 and 9.

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  4. I tried the Jeff 21 year Rye today, lots of mint, oak, sweets, very nice stuff.

    Expensive but good. I’m not sure how the 25 rye would avoid being overoaked, but we’ll see.

    For comparison in the base flavor profile, it’s the same as whistle pig (or Jeff’s 10 year rye so I’ve heard, haven’t tried it yet) but it’s much more complex and quite good.

    I’m not a huge fan of whistle pig or the Alberta ryes normally, but the barrel (#2) was a great pick and the extra time really made this great.

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  5. Pingback: The Arvada Tavern: If you build it, they will come | RW&B·

  6. Pingback: Jefferson’s Presidential Select 30 Year Review – The Arvada Tavern | RW&B·

  7. I appreciate you trying to clear things up about JPS, and you’ve done a good job of it. However, I would recommend that you add that the Jefferson’s brand of bourbon itself has been around since the 90′s making it somewhere around 20 years old. One of my favorites is the Jefferson’s Reserve 15 year that is no longer age stated. That was a whopping $50 in the late 90′s. I can’t tell you how many new and old bourbon drinkers I run across that had never heard of Jefferson’s until JPS 17 became popular. Consequently, they think that’s when the brand started.

    Oh, and I enjoy your reviews!

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    • Thanks Joe. The 15 yr/glass top is quite a dusty now, especially since they had horrible seals and there aren’t a lot around on the secondary market. As I recall, the original distribution was very limited, like 5 states, so it might not have been on a lot of people’s radars. It wasn’t on mine until I moved to KY.

      I will try to work the timeline in to the intro text of the post to spread awareness of the regular Jeff’s Reserve. Thanks for the note.

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  8. I came across the 21 yr Rye today and an Ocean. In fact the store had like 5 bottles of ea. Same store had a Parker’s Heritage. I wanted to pull the trigger on the 21 yr Rye, but a lot of money w/ not really any reviews. Any thoughts on it, or rumors?

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    • The 21 year rye is actually pretty well liked. It is 90 proof, so you don’t get that weak profile as you do with the 25 year rye. It is a lot of money, but if you enjoy aged rye, this is one of your only options without driving to the Willett gift shop.

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