Jefferson’s Reserve is one of the three “Very Small Batch” offerings from McLain & Kyne (of Castle Brands). It seems that by “Very Small Batch” they mean it’s the product of only eight to twelve barrels, but this is the only time I’ve seen the term used with the “very” modifier.
From what I’ve been able to glean from a few minuted of research, JR is (or was originally) produced at the same place as Willett’s, nearby Heaven Hill. The pricing and name-checking of a particularly gentlemanly President demonstrate the producers’ intentions of placing this bourbon firmly in the super-premium category.
– Made by McLain & Kyne
– 90.2 proof
Jefferson’s Reserve comes in a very simple, refined bottle, marked by its lack of a front or back paper label. The front sports the brand name in a flowing script intended to mark the distinguished nature of the bourbon within and perhaps to conjure the former President’s spirit. Below this is a small image of Monticello, again recalling Jefferson’s grand style of living to which we might aspire. The only other text on the bottle is “Very Old / Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky / Very Small Batch.”
First of all note the use of “Very” to modify both “Old” and “Small” – as I mentioned earlier, “Very Small Batch” might be a brand-associative term for McLain & Kyne, but also applying it to “Old” just seem gauche in a way which Jefferson himself would never approve. It also seems that Jefferson’s Reserve once did have a distinct age statement (15 years), but they’ve ditched that in recent years. Likely they’re using barrels from a number of different year now to meet the flavor profile, but the average age is likely not far from 15 I would guess.
Secondly, note that they use “Whisky” instead of the more common spelling (for bourbon) “Whiskey”. This seems to be another distinguishing mark meant to connect the bourbon to an older tradition than its competitors. A subtle move; or as McL. & K. might put it, Very Subtle.
Jefferson’s Reserve has a quiet, but pleasant aroma to it. I was able to pick out strains of raisins and dried summer grass. This is not something that will jump out at you as soon as you open the bottle, but it comes in time.
On the palate, JR is equally quiet. Starting with unsweet sensations of vanilla and grass, these quickly dissipate into a very clean finish, but not before a quick, sharp spark of tobacco comes and goes.
I’m surprised not to be tasting more wood, considering how old this is supposed to be. That’s a commendable trait – often it seems that in a rush to compete with scotch, bourbons are over-aged and become too woody.
If you’re looking for depth of flavor and complexity, Jefferson’s reserve is not for you. If you’re looking for subtle flavors and the air of something Very Refined, have a go at it. For this price point, make sure you’ve had a number of other bourbons first, however. I think there are a few other options lower on the price scale that would fit into a similar tasting category.