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Stogie Spirits: Jefferson’s Reserve Bourbon Whiskey

3 Jun 2010

Thomas Jefferson wasn’t from Kentucky. Then again, neither was Sam Houston. But that hasn’t stopped one Kentucky-based distiller from naming its creations after these two celebrated Americans.

Jefferson’s Reserve Bourbon WhiskeyCrafted in Bardstown—the Mecca of bourbon—Jefferson’s Reserve and Sam Houston bourbons are made in “very small batches” from corn, malted barley, and rye. The distiller “marries a mere 8-12 barrels of various ages to produce the best tasting bourbon possible…”

Jefferson’s Reserve sells for as little as $35 and as much as $50. It is, according to its handsome, knob-topped bottle, “very old.” I’m told as much as 50% of each barrel evaporates during the 15-year aging process.

“Like the accomplished third President of the U.S., this bourbon,” according to its website, “is complex, elegant, and sophisticated.” Apparently numerous critics agree. Jefferson’s Reserve has amassed impressive accolades in recent years, including a gold medal from the Beverage Tasting Institute and a ranking among the “Best 50 Spirits of 2008” from Wine Enthusiast. Robert Plotkin, author of The Bartender’s Companion, called it “a sterling example of how great an American whiskey can be. This is a superlative American whiskey.”

Jefferson’s Reserve has a light, yellow-tinted color in the glass (as opposed to more of a reddish copper tone in the bottle). Good legs. Notes of pear, vanilla, and butterscotch make for an inviting nose that’s sweet and lacking in alcohol tinge.

The taste is a bit bolder than expected, though still on the subtle side of most bourbons and therefore remarkably easy to sip. Fronted by tangy hickory and citrus, the profile is set against a background of classic bourbon flavors: syrup, sweet corn, and dry oak. The finish is light and watery at first, only to ramp up a few seconds later with a long, peppery finale.

While such contrasts make for a versatile pairing partner, mild- to medium-bodied cigars are the best complements. Try the H. Upmann Signature, Illusione Epernay, and La Caya Cameroon on for size. I don’t know for sure, but I’d imagine these are the cigars Thomas Jefferson would choose to pair with his eponymous bourbon.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

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