The people at Jefferson’s Reserve did an interesting experiment a while back. They took two barrels of their Bourbon whiskey that had similar flavor profiles. One, they aged in their Kentucky Artisan Distillery warehouse, while the other barrel was placed on a boat that took a journey down the Ohio, to the Mississippi River to New Orleans, across the Gulf of Mexico to Key West, around Florida and north along the Atlantic coast to Brooklyn. They then shipped it back to Louisville. They then bottled these two barrels separately in 200ml bottles and labeled one “Kentucky Aged” and the other as “Journey”. You can purchase these at the distillery gift shop.
The purpose of these bottles is to allow a person to examine the two whiskeys side by side. The idea is to show the difference that the movement caused in the whiskey in the journey barrel compared to the static aging in the Kentucky barrel. You will notice immediately the difference in the color of the whiskey. The Journey barrel is darker. I do wonder though, how were these barrels stored during the experiment? Since Kentucky Artisan Distillery uses palletized warehousing, was the Kentucky aged stored by itself or on a pallet with other whiskey? Was the Journey barrel by itself or did they palletize it with some other barrels destined for Jefferson’s Ocean? Or was the barrel aged on its side instead of upright? If so the barrel heads could explain part of the difference in the two whiskeys.
Jefferson’s Kentucky Aged
Age: No Age Statement
Nose: Very corn forward with a corn grits odor, vanilla and oak. Not overly complex.
Taste: Corn, vanilla, berries – very ripe raspberries and blackberries, with some sweet oak. Tasted with a dried cranberry there is even more corn flavor and a little lemon zest joins the berries. Tasted with a pecan and a black pepper note is added to the mixture.
Finish: Long with lots of sweet oak, but not a lot of tannins. The cranberry made the finish shorter and sweeter with oak and lingering vanilla. The pecan added a little note of mint to the finish.
Age: No Age Statement
Nose: Corn, vanilla, a little brown sugar, oak and maybe a hint of sea salt.
Taste: Brown sugar, some fruit – peach with a hint of lemon or simply mango? I am undecided as to which. There is a little white pepper and oak rounding out the taste. Tasted with a dried cranberry and a little sea salt brine flavor comes out. Tasted with a pecan the oak comes forward strongly, muting the other flavors.
Finish: Long and dry with oak and a hint of the fruit. The cranberry shortened the finish and made it rather dull with only a hint of oak. The pecan made the finish much longer with lots of oak tannins creating a very dry finish.
I am pairing these two Bourbons with a My Father Jaime Garcia Reserva Especial Robusto cigar. I find the smoke to be a rich tobacco earthiness with some sweet vanilla and a hint of cedar spice. With the Kentucky Aged, I thought the Bourbon enhanced the vanilla notes in the smoke and the smoke made the Bourbon very fruity with lots of berry, raisin and plum notes in the whiskey. The Journey gave the smoke a definite dried fruit sweet note of apricot or peach and the smoke brought out a note of chocolate in the finish of the Bourbon. It is a very nice pairing with these two Bourbons. If you are visiting Kentucky, make a trip to Kentucky Artisan Distillery in Crestwood and pick up these two bottles while supplies last and try them yourself. There is definitely a difference in the flavor of these two bottles. Both are very good Bourbons, but on the whole, I liked the fruitiness of the Kentucky aged better than the Journey.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller