Jefferson's Ocean (voyage 3) and Jefferson's Collaboration (batch 2)

We've previously reviewed Jefferson's Reserve and Jefferson's Presidential Select 18 Year.  Today, we offer our opinions of Jefferson's Ocean "Aged at Sea" Voyage 3 and Jefferson's Chef's Collaboration Batch 2. 

As discussed in earlier posts, Jefferson's was founded by Trey Zoeller, a "master blender" from Louisville, and his father Chet in 1997.  With a limited marketing budget, they chose to name their whiskey for Mr. Jefferson in order to associate the brand with history, tradition, and good taste.  It was ingenious, really, as I guarantee some consumers would be surprised to learn that that this whiskey wasn't around in 1776, nor was the recipe discovered in a dusty ledger at Monticello.  In fact this is sourced whiskey, albeit really good sourced whiskey.  It is purchased and blended by a guy named Trey who wears plaid sports coats.

Much has been written about the Ocean releases.  Our bourbon brothers at Breaking Bourbon interviewed Trey Zoeller by email about the concept, and clearly Mr. Zoeller is defensive when anyone implies "Ocean" is driven by marketing.  He makes a fair point when he says, "taking the time and expense to load barrels onto a ship to have to stop at 30 ports, cross the equator 4 times (making sure it is exposed to intense heat) and touch 5 continents does a number of things to bourbon that typical maturations do not allow."  Regardless, I believe the story has driven consumer interest much more than the flavor profile. 

Ocean Voyage 3 is a blend of bourbons (6-8 year olds) that spends approximately 5 months sloshing in barrels on the high seas.  It is bottled at 90 proof and retails for $80 to $90.  The mash bill, source, age, and specific course taken on the ocean are all unknown, although I've read that the voyage begins in Savannah, GA and includes stops in Chile, Sydney, Hong Kong, Cape Town, and Belgium.  It's a wild concept, but we've consumed two bottles of Voyage 3 and are not completely impressed.

Jefferson's Ocean "Aged at Sea" (Voyage 3)

Castle Brands (Producer Unknown)
90 proof
$79 at Burris Liquors in Charleston, SC

Color: Light tawny.

Nose: Bigger than you'd expect for 90 proof.  It features a decent balance of spices, oak, and citrus fruitiness.  The nose is, perhaps, a touch briny although I am fairly certain our brains were influenced by the knowledge of this bourbon's time on the ocean.    

Tasting Notes: The entrance is smooth, but a peppery heat makes its presence known mid-sip and remains throughout the finish.  There are dark fruits and rich chocolate at play, but they get lost somewhere in a hot/long finish.  

Overall: C.  I predict that 0/10 regular bourbon drinkers would detect salt in the nose or flavor profile of this bourbon if consumed blind.  I wish I was a scientist and could analyze the argument that salt from evaporating ocean air is absorbed into the barrel and affects the flavor profile.  But I'm not and I'm skeptical.  This bourbon is good but I can't help but feel distracted every time I sip it.


The Chef's Collaboration has a more traditional story- it was not aged on barges zig-zagging the equator.  It is simply a bourbon/rye blend created by Trey and Chef Edward Lee (of Old Louisville, 610 Magnolia, and MilkWood restaurants in Louisville).  These men set out to create a whiskey that would pair well with Chef Lee's spicier dishes- particularly his Korean fried chicken.

The Collaboration (batch 2) is a 92 proof blend of 5 and 8-year-old bourbons and a 14-year-old rye.  It's a pleasant sipper and reasonably priced.  It stands up well to some of the popular bourbon/rye blends available (e.g. Bourye, Son of Bourye, Wild Turkey Forgiven).

Jefferson's Chef's Collaboration (Batch 2)

Castle Brands (Producer Unknown)
92 proof
$50 at ABC in Richmond, VA

Color: Light amber.

Nose: Predominantly spicy/peppery from the rye.  Some herbs, vanilla, and alcohol bite.

Tasting Notes: The first sip is spicy like the nose.  Rye dominates the flavor profile, although there are some sweeter, fruity flavors that dance on the tongue for just a flash.  The finish is quick and pleasant.   

Overall: B.  Chef's Collaboration is incredibly easy to drink.  I haven't sipped it with a mouthful of Korean spicy chicken yet, but I will.  This isn't the whiskey I grab to sip neat each night, because I find it to be less complex than some of the comparably priced, higher proof bourbons in my arsenal.  But I'm glad we got a bottle to see what the "experts" put together.