It’s been awhile since we’ve last reviewed a bourbon, and I’m glad to be back to it. With this review, we’ll be discussing Jefferson’s Very Small Batch Bourbon. It is Jefferson’s standard bourbon offering, although some of you may be more familiar with their more expensive options such as the Jefferson’s Ocean Aged at Sea. We have not actually had the Jefferson’s Ocean series yet, but we want to and we will. So, we decided to start with their blend of small batch bourbons as a starting point and work our way up.
In this review, we’ll cover some history, price, tasting notes, and more. If you’re wondering whether Jefferson’s Very Small Batch is good, just keep on reading.
Jefferson’s Bourbon History
Jefferson’s Bourbon was founded in 1997 by Trey Zoeller and his dad Chet. They used to company McLain & Kyne to bottle and and sell Jefferson’s bourbon, but in 2005 Castle Brands purchases McLain & Kyne and the Jefferson’s brand.
Castle Brands, a subsidiary of Pernod-Ricard, began using one of their distilleries – Kentucky Artisan Distillery – to distill Jefferson’s Whiskey.
Jefferson’s Very Small Batch Bourbon Overview
- Spirit: Blend of four straight bourbons
- Distillery: Kentucky Artisan Distillery (and sourced from others)
- Owned By: Pernod-Ricard/Castle Brands
- ABV: 41.15%, 82.3 Proof
- Aged: NAS (minimum 4 years)
- Mashbill: Unknown (minimum 51% corn)
- Price: $28-33
Jefferson’s Very Small Batch Bourbon is a blend of four straight bourbons, one of which being Jefferson’s “base” bourbon from the Kentucky Artisan Distillery. The other 3 are hand selected barrels of various ages from an unknown source. We aren’t sure the exact age and mashbill, but the bottle does not don an age statement, meaning all the whiskey in the bottle is at least 4 years old.
The lowest proof that a whiskey can be is 80 proof, 40% ABV. Jefferson’s Small Batch comes in just above that at 82.3 proof, making it a whiskey that is definitely lighter in terms of alcohol than many other options.
Lastly, a 750 ml bottle is priced right around the $30. At Total Wine or Specs, it should be priced at or below, but you may pay a little extra at a mom & pop shop. Overall, the price is about where you expect it. It is a blend, but it is still a small batch bourbon; although, I don’t make any claims about how coveted these barrels are. Let’s find out.
Jefferson’s Very Small Batch Bourbon Tasting Notes
If you’re new to tasting whiskey, one of the best things you can do is know the whiskey you are about to drink. This way you can have certain expectations or ideas about what you may or should taste. If a whiskey is finished in a wine cask, for example, you may expect and be on the lookout for dark fruit notes. Bourbon is known for the corn sweetness, vanilla, caramel, oak, and some fruit notes such as cherry.
A single barrel whiskey or a barrel finished whiskey is going to offer some more variations in flavor. A small batch whiskey offers a little less variation than single barrel, but more than a mass-produced option. However, this is a blend of small batch straight bourbons, so I’m expecting a more standard bourbon. I’ll look for those notes first, see what’s missing or what’s there I didn’t expect.
Nose: Notable corn sweetness and vanilla. I get some strong honey notes, perhaps a touch of cinnamon apple. A light floral tone. Very standard with some extra lighter notes in there, also light due to the low proof.
Palate: A little thin. vanilla and corn are still dominant. A little more citrus on the palate than the nose. Honey makes its way in but not as much as on the nose. Oak is there but not as much as I expected going in. Touch of cinnamon and pepper spice.
Finish: Short to medium in length. Not much here. Some citrus fades to a touch of oak, and white pepper.
My initial nosing was vanilla, corn, and honey with some extra curriculars going on in the background. After my first sip or two, the apple became a bit stronger on the nose with the honey. The nose, I think, is more complex than it initially seems, but it lacks strength and authority with the thin, light nature of this whiskey.
The palate was just kinda ehhh for me. It’s an easy sip for sure, I’ll give it that, but it lacked a uniqueness and richness that I was looking for. There’s nothing wrong with making a bourbon with a standard bourbon profile, but you better make it a bit thicker and richer. Otherwise, you just end up like half the other stuff on the shelf. Not bad at all, just missing that “something”.
The finish isn’t terrible. A touch underwhelming, which I don’t always mind. On the shorter side and more oak is present than on the nose, which I enjoyed.
Overall, a run of the mill bourbon that misses on just one too many things for me. Not unique or overly complex, not discernably thick or rich either. I’m not asking for all of those things from a $30 sip, but maybe one. It’s promising, but I think the lower proof keeps this whiskey from reaching much higher.
Now that we’ve covered the taste and price, we can discuss the value of a bottle of Jefferson’s Very Small Batch Bourbon.
I want to be clear on one thing. This is NOT a bad bourbon by any means. I’ll continue to drink it with no complaints, and I would never turn down a bottle of this. I’m simply not going to choose it over the other 100 bottles of bourbon in my liquor store that are around the $30 price range.
If you really like Jefferson’s Very Small Batch Bourbon, and many people do, then I think it works wonderfully as an everyday sipper. It’s solid, it’s $30, and it works well enough as a base in a cocktail. However, like I said, the low proof really keeps it from being much more.
If you like trying new, unique whiskeys, there’s not much need to pick this bottle out. Fistful of Bourbon is a blend of straight bourbon for about $25 with more unique flavors, and one that I really enjoyed.
Jefferson’s Very Small Batch Bourbon Summary
At the end of the day, I’m very okay with what Jefferson’s has done with their small batch bourbon. I think it’s a standard bourbon that lacks a little complexity, uniqueness, or richness on the palate. There is something more that I want from it, but I have to remember that this is their standard, base whiskey here.
Jefferson’s offers plenty of unique options. Other selections of theirs are aged at sea, finished in rum, wine, or cognac casks, offer wheated bourbon and rye, and cask strength , and many others. Jefferson’s is not afraid to experiment with their whiskey, so I understand the value in having a standard whiskey as their standard bourbon. It almost makes me want to try a couple of their other whiskeys even more because I see the potential in what their Very Small Batch could be.
If you’re looking at trying new and interesting whiskey, this isn’t an option I would try. It’s a standard bourbon that plenty of people will really enjoy as an everyday sipper, not much more. I’m going to try some of their other whiskey soon, so sign up for our monthly newsletter for updates. We’ll have plenty of exciting whiskeys for you to try every month.