Back in December 2013, Jefferson’s Bourbon put out an official statement announcing the release of their latest bottling – Presidential Select 25 Year Old and Presidential Select 30 Year Old. Based on Master Blender Trey Zoeller’s “luck” in finding older barrels of bourbon for bottling, and my previous experience with the brand, I knew that I wanted to get my hands on some tasting samples to see how these new releases would compare to their recent Presidential Select 21 Year Old release and their extremely popular Presidential Select 18 Year Old.
If you read my review of Presidential Select 21 Year Old you know that it fell short of my expectations and lacked the flavor profile of what I tend to look for in a well-aged bourbon. While I didn’t really care for it, especially at its price point, several folks contacted me and let me know how much they enjoyed the 21 Year Old release and shared how they were buying up as many bottles as they could find. Well aware that my opinion is nothing more than my own, the goal of this review – as with all of my reviews – is to provide you with some information and context around the product while sharing my opinion on whether or not it lives up to the marketing promise and is worth the purchase price.
My tasting sample of the 25 Year Old, and soon to be reviewed 30 Year Old, were supplied by Castle Brands, the parent company of Jefferson’s Bourbon. I’d like to thank them for providing the samples and saving me the arduous task of convincing the Redhead that I needed to purchase $450 worth of bourbon without every trying it. I should also note, just in case my mailman reads my blog, that one round of samples disappeared in transit. They say correlation should not be confused with causation but around the same time the samples went missing my daily mail delivery started getting delayed by 2 hours and I now appear to be one of the last stops on the daily delivery route. Am I being paranoid or just perceptive?
As with most of my reviews let’s take a look at the formal release issued by Jefferson’s Bourbon about Presidential Select 25 Year Old:
Castle Brands is proud to introduce two new groundbreaking bourbons, Jefferson’s Presidential Select 25 Year Old Straight Bourbon Whiskey and Jefferson’s Presidential Select 30 Year Old Straight Bourbon Whiskey, the latest additions to its line of “Ridiculously Small Batch” whiskies and the Presidential Suite (Jefferson’s Bourbon, Jefferson’s Reserve, Jefferson’s Presidential Select and Jefferson’s Rye). Both bourbons are aged in new oak barrels and bottled at 94 proof (47% ABV). Inspired by its namesake Founding Father, these mature and exceptionally full-bodied aged bourbons were released nationally in November 2013.
“Keeping in line with our mantra, Very Uncommon Bourbon, we wanted to push the envelope and create bourbons with ages that the market hasn’t seen before,” says Jefferson’s founder and whiskey maker Trey Zoeller. “We’re excited to be able to offer U.S. consumers these unprecedented, craft whiskies that exceeded our expectations in terms of flavor and complexity.”
Applying the “Ridiculously Small Batch” process developed exclusively for his successful line of whiskies and ryes, Zoeller combed through barrels of aged whiskey in his library before settling on the right components for both bourbons. Jefferson’s Presidential Select 25 Year Old Straight Bourbon Whiskey has an amber to burnt orange hue with scents of caramel, maple and toffee. On the palate, upfront notes of soft honey and vanilla are followed by a rich, buttery mouth feel finishing with spice and leather. In contrast, Jefferson’s Presidential Select 30 Year Old Straight Bourbon Whiskey has a deep dark color with thick legs and rich scents of vanilla and butterscotch. It is surprisingly refreshing on the palate offering first a mix of sweet and spicy followed by caramel and finishing with notes of blackberry. Whether enjoyed in a classic Manhattan, on the rocks or neat, these offerings embody a presidential combination of age, purity and strength.
To learn more about Jefferson’s Bourbon, please visit www.jeffersonsbourbon.com. Jefferson’s Presidential Select 25 Year Old Straight Bourbon Whiskey ($199.99) and Jefferson’s Presidential Select 30 Year Old Straight Bourbon Whiskey ($249.99) is available for purchase at fine spirits retailers across the country, including Astor Wines & Spirits in New York City.
In addition to the general product release I was also provided with some additional information that included tasting notes:
The newest addition to the Jefferson’s line of “Ridiculously Small Batch” whiskies.. This 94-proof, 25-year-old bourbon is bursting with fruit and spice with a smooth oaky finish. Available in limited quantities, it is must-have for any discerning bourbon drinker.
Color: Amber and burnt orange
Nose: Big caramel with hints of maple, toffee, honey and vanilla
Body: Smooth and buttery.
Finish: Smooth with lingering hints of leather and spice.
Update: The 94 proof reference in the press release materials above is incorrect. Bottled proof is 90.4.
It’s not everyday that you hear about a 25-year-old bourbon “bursting with fruit and spice with a smooth oaky finish”. Usually you hear more about the strong, almost overbearing oak notes coupled with creamy vanilla and brown sugar. Another quick observation about the supplied tasting notes is the fact that they choose to go with “Body” instead of “Taste” and then failed to give any real description of the flavors found in the bourbon. They mention a few in the Finish section but I found it a little odd that they didn’t provide more flavor details. As I head into my tasting I hope that it turns out to be an oversight rather than a necessity.
Jefferson’s Bourbon Presidential Select 25 Year Old Review
Age: 25 years
How I Drank It: Neat, in Glencairn whiskey glass.
My Nose Noticed:* Raisins | Butterscotch | Honey | Oak | Almonds
First Sip: Honey | Toasted Oak | Spicy Pepper
The Burn:** Nice silky mouthfeel, tingling pepper spice with plenty of toasted oak notes that results in a rather unassuming slow building back of the throat burn. I would have appreciated a bit more intensity to the burn, as well as longer duration, but what was present was enjoyable.
Neat, Splash or Rocks: Having a limited sample I only tried this one neat and with a small splash of water. Adding a bit of water muted some of the peppery notes resulting in a slightly more oaky profile. But at the same time the honey flavor was turned up a notch – just a bit.
Share With: Lots of people argue that the older a bourbon gets the more likely it is to be bad bourbon. The more time in the wood the more like wood it’s going to taste. While this one is definitely got oak in spades it isn’t drowning in it. But, and this is a big one, the other flavors and aromas are light and harder to pick out if you’re not an experienced bourbon drinker. This one is better enjoyed with regular drinkers of bourbon, especially older bourbons, so they can truly appreciate what’s in it – and what’s not.
Worth The Price: Retail prices range from $150-$200. I have to be honest that once a bourbon goes about $100 it becomes really hard for me to ever justify the price based on what’s in the bottle. There’s simply too many great bourbons available on the market that are far more affordable. Above $100 you really have to start factoring in availability, collectibility and bourbon geek factors to justify investing in a bottle or two. I think Presidential Select 25 is far better than the 21 Year Old and I wouldn’t mind having a glass every now and again. It’s not an everyday bourbon by any stretch but if you have the funds and the access I think it’s a safe acquisition for your collection.
Bottle, Bar or Bust: Jefferson’s Bourbon Presidential 17 and 18 Year Old are still the reigning champs of the Presidential Select line. I pretty much recommended that you skip the 21 Year Old but the 25 Year Old is an improvement. I still recommend trying a glass before investing but I think more folks are going to enjoy this one more than the 21.
*I like to let my bourbon sit in the glass for at least 5 minutes before I start to smell it or have a drink. I personally find that it’s better to let some of the alcohol waft off before diving in. If I’m drinking bourbon on the rocks I skip the waiting and dive in both feet first.
**Some of you refer to this as the “finish” but let’s be honest. Don’t we all just want to know if it burns good?
Let’s sum things:
- Very enjoyable nose but on the palette was a little too light and a bit unbalanced in favor of the pepper and oak
- Noticeable improvement over the Presidential Select 21 Year Old release
- I believe the “bursting with fruit” tasting note from Jefferson’s was in reference to the raisins I picked up in the nose. Present? Yes. Bursting? Not so much. Grapes burst, raisins do not.
- Finish was smooth but too light. I wouldn’t use buttery unless the juice had more complexity and weight.
- Still not anywhere close to the Presidential Select 17/18 Year Old releases (totally different animal)
- $150 to $200 is steep regardless of what’s in the bottle. If you collect, have the drinking palette and have access to it buying a bottle I wouldn’t try to prevent you for making the purchase
If you’ve tasted it or happen to get a bottle please let us know what you think in the comments. I’m but one of many folks out there reviewing bourbon so I’m always curious to what others have to say. Cheers!
Patrick Garrett, "Pops" as he's known to his friends, is the founder of Bourbon & Banter, LLC and claims the title of Chief Drinking Officer (CDO). A long-time marketing professional and photographer, Pops hopes to use his professional experience and love of Bourbon to spread the Bourbon Gospel and help everyone realize the therapeutic power of having a good drink with friends. Read Patrick's full profile.