Archives for : whiskey

The motion of the ocean – (Review – Jefferson’s Ocean 3rd Voyage)



I first heard of Jefferson’s bourbons about 6 months ago on poker night with the fellas.  A friend of mine brought over a bottle of Jefferson’s very small batch.  I was not that into bourbons at the time but I tried it out and really liked it.  One of the members of the poker group told us that it was named Jefferson’s because it was Thomas Jefferson’s original recipe for whiskey.  Although that does not appear to be the case, none of us had any reason to disagree with that statement, and ultimately, I began repeating that to many people once I purchased my own bottle.  It was one of those misconceptions that no one is really going to question at the time, and you really have no reason not to believe it.  To this day, although it is not true, it seems like a cool reason alone to buy a Jefferson’s bottle.

Over the past few months I have grown to really love Jefferson’s bourbon.  They have a great twitter presence who likes to retweet me and they also makes some really tasty stuff.  Rumor is they don’t actually make their own bourbon from scratch, they get it from other distilleries.  Apparently that is very common.  But it’s what they do with the bourbon after they get it makes it truly awesome stuff.  There are about 6 different varieties offered by Jefferson’s.  Their entry level bourbon simply called Jefferson’s Very Small Batch is a fantastic every day bourbon, especially at under $30 a bottle.  They also make a reserve whiskey that features older whiskeys blended together, a rare 10 year rye, a chefs collaboration, and much harder to find Presidential Select variations.  And then….this Ocean version.  While on a boat a few years ago, their master distiller, Trey Zoeller, came up with a brilliant idea to age some bourbon barrels on a boat for a few months.  The idea behind the ocean voyage was that the constant motion of the waves would allow the bourbon to have much better contact with the oak than sitting in a rack house.  Basically, the motion of the ocean allows better contact with wood.  That’s….what…she…said.

I found out about Jefferson’s Ocean about 2 months ago.  At that time bottles of the second voyage were sold out and very hard to find.  I become obsessed with finding a bottle, so much so that my 5 year old son who made liquor store stops with me after work began telling all of his preschool friends about Jefferson’s Ocean.  “My daddy wants dis bur-bun that’s been on a boat around Earf for 4 years”.  I knew it was trouble when random Pre-school kids asked if I had found Jefferson’s Ocean.  Forget the local neighborhood tennis team, 5 year olds gossip more than anyone else on the planet.  I finally got ahold of Jefferson’s Ocean Voyage 3 a few weeks ago when some barrels hit larger stores in Atlanta.  I got it at Sherlock’s, a nice large store with a big bourbon selection but a smug liquor staff.  If it hadn’t been so far away, I would have gone to Tower.  Another large store with a big bourbon selection but a friendly staff, and cheaper Jefferson’s Ocean.

Any-hoo, on to the important part.  First off, the nose of the Ocean is awesome.  It’s so smooth, like a sweet candy caramel.  I do smell alcohol and on very strong whiffs it actually burns my nostrils a little.  I kind of like that, especially since it’s not barrel strength.  Maybe it’s the saltiness like a saline spray shooting up my nostrils.  Either way, I like it.  I also got a hint of raisins.  The color is a nice lighter amber too, almost like a sweet tea or something.  It’s lighter than anything else on my shelf, sans the moonshine that I will never touch.

The palate of the Ocean comes across so smooth, with very little burn.  Caramel is the most easily recognized flavor for me, and it finishes with it nicely.  There is definitely a saltiness to it, and it makes it taste so unique to almost every other bourbon.  But I love it.  Perhaps I like a sweeter/saltier tasting bourbon, something a little different.  There is a finish that lingers, a sugary/saltery blend.  It tastes a little like toffee aftertaste, mixed with some raisins and some caramel and some slight cinnamon.  It’s a truly smooth and pleasant after taste.

People have waited in long lines this season, and they will continue to do so for a chance to buy the elusive Pappy Van Winkle.  While doing so, they might be bypassing the Jefferson’s Ocean that has just arrived.  I used to be on that ignorant boat, the one that would make that mistake, but no more.  I would take a bottle of this stuff over Pappy any day of the week., well at least prior to 15 years.  This is a delicious spirit, unique, and beautiful.  Well done Mr. Jefferson, you and this company using your recipe have made something awesome.  🙂


It burns a little… (First Impression – 2014 William Larue Weller)

(Unnecessary Disclaimer: I don’t think it’s fair to review something I’ve only tried once, so I’ll post First Impressions instead of Reviews until I’ve had time to properly try something multiple times).

There is a phrase that bourbonites say when they drink really strong stuff, the phrase is, “it burns a little”.  I thought that sounded really cool.  It burns a little.  I can handle a little burn now and then, I’m a big boy.  Plus all I ever hear about from the big bourbonites is barrel proof, cask strength, put-hair-on-your-chest type bourbons that are the new craze.  EH Taylor Barrel Proof, Elijah Craig barrel proof, Four Roses barrel proof, barrel proof this, Cask Strength that, if I want to hang with the big boys of bourbon land, I must learn to drink with them.  And there I was at a steakhouse in Atlanta when my waiter stated, “we just got William Larue Weller in.  It’s 140 proof and only $12 a glass”.   “Damn!!” I thought, as I reached down to pull up my big boy britches.

And what a meal that had been up to that point.  We were at Chops Steakhouse in Atlanta.   I had consumed an amazing steak, a ridiculous spinach salad (made at the table no less), and thrown back 2 really awesome Manhattans, both of which were served with a delicious piece of smoked bacon btw).  And then I asked for the bourbon menu.  “We do not have a bourbon menu….but let me tell you about something special…” said the waiter.  Then he told me about the WLW.  It was a no-brainer.  Feeling like I have become a boss in my 2 months of bourboning, I asked for it neat with a second glass with a few ice cubes.

The glass arrived and I will admit it’s a pretty color.  A darker amber, nice looking consistency.  It also had a nice nose to it, it smelled like caramel and also like a nice wood fire.  I decided to try a sip neat.  It hit my tongue and my throat and I waited for some sort of flavor.  Instead, all I got was a brief searing pain.  I sat with my mouth open as I contemplated the damage I had just done to my nerve endings.  It’s the same sensation I used to get with Listerine if I hadn’t used it in awhile.  I threw in 2 ice cubes and gave it a few minutes.  Then I took another sip.  Nothing changed.  It is as if I had just swallowed a mixture of witch hazel, rubbing alcohol, and mercurochrome.  Mercurochrome was this stuff my grandmother used to have.  It was bright red and she would put it on cuts and scrapes.  As little boys do, I had the dumb idea of putting that stuff on my lips one day.  Not only were they bright red, but I got the taste of it too.  And it wasn’t good.  Perhaps the Mercury in it wasn’t meant for human bodies….who knows.

I continued to add more ice and let it melt.  And again I tried to drink it.  My last sip wasn’t too bad I guess.  I got nice hints of leather, oak, honey, and something…..[suddenly interrupted by a blast of acid reflux].  Forget how it felt going down, the brief reflux I had was the worst burning sensation I can ever remember in my throat.  It is as if the 140 proof quickly aged in my stomach and exploded back up in a fiery volcanic rage.  The big bang theory was just proven to be true within the means of my esophagus.   I mean no water, no left over bread pudding, nothing could help the charring on the back of my throat.  In fact, as I finish this almost 14 hours later, it’s still not normal again.  William Larue Weller and a bone-in Ribeye were the catalysts for the creation of our universe.  Who knew?

Now to be honest, there is a reason this juice is so highly spoken of.  Had I properly had time to water it down to the right level, I bet it’s really good stuff.  That’s why I won’t call this a review, and also I will try it again at some point.  My experience was bad, but I really have to blame myself for it.  I will rise again one day and conquer the William Larue Weller.  Until then, I’ll stick with the 80-90 proof stuff, especially after a big meal, and leave my underoos on for now.

I wanted to love it…. (Review – Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 Year)



Really I did.  I wanted it to be earth shattering.  Weeks after my obsessive search began for the elusive Pappy, I had just unwrapped the plastic seal on a bottle of Van Winkle Special Reserve for my 38th birthday.  A trade of a Thomas Handy Sazerac Antique Collection bottle netted me my most prized possession, and I was ready to wait no longer.  I had read all the reviews, heard all the tales, taken in all the mythical lore I had come across.  This was the stuff of legends.  People waited in lines across the country just a week ago to score one bottle.  One bottle of booze.  Billionaires couldn’t get it even if they tried, or so said the article I found.  Another article told me to skip Pappy and buy one of their aforementioned alternatives.  Yet I continued, unabated in my quest for the unicorn whiskey as some referred to it.  I couldn’t count how many store owners laughed when I asked if they had Pappy.  I visited every store, tried to befriend every owner, and used any technique possible to place myself in a position of acquiring a bottle.

Two months after my quest began, here it was.  As I set the freshly opened bottle down on the kitchen counter, a strong aroma of the unicorn whiskey started to fill the air.  My wife commented that it smelled really good as it wafted around the kitchen.  I have to admit, the stuff smells pretty legendary.  Hopefully as you begin to follow my blog, you will see that I am fairly new to the bourbon tasting/reviewing party.  I consider my sense of smell and taste pretty good, but damn if I know how to put it into words.  People say they smell caramel, oak, butterscotch in this bottle.  I just smell some damn fine whiskey.  It’s sweet for sure, and I just can’t place the smell.  I would say the butterscotch reference is the closest for me.  Butterscotch and f*@ing awesome whiskey smell.

I poured about 1.5 ounces and let it air out for a minute or two.  I admired the color, a beautiful amber brown, with a nice looking coating where it had hit the side of my glen cairn glass.  I swirled it around a little bit, noticed the complexity, and continued to enjoy that damn fine smell.  Then I took my first sip.  It was a little harsher than I expected.  In fact it almost burned a little.  It was only 90 proof, but it stung the back of my throat a little and that alone kind of covered up the flavor for me.  I added a small ice cube and let it melt and tried it again a few minutes later.  This time it was less harsh and I had some nice flavors come across, but again I don’t know how to describe them.  I definitely got some oaky flavor, some honey, but it still ended with a little burn in my throat.  The aftertaste I would say had some caramel, but there had to be some spice there that was burning.  A few more sips netted the same result, a nice flavor, but a gentle burn, followed by an aftertaste that was almost like a caramel candy.  I finished the glass, set it down, and realized… that it was disappointing.  Really disappointing.  And I also realized I have had much better whiskey at a fraction of the cost.

I thought surely there must be a mistake.  Maybe it was dinner that I had that messed things up.  Maybe my glass was dirty, or the ice cube was polluted.  Or maybe I was getting a cold and that effected things.  Surely if someone would wait in 32 degree weather for a bottle of this stuff, that something was just wrong with me.

So I waited a day and tried it again.  This time, I put 1 whole ice cube in and let it melt all the way.  I let the whiskey sit for 10 minutes after that to open up.  And then I began to sip, slowly, trying to find myself loving it.  And sure enough, the same result.  A decent taste over my tongue, a slight burn, a slight sweet finish, but not near one of my favorite whiskeys.  On both nights, I filled my glass back up with some Elmer T. Lee, and realized how much better it was.

I am only 1 guy and I only have 1 opinion, but this wasn’t worth the hype.  It wasn’t worth the obsession.  This is decent whiskey at best.  Perhaps the 15 year or 20 year are earth shattering, and this 12 is simply a meteor that blazes out in the sky.  Perhaps I’ll never know if that is the case, but to be honest, I’m not going to lose any more sleep over it.