What do you get when you combine barrels of bourbon with a ship at sea? Lost? Shipwrecked? Good answers, but here’s a better one – Jefferson’s Ocean Aged at Sea Straight Bourbon Whiskey.
Jefferson’s Ocean is the product of a unique approach to making bourbon, as the barrels spend 5-10 months upon a ship as it voyages across the oceans. These journeys aren’t day cruises around some bay for the sake of a gimmicky marketing angle. The time at sea is long enough to potentially impact the aging process, as the voyages typically cross the equator four times, visit five continents and over 30 ports.
So what’s the end result? Does the motion of the ocean impact the final product? How about the salt air or the exposure to weather? Most importantly, is it good bourbon?
First, a brief discussion about whiskey and sourcing. Jefferson’s Ocean is sourced from Kentucky. For those learning more about whiskey, “sourced” means Jefferson’s doesn’t distill their own bourbon, but instead buys unaged, “white dog” bourbon from a distiller. This is a common practice in the industry, and many sourced bourbons are outstanding. Variables such as char (how extensively the inside of barrels are exposed to flame before the whiskey is added), length of aging, climate and the skill of the whiskey maker at mixing a final product from different barrels (assuming it’s not a single barrel release) are all significant factors in the taste of the final product.
Jefferson’s is known for making good bourbon, and Ocean lives up to that reputation. This profile is based upon the 4th edition of Ocean, and the four editions have been quite different from each other, including different mash bills, before the variables discussed above are even factored in. Ocean IV is a complex, interesting and delicious bourbon. A strong presence of oak, caramel and vanilla is balanced with the pleasant spiciness of fairly high rye content (25-30%) and the subtle sweetness of raisins.
Now, back to the ultimate question. Does the time at sea impact the flavor of this bourbon? There is a strong argument that it does. Jefferson’s Ocean has complexity and a depth of flavor that are beyond the norm for a 6-7 year-old bourbon. While at sea, the bourbon sloshes around the barrel, which likely allows a greater transfer of barrel flavors in a shorter amount of time, particularly when coupled with exposure to high, equatorial temperatures. The effect of the salt air is perhaps a matter of debate and personal taste, as some claim to detect a slight, subtle brininess, while others do not.
The bottom line is, Jefferson’s Ocean Aged at Sea is a very good bourbon, and worth paying a little extra for its uniqueness and the added cost of production. Good bourbon is even more enjoyable when accompanied by an interesting story, especially when the story actually affects the bourbon. Yo ho ho and a bottle of bourbon!