Review: Jefferson’s Marian McLain Bourbon

Review: Jefferson’s Marian McLain Bourbon

Jefferson’s is out with a new super premium bourbon release – its first in quite a while – and it comes with some interesting history and a charitable initiative, to boot. Jefferson’s Marian McLain honors the 8th generation grandmother of Jefferson’s founder, Trey Zoeller, who seems like she was quite the character in her day. Or any day for that matter. To wit:

After Marian’s husband died in the Revolutionary War and to support her five children, she turned to the illegal production and distribution of liquor. Then, in 1799, she became one of the earliest documented women in American whiskey as a result of being arrested for bootlegging and moonshining. Her tenacity ultimately became the inspiration for the Jefferson’s brand, and now…the brand wants to inspire others to do the same.

To be clear, I’m pretty sure Jefferson’s doesn’t want anyone to get arrested. That inspiration they reference is coming in the form of Jefferson’s new charitable initiative. In partnership with Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran, Zoeller is launching the Marian McLain Entrepreneurial Fund which is awarding a $20,000 prize to one eager entrepreneur to kickstart their business venture (five runners up are getting a more modest $1,000). Don’t get too excited. The deadline for submissions has already passed. Maybe you’ll get a shot at it next year? Either way, its namesake bourbon is still available for those with the coin to spend.

Jefferson’s Marian McLain is an elaborate blend made from five different bourbons, one for each of Marian’s children: 14-Year-Old Tennessee Straight Bourbon Whiskey (21%); 11-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (40%); Wheated Double-Barrel (14%); Rum Cask Finish (17%); and 8 Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (8%). Let’s dive in!

The aroma is soft but sultry with barrel char, old leather, warm banana bread, and orange peel. It takes some time to open and never gets too complex, but patience is rewarded with a measure of elegance. The palate is gentle, especially for the proof, but warming and balanced with a fantastic oiliness. Exuberant notes of dark toffee, butter brickle, cocoa, and roasted nuts offer layers of complexity, and that’s even before the transition to chocolate-covered orange peel, dark cherry, and Bananas Foster. This one really does just keep evolving all the way into a long, gently peppered finish of grilled pineapple, pipe tobacco, and clove-studded orange. Expertly balanced and engaging, it’s the best thing I’ve had from Jefferson’s since the fabled 17 Year Presidential Select.

102 proof.


Jefferson's Marian McLain Bourbon




Drew Beard is assistant editor for Drinkhacker and winner of several booze-related merit badges, including Certified Specialist in Spirits and Executive Bourbon Steward. A former federal employee turned hotelier and spirits journalist, he looks forward to his next midlife crisis.

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