Tired yet of the gimmicks from Jefferson’s? Me neither. Because the brand continues to pump out quality bourbons, I’ve been able to forgive the not infrequent “motion of the ocean” marketing backstory, but the tall tales behind this latest release may be a bit more challenging to ignore. Read for yourself:
Jefferson’s is constantly experimenting with various blending, aging, and finishing techniques to achieve unique flavors. Its newest release is the ultimate culmination of founder Trey Zoeller’s efforts to continue to explore unique maturation techniques and environments. After the success of the innovative Ocean Aged at Sea Voyage Series, founder Trey Zoeller was convinced climate could affect the maturation process more than the mashbill or barrel itself and sought to find new and interesting climates for further proof. But first, he needed a location.
“After taking barrels to many different locations, it was evident that the hot and humid climates had such a positive impact on the bourbon. So, when homing in on a location to age our first Jefferson’s Tropics Aged in Humidity ™release, we knew we needed to be near the equator, where the heat and humidity would be year-round and intense. Singapore – one of my bucket list travel destinations – was absolutely perfect for this experiment,” said Zoeller. “The result is a remarkable bourbon, one that further reinforces my belief that terroir for whiskey comes from the environment that the bourbon matures in rather than the ground from which the grains are grown. The Jefferson’s Tropics Aged in Humidity series embodies the result of this with its richness and complexity – we can’t wait for you to experience it firsthand.”
The journey to create this special liquid was a wild one. Nine containers with a combined capacity of 720 barrels of fully matured Kentucky straight bourbon set sail for Singapore via an ocean ship in July 2019, marking the start of the journey. Following that journey, these barrels were exposed to Singapore’s severe heat and humidity for an astounding 18 months resulting in a bourbon that is intensely caramelized and steeped with flavor.
Aged in humidity. They’re so proud of that one, they even trademarked it. Forgive my ignorance, but I thought humidity was already a big component of the Ocean Aged at Sea line, which sees barrels of Jefferson’s navigating the globe, usually in and out of the humid equatorial region. In fact, at least one “voyage” already traveled to Singapore (the recent Voyage 27, probably no coincidence), and I assume several others have come pretty close. The differentiator between Tropics and Oceans seems to be the long duration of what Jefferson’s calls “finishing” time (presumably, the barrels were offloaded and stored somewhere in Singapore). If the line gets extended, I assume other “humid” countries will host future releases (if they aren’t already). Anyway, let’s see what a long vacation in a super sticky climate has done for this bourbon.
The nose is unsurprisingly oak-forward but pleasantly so with exotic notes of sandalwood, barrel char, and Mexican chocolate. As it opens, the aroma adds even more depth with dark molasses, grated nutmeg, and a bit of coconut cake. The barrel influence is pronounced on the palate with burly notes of dark toffee, coffee grounds, and clove. It’s still well-balanced and approachable despite all those dark and woody elements, with a gentle, simmering warmth. Notes of black cherry, torched marshmallow, and licorice on the midpalate help to soften some of the unsanded edges before a return to the woodshop on a generous, silky finish of seasoned oak, cola, and chicory.
This inaugural Tropics release is unlike any of the Ocean releases I’ve ever tasted with a much more pronounced and engaging oak profile. It’s still hard to not roll my eyes looking at the label, but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy this one. Call it whatever you want, Trey.