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Jefferson’s Bourbon is no stranger to taking big risks with its product. Many know Jefferson’s Ocean, a bourbon aged on container ships sailing around the world. I think Jefferson’s Ocean voyage 15 or 16 just came out. Now, Jefferson’s introduces a new experience, Jefferson’s Tropicsaged in humidity.
In a press release at the time of the whiskey’s unveiling, Jefferson founder Trey Zoeller said: “After transporting barrels to many different locations, it was evident that hot, humid climates had a very positive on bourbon. So when we headed out to age our first release of Jefferson’s Tropics Aged In Humidity, we knew we had to be near the equator, where the heat and humidity would be intense year-round. Singapore – one of my favorite travel destinations – was absolutely perfect for this experience.
“The result is a remarkable bourbon, which further reinforces my belief that whiskey terroir comes from the environment in which the bourbon matures rather than the soil from which the grains are grown. Jefferson’s Tropics Aged in Humidity series embodies the result with its richness and complexity.
Terroir is a French term used to describe environmental factors that impact the contextual characteristics or character of a culture, or in this case a whisky. Kentucky, as a state, is known for being landlocked and having a fairly temperate climate. Many area distillers praise the warm, but not too hot, summers and cool, but not too cold, winters for the unique flavors that Kentucky Bourbon receives as it rests in oak. The whiskey will seep deep into the wood during the summer heat and shrink out of the wood during the cold, snowy winter.
This interaction imparts color, flavor and personality to a whiskey barrel, or so is the conventional wisdom and history I know.
Jefferson’s is attempting to challenge conventional wisdom by transporting 720 fully mature Kentucky bourbon barrels from Kentucky to Singapore. When the project began in 2019, these barrels were stored in the humid environment of Singapore for 18 months before being brought back to Kentucky in March 2023. Now, and I infer here, these dates are spaced more than 36 months, not 18, which means it’s likely these barrels also made a short ocean voyage. So we have a bit of a two for one, an Ocean and Tropic impact on bourbon.
Jefferson’s describes the flavors as intensely caramelized and infused with flavors of aromatic baking spices on the nose, bing cherries, toffee and sea salt on the palate, with a long, textured finish. Conceptually, I understand the concept of finishing the whiskey hot. You maximize the interaction of the whiskey with the oak before letting it cool and come out of the wood on its way home. This is a very new concept. With that, let’s move on to the glass.
Tasting notes: Jefferson’s Tropics
Vital Stats: 52% blood alcohol content; limited release September 2023; SRP: $99.99
Nose: Very light, alcohol is present, tropical fruits like mango, banana leaves, light coffee and sugar. The nose is harsher than I expected, but overall inviting although with a salty brine quality.
Taste: A first breath of smoke before a salty profile on the tongue with soft oak and cocoa. There is vanilla and molasses on the mid-palate before giving way to a seamless blend on the finish. The finish lingers gently on the tongue for a reasonable length before fading into a touch of brine and citrus.