Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link in this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
Trey Zoeller started Jefferson’s 25 years ago. The brand has an air about it which would lead you to believe it was one of the few survivors in Kentucky, not one of the first in the renaissance of more modern American whiskey. Although from a certain point of view, Trey and Jefferson’s may have one of the oldest legacies to whiskey in the US.
Marian McLain is Trey Zoeller’s 8th generation grandmother. The story goes after losing her husband in the Revolutionary War, McLain had to support five children. She turned to illegal production and distribution of liquor. In 1799, she became one of the earliest documented women in American whiskey as a result of being arrested for bootlegging and moonshining. History junkies will point out this is not an inconsequential arrest given the time period in US history.
To pay for its war debt the fledgling U.S. Government had to raise revenue through taxation. One of the primary means of raising revenue quickly was through the taxation of whiskey. The first US whiskey tax became law in 1791 and applied to all distilled spirits. American whiskey consumption was exploding across the frontier and into the interior as the age of westward expansion had begun. The taxes prompted a fierce uprising known as The Whiskey Rebellions between 1791 and 1794. George Washington himself helped to stamp out these rebellions. Out of this uprising and need for revenue, the US government clamped down hard on illegal distillation. The government needed the tax money.
Jefferson’s, named for Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd president of the United States and incidentally the next president elected after McLain’s arrest, have started a charity in McLain’s honor. Zoeller and Barbara Corcoran (Shark Tank) have come together to celebrate and help entrepreneurs. The Marian McLain Entrepreneurial Fund aims to inspire and empower innovative minds with $25,000 in awards.
In a prepared statement Zeller said, “Just like Marian, I took big risks to create something for myself, and for my family, even when it was incredibly hard,” Corcoran said, in the prepared statement. “But with big risk comes big reward … that’s what being an entrepreneur is all about. And that’s why I’m partnering with Jefferson’s Bourbon to bring the Marian McLain Entrepreneurial Fund to life.”
As for the whiskey, it features five different whiskeys blended to generate one unique homage to McLain. Five whiskeys to represent her five children. A 14-year Tennessee bourbon, an 11-year Kentucky bourbon, an Indiana wheated double barrel whiskey, a Kentucky old rum cask finish whiskey, and an 8-year Kentucky bourbon.
Tasting Notes: Jefferson’s Marian McLain
Vital Stats: Blended bourbon with 21% 14-year-old, 40% 11-year-old, 14% wheated double-barrel, 17% rum cask finish and 8% 8-year-old. 51% abv, SRP $300.00
Appearance: Copper tending towards amber.
Nose: This jumps out of the glass with the dessert and sugar notes. I’m greeted with caramel and brown sugar, bananas foster, dark cherries and orange zest. There is a delicate note of oak to balance the sweetness of the nose. It is inviting and just fills a room.
Taste: The whiskey is full bodied, oily, and it clings to the teeth just holding. We start off where the nose left off, it’s fruity with pear, apples, suddenly toasted nuts like candied walnuts. It just evolves over the tongue and keeps evolving as it warms up in the mouth. This is one that each sip brings forward another note you missed the first time around. Lemon and oranges, aged oak and warn leather, cane sugar and rum.
The palate is awash in complexity until the finish which brings the bourbon together and holds on your tongue. The nuttiness, fruitiness, robust earth notes all mellow slowly as it fades. We don’t get hit with any sour or tart notes. This is one you’ll drink a whole bottle of if you’re not careful.
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