PlumpJack Wine & Spirits brings you the American Whiskey Club tasting notes for quarter three. For this quarter we’re excited to feature two new single barrel selections, chosen exclusively for PlumpJack. This time we’ve sourced barrels from Old Forester and Jefferson’s, both first timers to our private collection line of whiskies. One is an old established stalwart in the bourbon industry, the other an up and coming entrepreneur, both with long generational whiskey heritages. Un-complicated and tasty, these whiskies are perfect for summertime sipping and cocktails. Enjoy!
Josh Thinnes, Whiskey Buyer PlumpJack Wine & Spirits
Old Forester Single Barrel Bourbon, PlumpJack Wine & Spirits Barrel Selection
Distilled by Brown-Forman Distillery, Shively, KY
Bottled December 10, 2014 – Barrel yielded 228 bottles at 45% abv (90 proof)
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Downtown Louisville was a bustling port city in the mid 19th century. Situated right on the banks of the Ohio River, it was a hub of shipping commerce situated on the boarder of the North West and Southern territories, tons of commodities floated up and down the Ohio River on flatboats, sometimes up to 40 feet long. Corn, wheat, cotton, meats, produce, lumber, fur, seeds, honey, of course whiskey, and many other goods were shipped on over 3,000 flatboats a year, increasingly so up until the mid 1850s. By 1830 Louisville passed Lexington as Kentucky’s largest city with over 10,000 residents and the city continued to grow during the railroad era. Low quality un-aged whiskey predominated the market, and it was usually adulterated with flavoring agents like tobacco and molasses (or worse) to make up for the age. Around the late 1860s, George Garvin Brown, a young pharmaceutical salesman from Kentucky saw the obvious need for consistent and reliably good whiskey that remained pure after distillation. He saved about $5,500 and together with his brother opened the J.T.S. Brown & Bro. Distillery, which promptly began distilling and aging bourbon. Conveniently they began distribution initially to pharmacies for use as a medicinal product. The name chosen was ‘Old Forrester’ (originally with two r’s), the name reportedly inspired by Dr. William Forrester, a physician who initially endorsed the product. The first commercial batch was launched in 1870, under the name ‘Old Forester’.
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By 1902, J.T.S. Brown & Bro. Distillery underwent a series of partnership and name changes, eventually ending with George Garvin Brown owning about 90% and George Forman owning 10% of the new company re-named Brown-Forman & Co. Whiskey times we’re booming and they relocated to West Main Street in downtown Louisville on a strip of buildings that become known as ‘Whiskey Row’. What followed was a decade or so of stupendous growth in the whiskey industry that coincided with debauchery, crime and a temperance movement that eventually meant prohibition of alcohol in the United States. Only ten federal permits to distill alcohol were granted during prohibition, one of which was obtained by Brown-Forman in 1920. Having survived prohibition makes Old Forester the longest standing bottled bourbon to this day. The company is currently involved in a $50 million dollar project to build an urban distillery and visitor center in historic downtown Louisville in the very same strip that once was home to its founding father.
For now, Old Forester whiskey (along with Early Times) is made at the Brown-Forman Distillery on the southern outskirts of Louisville. They bottle a range of four different expressions; Old Forester 86 proof & 100 proof, Old Forester Birthday Bourbon and Old Forester Single Barrel. All products are then aged and bottled at its sister distillery, Woodford Reserve. The mashbill is the same as Woodford’s – 72% corn, 18% rye and 10% malted barley – though the distillation is different. Old Forester Single Barrel is reserved exclusively for private bottling only and is bottled at 90 proof, usually yielding about 220 bottles or so. The nose showcases aromas of spices, stone fruit like peaches and apricots and bitter orange peel and vanilla bean. The palate is a continuation of the nose, with further notes of mango, pepper, vanilla and wood spice. Not a shy, nor a shabby sipper, this whiskey shows best in a properly made old fashioned cocktail. The spice in the whiskey with the sweetness from the sugar chilled and topped with an orange rind is perfect on a weekend afternoon while firing up the grill.
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Try this recipe for instant gratification: In a mixing glass put three to four full shakes of angostura bitters along with a half-ounce of simple syrup and 2 ounces of Old Forester whiskey. Fill with ice and stir for thirty seconds or so. Pour into a citrus zested rocks glass over one fat rock of ice.
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Jeffeson’s Reserve ‘Very Old, Very Small Batch’ Bourbon
Bottled by McClain & Kyne, Louisville, KY
PlumpJack Wine & Spirits Barrel #482 yielded 216 bottles at 45.1% abv (90.2 proof)
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Louisville native, entrepreneur and bourbon export Trey Zoeller founded McClain & Kyne in 1997. Trey’s past relatives had a long history of distilling, sometimes illicitly as evidenced by an 8th generation grandmother who was arrested for moonshining in 1799. Trey, having strong connections in the whiskey industry, but no distillery by which to make it, launched a range of bourbons and ryes that he would blend himself from stock that he purchased. He decided to name it Jefferson’s, loosely inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s experimental spirit and known good taste. The brand began with a Reserve line then branched into a line of older more select whiskies called Presidential Select. It was an immediate success, as some of them contained whiskey produced at the famed and silent Stitzel-Weller distillery (think older Pappy Van Winkle). Those whiskies, like the Presidential Select 17yr and 18yr bourbons are now extinct, except for trading floors of secondary markets where they fetch astronomical prices upwards of ten times their release.
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Alongside occasional special release bottling like Ocean and Chef’s Collaboration and Presidential Select they bottle a Small Batch, Reserve Very Old Very Small Batch and a Rye. All of the whiskey is purchased and then blended and bottled accordingly or in this case, further rested in another barrel for single barrel purchase. The whiskies that make up the Jefferson’s Reserve Very Old, Very Small Batch are most likely between the ages of 10-15 years old. The producer of origin is un-known for sure, and varies between the line up, but multiple producers do go into each bottling.
This barrel #482 of Jefferson’s Reserve yielded 216 individually numbered bottles. When lined up against other potential barrel selections offered as well as non-single barrel official bottling of Jefferson’s Reserve, this was a clear stand out favorite amongst us all, with more depth and pronounced character in all three key areas of analysis – nose, palate and finish. The whiskey pours a hue of orange-brown and elicits aromas of vanilla, tobacco, leather and oak spice. Savory in the nose it continues on the palate with a very silky texture greeting you with flavors of lemon and bitter chocolate followed by more earthy flavors of tobacco and wood succeeding each other on the finish. This stuff is easy to drink because of the balance and texture. It starts off sweet and chewy but finishes dry and spicy, kind of like a bold new world wine. It is perfect neat as is, but wouldn’t mind you splashing it over ice. It also makes the perfect accompaniment to a Monte Cristo or mild cigar, where the flavors dance in harmony developing a sum greater than its parts.