Whisky Advocate

Review: Jefferson’s Presidential Select, 17 yr. old bourbon

August 20th, 2009

I originally reviewed this live online yesterday via Twitter. This is a 1991 vintage, and one of the last years that Stitzel-Weller produced whiskey.

So far this year, this is one of my top two new bourbons (the other being the new Parker’s Heritage Collection Golden Anniversary). Although, I think that the soon to be released William Larue Weller and George T. Stagg from Buffalo Trace might challenge this whiskey, based on the samples I tasted in the Buffalo Trace lab last week.

This whiskey is getting into circulation right now, so go out and get a bottle (and a piece of history). To me, Stitzel-Weller and Michter’s are like Brora and Port Ellen in the Scotch whisky world–silent distilleries that once produced some great whiskeys.

Jefferson’s Presidential Select (Batch #1), 1991 Vintage, 17 year old, 47%, $90
A wheated bourbon from the old Stitzel-Weller distillery. A gentle, richly-textured whisky, loaded with fruit and spice. Black raspberry jam, caramel apple and papaya, along with warming cinnamon and subtle teaberry, on nutty toffee, nougat and creamy vanilla. Spicy, polished oak finish. Superbly balanced, sophisticated and very drinkable. An outstanding whiskey!

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 96

33 Responses to “Review: Jefferson’s Presidential Select, 17 yr. old bourbon”

  1. Carl says:

    I enjoy the “very old” Jefferson Reserve, but at $50/bottle it’s at the high end of what I typically spend. I recently tried the non-reserve Jefferson and didn’t like it at all.

    I’ve heard that “Jefferson” is just a label on whiskey that other people have distilled and aged. Is that an unfair characterization? I don’t know if that explains the big difference between the Reserve and non-reserve products.

    Your comments on the Presidential Select are certainly tempting!

  2. Sku says:

    That’s correct Carl. Jefferson is an independently bottled whiskey by the McLain and Kyne company. They buy whiskey from others and bottle it under their labels. Like most American independent bottlers, they usually don’t reveal who made the whiskey. It is refreshing that in this instance they do (although it’s clearly a big marketing plus for them with SW whiskey).

    I wish that more American independent labels (I’m talking to you KBD, Black Maple Hill, Michter’s, etc.) would do as the Scots do and tell us who actually makes their whiskey or at least not lead people to believe that they are distilling it themselves.

  3. John Hansell says:

    Sku, you beat me to the punch. Thanks for answering Carl’s question. Yes, it would be nice if all the indie labels were more transparent. They can change distilleries without telling us.

  4. H.Diaz says:

    #01 Carl, Corner Creek Reserve Bourbon Whiskey is another such independent bottling and an excellet value in its price range, mid-20’s around these parts.

  5. Jeff H. says:

    I talked to a guy at my local specialty store. The good news is that they’re getting a couple of cases of this! On the down side, the price is going to be somewhere in the $100 to $110 range based on the cost from the AZ distributer.

    It still might be hard to pass up for a “piece of history.”

  6. Ethan Prater says:

    Are there bottle shots of this whiskey yet? Always helpful to know what to keep an eye out for, especially if you’re not familiar with extant bottlings of Jefferson’s Reserve.

  7. Ethan Prater says:

    Whoops – bad form to follow up on one’s own comment. But I just saw John’s own (iPhone?) photo of the bottle here:

    Cool little end table he has in his tasting lab!

  8. Abinash says:

    A couple of points a little out of subject (others started, not me):

    Considering the “who distills which US indie” issue, can anyone link me to a place where the known cases and guesses are listed? Or could such list be released as a blog post of its own?

    H.Diaz: I have two-fold experiences with Corner Creek. A couple of years ago an 8yo version was great, but a NAS version I tasted last winter was one of the worst bourbons I have ever tasted.

    • John Hansell says:

      Abinash, that would be nice to know, but I am not aware of such a link. And I didn’t know there were two different Corner Creek expreessions. I learn something new every day.

  9. Sku says:

    Abinash, I attempted a list of all distilleries, bottlers and brands making whiskey in the US; a few guesses there as well but not too many.

    The general gossip I’ve heard is that Heaven Hill and Tom Moore have traditionally been the biggest contributors to indie brands, but that nearly all of the big distillers contribute from time to time.

  10. Abinash says:

    Sku, that was the most comprehensive list I have seen so far, thanks. One thing I am missing is the secret of distillers behind many of the KBD brands. Maybe we just have to live without that info.

    John, the 8yo Corner Creek I know was purchased in USA (San Diego if I remember it right, I was not there) and the NAS version in European retailer. Perhaps it’s the same as with Jim Beam Black, which is nowadays sold in Europe as “Aged To Perfection” instead of 8yo?

  11. Sku says:

    Abinash, I’ve definitely had some KBDs that taste like Heaven Hill to me, but that is of course, just my guess. And as John noted, they can change at anytime. One bottle of Noah’s Mill may well contain a different whiskey from another.

  12. H.Diaz says:

    At $50 per bottle, I tried Jefferson’s Reserve 15yo a few years back and remember it being very good and well worth the price.

    Now, at 17yo, the price has nearly doubled. Can a couple extra years warrant such an increase in price? Or, and hard to blame them when people are willing to pay, are they riding the current wave of high end and longer aged bourbon?

    The Antique Collection, Stagg, Sazerac 18, Eagle Rare 17 and W.L. Weller have all seen a more modest increase as of late, say $20 each, from $45 to $65. And still worth the price of entry. Should they ever double in price, well….I hate to even think about it.

    The same has happened, and maybe even more so, with single malt scotch, One example is Longmorn 15 to now 16. One year older, but now at twice the price. From $45 to $90, or so.

    Having said all that, with John’s high score of 96, even I may break like a twig and seek out Jefferson’s latest creation. You know, for a special occasion.

    Maybe that its a 1991 vintage has something to do with it.

  13. John Hansell says:

    H. Diaz, if you get a bottle, I don’t think you will be disappinted.

  14. […] Jefferson’s Presidential Select 17 year old bourbon (Batch #1) […]

  15. Sam S. says:

    Hey John.
    What’s the wood character like?
    When you say “polished oak finish,” can you quantify somehow, how much?
    Is it a hint?
    Is it too much?

  16. John Hansell says:

    Sam S. a good, balanced amount. It’s there, but not rough or agressive, but rather “polished”.

  17. Rick Bridges says:

    I live in Texas and the Jefferson is no where to be found. A freind of mine brought me 2 bottles straight from Kentucky, and it is the best I have ever tasted. I got bottles 995 and 996 out of batch 2. I get a bottle every year of 20+ yr old Pappy Van Winkle, from a freind of mine that works there. It doesnt even compare! I advise all of you to get a bottle of this very special bourbon, before it is all gone. There will never be another batch of this wheat that taste like this. This stuff deserves a rating of 100, and nothing any lower. Period.

  18. Mike B. says:

    Gents, I just got bottle 557 batch 2 ($81) and I put it up to test againts last years 20 yr Pappy Van Winklen($89)…The color and the tears on the glass very close, the nose of the Pappy was deeper, spicer and more fruit, Jefferson lighter and sweeter, the taste of the Jefferson, a little more vapor than flavor, but still very good. For me, I still think the Pappy wins by a nose!

  19. Jeff H. says:

    Mike B – It sounds like you have a Total Wine & More in your area. I just picked up Bottle 505, Batch 2 for $81.99 at Total Wine in Tempe, AZ.

    On first sip, I’m very impressed with the Jefferson. Lots of oak (this is the oldest bourbon I’ve tried), but I don’t think it’s quite too much yet. I’m glad they found it and bottled it at 17, rather than wait until 20 or more years. Very drying on the tongue!

    I like it! Will have to do a head-to-head with WLW 2009.


  20. Johnnie MacCracken says:

    Just ordered and paid @$70 for on premise Irish Pub in Georgia. Offered to 5 of our best regulars at no charge to sample and consencus was it was almost a sweet dessert type liquor…could be confused with not being a bourbon. Then gave your review to see if they had accurately discovered various botanicals/herbs/etc. I personally thought it was worth it and I am a big drinker of single malts and Irish Whiskey.

  21. John Hansell says:

    Johnnie, do you know which batch you tasted?

  22. […] Here’s what I do know. When Jefferson 17yr was first released, the Malt Advocate scored it 96pt and it retailed for around $90/bottle. The close-out price will now be $64.99/bottle, which is a […]

  23. Denver says:

    I’m picking up a bottle from Shoppers Vineyard… but is it possible they have produced “newer” batches which aren’t from the Stitzel-Weller distillery?

    Going over a 10-K filing from Castle Brands, Inc available at:

    On page 19 it reads:

    ” Bourbon Purchase

    In December 2009, we acquired a rare stock of aged bourbon which will supply our currently forecasted supply needs for Jefferson’s and Jefferson’s Reserve very small batch Kentucky bourbons…”

    They didn’t say where it was acquired from, but maybe I overlooked something or just haven’t found the info yet.

    • John Hansell says:

      My bottle actually states it’s from Stitzel-Weller on the label.

    • Denver says:

      Thanks, I’m just being overly cautious is all… I’ve never gone over $50 for a bottle of whiskey–this one was $80 w/ shipping–but from all I’ve read it should be well worth it.

  24. Sanderson says:

    I’m curious about this one as well. I was looking over a bottle yesterday for $95. On the bottle it stated the following: “Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Aged in Stitzel-Weller Barrels”. My question is, as some others have questioned already, is the whiskey inside the bottle really “Stitzel-Weller Whiskey”? Or, is it whiskey that was distilled from some other distillery and put in barrels and warehoused at Stitzel-Weller during the final days that they were in operation? I’m just curious because if the whiskey is in fact Stitzel-Weller whiskey, then why wouldn’t the label simply state that instead of stating “Aged in Stitzel-Weller Barrels”? Does “Aged in Stitzel-Weller Barrels” mean that the bourbon was produced by Stitzel-Weller?

    In all reality, whether the whiskey is Stitzel-Weller bourbon or not is not that big of a deal. I don’t think this fact should have any influence on ratings of the whiskey. If it is good, then it is good. However, I would like to know if the whiskey can really be classified as Stitzel-Weller bourbon.

  25. Ian says:

    I was excited when I saw this advertised at my local store. Unfortunately, they seemed to sell out immediately, and I went to another place and bought a bottle (batch #4). I was back at the first place again today, and I saw that they were selling a different bottling of the same 1991 Stitzel-Weller whiskey. This is a single-barrel bottling, 18 years old. Has anyone tried both?

  26. […] this year was Jefferson Presidential Select 17yr Bourbon. The blockbuster sales were based on the 96pt score from the Malt Advocate and the fact that the barrels were from one of the last years […]

  27. […] folks behind the Jefferson’s line of bourbons, including the outstanding Jefferson’s Presidential Select releases, told me they will be releasing a 10 year old 100% rye whiskey later this year at 94 proof. […]

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