Sunday, November 11, 2012

Bon Voyage: Jefferson's Ocean Aged

The story of Jefferson's Ocean Aged is one of the more curious bourbon stories of the year. It started out with a slightly gimmicky release by McLain & Kyne, makers of the Jefferson line of bourbon. They took a sourced Kentucky bourbon and aged it at sea, in the hull of a ship, for four years. The theory was that the bourbon would slosh around at sea, getting more contact with the barrel. This is not an entirely original concept, having already been done with Kelt Cognac. They originally announced that they would release 600 bottles at $90 each.

Well, apparently some of the bourbon disappeared at sea. There would be fewer bottles and they would cost more like $200. The allocation to retailers was cut way back. As a result, one retailer, K&L here in California put the bottle on auction. Shockingly, it sold for over $1,000. You read that right, a current bottling that was originally priced at $90 went for over $1,000 at auction. As I remarked at the time, this, more than any single event, marks the end of the golden age of whiskey and portends the crash.

To their credit, K&L gave the proceeds to charity, but what about the bourbon? Could it possibly be worth that amount? Lucky for me, I was able to taste some that was acquired for a far lesser amount.

Jefferson's Ocean Aged, 41.15% abv ($1,000?)

The nose has a nice spicy characteristic, but the palate is a bit flat. There is banana and some spice that trails into the finish. Not unlike the standard Jefferson's bourbon, this is a decent but totally unexceptional bourbon. There's just not much to it.

Having tried this, I'm even more shocked that it could sell for a ridiculously high price. This is a totally average bourbon. We are truly living in whiskey bubble which may be close to popping, and this is the of bourbon.


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad that my $950 bid on the K & L bottle came up short! Of course, had my bid prevailed, I never would have opened the bottle to risk a taste of my folly!

Louis said...

Bring on the crash, I say. Let the Johnny-come-latelys head back to their ultra-premium tequila shots and organic vodkas, leaving the big boy drinks to the big boys; those who are actually interested in enjoying the drink itself and not its status and prestige (those are just ancillary benefits...).

Lazer said...

Thanks for spoiling this one for me Sku. I was saving it for new years eve but I guess it isn't worth it. At least I know that K&L is giving all that money I paid for it to charity.

Anonymous said...

Come on Sku, this didn't jump the shark... it merely floated over them for four years. Aside: Kelt XO, which is actually enjoyable, is a mere $25 over the $90 MSRP of piracy bourbon (if one is actually interested in the drinking bit). Note to that Kelt XO has remained approx the same price since 2007, while a mediocre bourbon lashed to a ship just fetched La Fontaine de La Pouyade money. So to all you distillers/bottlers out there brainstorming your next Rémy Martin Louis XIII Rare Cask priced caper--there hasn't been a "pits of hell edition" volcano/magma finished bourbon. Nor an "old faithful edition" geyser-finished bourbon. So stay the course you whiskey bubble engineers. Just ignore Pessimism's Recent Eats over here. Your investors demand it, right? No? Educated consumers don't like it either? Hmm. Finishing yourselves in hubris then?

Rick Rickleman said...

Hi Sku,
I am a small independent distiller about to make my first release. All of my whiskies are aged in barrels hung from the necks of domesticated calico cats for eight years. The constant jumping, pouncing and rolling about of these calicos allows the whiskey to make optimum barrel contact.
Because these are indoor cats, it is unlikely that we will lose any barrels. Therefore we are confident that our Calico whiskeys will be able to reach the market for our target price of $115 a bottle. This is quite cheap if you take into account the cost of raising and caring for the calicos for 8 years.
Each bottle will feature a picture and paw print of the barrel baring cat.

We would be delighted to send you a sample. Please contact me for more info.

Yours in perpetuity,
Rick Rickleman Chairman and Founder of Calico Whiskey Inc

Justin said...

Cheers Louis! My thoughts exactly!

Rick, you either know Sku REALLY well or have been reading his blog for far too long! That is too funny!

sku said...

Rick, I can't wait to try it. Please send those samples!

David D said...

The reason for the Jefferson's auction price was most likely the WSJ article about it, in my opinion. After that article was published I started getting phone calls and emails about the Ocean like you wouldn't believe. Maybe 10-15 a day from customers who had never once shopped at K&L. This was made incredibly more frustrating by the fact that Jefferson's was advertising on their website that we were a retailer to contact, yet we had been given no timetable or amount to expect. When I told that to customers they really freaked out.

"What do you mean you 'don't know'? How the hell am I supposed to get one then? I need this for my husband's birthday next week!!!!"

California seems to be a tough market for collectors. I get emails from customers on the East Coast all the time who can just walk into their local store and buy the Jefferson's off the shelf. Some even offered to get me one and send it out. That's how nice some people are and that's how easy it was for them to get it. However, we ended up with one bottle.

When that one bottle went to the auction site, we began dealing with wine guys are know very little about whiskey. I'm pretty sure that whoever bought that bottle was in the mood to blow some money, had read the article in the WSJ, and figured "why not?" It wasn't available anywhere else out West and there was incredible prestige involved within some elite circles by obtaining one. I had guys literally begging me to get them a bottle for their tasting clubs.

Crazy world, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Sku, my IT colleagues and I have founded "Cloud Distillers". We have purchased many two-year-old casks of whiskies and suspended them in roof racks of our un-Tornado damaged, un-air-conditioned server rooms. Talk about terroir! On the nose our "Backend Bourbon" teases faint traces of the most technologically advanced sulfur (overheated UPS) ever-so-gently folding into the haunting waxy aroma of cascading cable insulation. Maybe just the faintest hint of Dockers kaki in the background. On the palate, it's just a beautiful business casual bourbon: sweet, rich, oak balanced by the haunting metallic tones of server rack and heat sink. 1024 bottles go on sale Cyber Monday for $10-cubed each.

Joshua Luke said...

Rick and both Anon's, you win at the internet. May your days be filled with lolcats, and may all your base belong to you.

Greg said...

Steve - I had this at a friends house recently. It was given to me blind with the question "would you buy a bottle of this?". My simple answer....."no".

I really couldn't find the compelling nature of this whiskey and the price point is off the charts.

SteveBM said...

Heard that, Louis. We are going through a period of what I like to call "sensationalism" where people with money to blow on whiskey are doing just that. All it likely does is lead to higher prices and lower quality for all of us. Womp womp wommmmmmmmmmmp