Over the last six centuries, rarely has a ship set sail without some measure of whiskey aboard, and in the case of Jefferson’s whiskey, they’re making sure the cargo holds are packed with it.
Trey Zoeller, founder of Kentucky-based Jefferson’s Bourbon, is eager to produce mature whiskey for thirsty customers, but he rejects the experimental methods used by some distilleries to accelerate the aging process: using mini barrels and bombarding them with loud music or high-frequency sound waves, or using pressure to speed up the interaction between the whiskey and the cask.
Wanting a more romantic approach, Trey looked to the past for inspiration. Bourbon used to travel to market by barge, floating down rivers for several weeks or sometimes months; whiskey would also be loaded onto ships and sailed to its final destination. Trey knew that time on the water must have influenced the whiskey’s flavor, so he had a friend who captains a research vessel take a few barrels as he sailed around the globe. Three years later, Trey found that the rolling seas and exposure to salty sea air created a liquor that was quite unique. The result was a dark, thick, and far more mature bourbon. There was a brown sugar sweetness mixed with the saltiness usually found in Islay whiskies.
Trey knew he was onto something, so he refined the process and repeated it in volume, shipping 62 barrels of moderately-aged whiskey out to sea for seven months. The barrels travel through 40 ports of call on 5 continents, crossing the equator four times on their journey. The resulting spirit is called Jefferson’s Ocean II, and is currently in stores. It’s a strangely wonderful bourbon, deeply rooted in heritage and innovation.
Jefferson’s Ocean II, 45% ABV; $70.