When Jefferson’s Bourbon first got the idea to age its whiskey on an OCEARCH research vessel, no one had any idea how it would turn out. That’s probably why only five barrels were packed onto the ship before it set off for a global voyage tagging and tracking sharks.
These barrels were kept on the research vessel for three years, crossing the equator four times, visiting five continents and stopping at more than 30 ports. Two barrels were lost during the trip, but the surviving bourbon was exposed to many different climates, constant motion and sea air. Jefferson’s founder and whiskey maker Trey Zoeller had some theories on how this could affect the whiskey but didn’t fully appreciate what he had on his hands until they tapped the barrels at the end of the voyage.
Three years at sea gives Jefferson’s Ocean a totally unique flavor.
“It completely exceeded my expectations,” says Zoeller. “The liquid was black, almost syrupy. The sugars had caramelized. It was fantastic.”
The gentle rocking of the ship caused the whiskey to be in constant contact with the wood, speeding up the aging process. That accelerated maturation gave the bourbon an extremely dark color and complex caramel flavors.
Sea air, the other major factor, had an equally impactful and delicious effect. Jefferson’s Ocean features a briny, savory quality that’s typically only found in Islay scotch. These elements, provided by the sea air, perfectly complement bourbon’s famously smooth and subtly sweet profile.
The barrels are pulled off the ship following a three year voyage.
The goal of the experiment was to create a one-of-a-kind bourbon, so obviously it was a success. But Zoeller recognized that Jefferson’s Ocean was more than just a novelty. He wasn’t the only one to have this realization.
Whiskey fans couldn’t get enough of the innovative and unique line of bourbon. The limited-edition bottling quickly sold out, creating enough demand for Jefferson to pack ships with hundreds more barrels of bourbon.
Making sea-aged bourbon available to more whiskey lovers wasn’t the only positive result of the experiment. It also allowed Jefferson’s to continue its sponsorship of OCEARCH, helping the
organization collect vital scientific data to help protect the world’s oceans. The globally recognized nonprofit said thanks by naming a 12-foot great white shark Jefferson.
Meet Jefferson, the 12-foot shark the OCEARCH team named after the bourbon.
You should be feeling thankful too, since those hundreds of barrels of Jefferson’s Ocean have returned from their voyage. Now that sea-aged bourbon has gone from quirky experiment to full-fledged industry, it’s easier than ever to enjoy it. Don’t wait to pick up your own bottle of Jefferson’s Ocean.