Jefferson’s Introduces First-Ever Humidity-Aged Bourbon

Jefferson’s has set sail yet again. The award-winning bourbon brand known for aging its liquids at sea is readying a special release of whiskey shaped by the hot and humid climes of Southeast Asia. And it’s a scorcher. Here’s everything you need to know about Jefferson’s Tropics Aged in Humidity.

The journey begins back in July 2019, when founder Trey Zoeller sent 720 barrels worth of his fully mature Kentucky straight bourbon to Singapore. Along the way, the liquid sloshed around atop the open ocean, accumulating added wood-sugar notes from inside the barrel, and a slight brininess from the sea air outside the oak. 

Once the shipping containers arrived on the opposite end of the world, they were aged for an additional 18 months in a non-temperature-controlled warehouse. We’re talking jungle-aged bourbon here, folks. That’s a first.

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The bourbon eventually made its way back to Kentucky in March 2023, where Zoeller blended the best of what hadn’t already been lost to evaporation (aka those thirsty angels—or sailors, as the case may be). 

He proofed it down with the bluegrass state’s legendary limestone-filtered water to come away with this 52 percent ABV whiskey that hits shelves in September. It noses almost like a funky Jamaican rum, with hints of over-ripened fruit to consider. The first sip suggests more of the same; it floats across the palate in waves of molasses and fades into the horizon with a subtle nod to saltwater taffy.

These atypical tasting notes are not by chance, mind you. 

“To me, terroir for whiskey is not where the grains are grown but rather where the whiskey ages,” Zoeller contends. He’s making a compelling argument in his latest voyage, which comes more than a decade after the first batch of Jefferson’s Ocean washed up on shore.

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“Tropics is really the culmination of everything that we’ve been working towards at Jefferson’s, because we’re pushing the maturation process,” the whiskey maker tells Men’s Journal. “I found the barrels that matured in the hot, humid environment really extracted all the great elements from the oak. I also looked at the success of the Taiwanese single malt, Kavalan. 

The brand was winning awards with very young whisky and the reason was because it aged in that hot, humid environment. And so, Singapore, being 85 miles from the equator, was an obvious choice.

For those who think ocean aging is some sort of glorified gimmick, you really out to taste this new $99 release side by side against Jefferson’s flagship bourbon. The original is bottled at a lower ABV of 40 percent, but it’s still built from exactly the same ingredients. 

Proof down a sample pour of Tropics and you’ll still suss out a whiskey that exerts way more barrel notes than its untraveled counterpart. “This bourbon underwent a metamorphic change, and it’s fucking delicious,” exclaims Zoeller. 

It’s only fitting that something sculpted by the sea ends up giving you the mouth of a sailor.

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