To say Bourbon runs in Trey Zoeller’s blood is something of an understatement. His father, Chet, is one of the country’s foremost Bourbon scholars and his great-great-great grandmother, Martha McLain, was a moonshiner.
“Arrest records show she was making and selling the stuff to support six kids,” Zoeller says with a chuckle. “We traced the Bourbon roots back eight generations.”
And while Zoeller logged hours bartending in New Orleans and Vail in the ’80s and ’90s, he feels most at home combing through barrels of Bourbon in Kentucky, Jefferson’s base.
Unlike other distillers, Zoeller searches out barrels of aged Bourbons that other companies often overlook. “I buy esoteric lots that are too small or too niche for other distillers,” he says, and combines them to create three expressions of small-batch Bourbon that are blends of new and aged whiskies.
In August, Zoeller released Jefferson’s Rye, a 10-year-old, 100% rye bottling. “Rye is the most expensive ingredient of all your grains,” he says, “but it gives you that explosion of spice up front and thick mouthfeel.”
So, should one drink Bourbon neat or on the rocks? “I say, any way you like it. You get more flavor neat. But it can be too much alcohol for some people,” Zoeller says. When Bourbon is used in cocktails, he takes a classic approach.
“Sazeracs, Old-Fashioneds and Manhattans have been around a long time for a reason,” Zoeller says. “So much can be done with juices these days, but I want to taste the spirit that’s in my cocktail.”
To try Zoeller's Perfect Manhattan cocktail recipe, click here.