Jameson is a brand that you see everywhere. Most pubs, bars and restaurants stock the brand, or at least one of the expressions, and is more than usually the first name to be mentioned when talking about Irish whiskey. But it wasn’t all plain sailing.
Irish whiskey covered 80% of the world export market back until the 1900’s when an unfortunate twist of events occurred. The institution of the Irish Free State in the early 20th century caused a fatal trade war with Great Britain, closing down the Irish Distillers’ main market, and then the US Prohibition declaration in 1920 served a nail in the coffin. With no way to export their local trade, the majority of the Irish distilleries closed or merged together, leaving only three distilleries running compared to the abundance of Scottish venues. The New Middleton distillery houses Jameson, a brand that has been alive since 1780 and has fought its way through the Irish hardship and bad luck.
Created by Scotsman John Jameson and with is backing of the family motto ‘Sine Metu’ meaning ‘Without Fear’ (awarded for their bravery in battling pirates on the high seas back in the 1500s), he moved to Dublin in 1879, set up his Bow Street Distillery to make his mark on the whiskey world and created what he thought was the smoothest whiskey around due to using a triple-distilled method instead of the usual double-distilled adopted by the Scots, as well as using a traditional copper pot still.
The introduction of column stills by the Scottish blenders in the mid-19th-century enabled increased production that the Irish, who still using the copper pot stills, could not compete with. There was a legal enquiry in 1908 to deal with the trade definition of whiskey, which the Scottish producers won and blends became recognised in law as whiskey. The Irish in general, and Jameson in particular, continued with the traditional pot still production process for many years and to this day much of Jameson remains Pure Pot.
The production has now moved to the Midleton distillery and as of 1988 is owned by Pernod Ricard. The Bow Street site is currently a museum and visitors centre. Jameson is made following the original 1780 recipe that uses a mixture of malted and unmalted or “green” Irish barley, all sourced from within a fifty mile radius around the distillery in Cork. The barley is dried in a closed kiln fired by natural gas to preserve its flavour. It is then distilled three times in copper pot stills and matured in ex bourbon and sherry casks for at least seven years.
So how does Jameson fair? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes on my experiences so far –
Jameson Original – 40%
Matured for at least seven years. Soft hints of vanilla on the nose with a light, smooth aroma boding well for the long offering on the palate. Smoother offering of grain and honey with a slight dryness near the end.
Jameson Select Reserve – 43%
Produced using a small batch of grain collected once a week per year from a field that is never touched thereafter. Around 10 years matured. Slightly sharp nose at the beginning but softens out with a wisp of smoke. Sweet offering on the palate with very smooth texture of toffee and lingering smoke.
Jameson Gold Reserve – 40%
Matured in original fresh oak barrels, then ex bourbon barrels and finished in ex sherry casks. Rich malt on the nose with almond aromas dancing nicely. Very smooth when it hits the palate with flavours of honey and oak mixing well. A long finish of malt.
Jameson 18yr – 40%
Bold with lots of flavours of honey, cherry, caramel and dark fruits mixing well on the nose. They carry onto the palate and change slowly as you breath in. A lengthy finish which is incredibly smooth.
Jameson 2007 Rarest Vintage Reserve – 46%
Blended with some of the oldest and rarest whiskeys from Jameson’s maturing stock – one of which was a pot-still whiskey matured in a port pipe.
Light on the nose with a slight spice and hints of vanilla and butter. The palate lingers with fudge and buttery notes creating a long, slightly dry finish.
Yellow Spot 12yr – 46%
Very smooth on the nose with a rich malt aroma dominating, but notes of sweetness following. The palate experiences a slight spice that warmly tingles. Honey, chocolate and red fruit blend over the longevity.
Green Spot – 40%
A nose of damp raisin and hints of marzipan, with an ending of dry wood. A rich sharpness on the palate with a full bodied flavour of thick green fruit that produced a fresh, long finish.
The Whiskey Makers Series:
Jameson The Distiller’s Safe – 40%
The Distiller’s Safe celebrates the role of Jameson’s Head Distiller, Brian Nation, and is a true showcase of the original copper pot still distillate.
Barley notes on the nose, with sweetened green pepper and a floral edge.Lively on the palate, with cinnamon and nuts coming through. Heated, long finish with plenty of vibrant spice.
Jameson The Cooper’s Croze – 40%
Matured in virgin American oak barrels, seasoned bourbon barrels and Iberian sherry casks, and named after Jameson’s Head Cooper, Ger Buckley and his prized possession – a croze – passed down through his family. A tool used to make the groove where the head of the cask is positioned!
Subtle notes of ripe red fruits, with hints of the deep sherry coming through slowly. Light on the palate, with some vanilla and hazelnut present. A bolder finish.
Jameson The Blender’s Dog – 40%
The Blender’s Dog celebrates the role of Jameson Head Blender, Billy Leighton; a tribute to the fine art of blending.
Light, fresh fruit pulp, bringing pineapple and kiwi to the nose. Dry spices dominate the palate, releasing a rich butterscotch and charred cherry oak to the finish.
Jameson Black Barrel Select Reserve – 40%
A good blend of soft caramel and toffee aromas on the nose, with both carrying on to the palate. The caramel becomes a little salted, with pepper flavours mixing with spice to create a lingering finish.
Jameson Crested – 40%
Launched globally in March 2016, is a triple-distilled Irish Whiskey that celebrates the first drops of whiskey to be bottled, sealed and labelled at the Bow Street Distillery in Dublin, marking the moment in time (1963) when Jameson took full control of the whiskey making process, from grain to glass. Jameson Crested brings together rich pot still Irish Whiskey and grain whiskey, matured in a high proportion of sherry casks, as well as bourbon barrels.
Sherry notes are visible on the nose, with it carrying on smoothly to the palate. Dry oak is present, with hints of spice, cocoa nib and red fruit.
Jameson Signature Reserve – 40%
Jameson Signature is a triple-distilled Irish Whiskey that bears the signature of John Jameson, a mark of quality that has appeared since the early days of the Bow Street Distillery, when all casks were signed off by John Jameson.
Subtle honey notes on the nose, with hints of leather, nuts and dried raisin. Heather dominates the palate to begin, but moves over to a honey coating, with plenty of dried red fruits and currants on the long finish.
The Deconstructed Series:
The Deconstructed Series is a range of super-premium Irish Whiskeys that explores the key flavour notes of the original Jameson Irish Whiskey.
Jameson Bold – 40%
Influenced by pot still whiskey. Rich, creamy notes on the nose with soft fruits. Sweet on the palate, with notes of baked apple pie and soft spices on the long, bold finish.
Jameson Lively – 40%
Influenced by grain whiskey. Floral citrus notes on the nose, followed by light, thin flavours of dry citrus, chilli and black pepper on the palate. Intense spiced finish.
Jameson Round – 40%
Influenced by the wood contribution. Soft red fruit on the nose, with hints of fudge coming though. An oily butter note on the palate, with vanilla and cherry spices to finish.
A fantastic range of one of Ireland’s most beloved brands. Something for everyone to enjoy once taken out of your drinks cabinet, and with the new Whiskey Master series, it’s time to geek out and try a couple of different expressions in a row!
Take a look at my trip to Dublin with Jameson over St Patrick’s Day here.
© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.