An unplanned and unexpected bonus at the end of a Friday afternoon meeting at my MD’s house. We often stop off for a beer on the way home on Friday evenings – we have a ‘moaning’ chair where we can sit and discuss the week’s ups and downs, plans for business development, family and of course, the weekend ahead.
The MD was working from home this Friday, and we needed to put in a conference call to the US, so I left the office just after lunch, made our plans, the call and then summarised. After the meeting it was time for a quick drink before heading home and a bottle of Jameson was pulled out of the drinks cabinet.
So my first Irish whiskey on my journey, although I’m sure I must have tried this in the past at sometime, although not in the current mindset of trying to unpeel the layers within each new whiskey tasted. (I’m sure Jameson were at one of the boat shows I attended many years ago, handing out samples which would have been used as chasers to the Guinness we normally consumed at these events)
Although Bushmills will claim to be the oldest Irish whiskey, there can be little doubt that Jameson is the most famous and widespread. The company was established in 1780 when John Jameson established the Bow Street Distillery in Dublin.
Jameson was actually Scottish, a lawyer from Alloa who had married Margaret Haig, a sister of the brothers who founded the main Haig firms, and related to the Steins, a Scottish distilling family with interests in Dublin. A Whisk(e)y Dynasty? His family motto and guiding philosophy was "Sine Metu", meaning "Without Fear", which appears today on every bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey.
Originally one of the six main Dublin Whiskeys, distilled at the famous Bow Street distillery Jameson is now distilled at Midleton, an enormous modern distillery in County Cork built by Irish Distillers to streamline the production of its many brands. This brought an end to nearly 200 years of Jameson production in Dublin, but the Old Jameson Distillery in Bow Street is now a visitor's centre although I understand vatting still takes place in Dublin.
The Midleton distillery is home to many other brands beside Jameson, including Green Spot, Paddy, Power's, Redbreast and Tullamore Dew.
Jameson is similar in its adherence to the single distillery principle to the single malt tradition, but Jameson combines malted barley with 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 clean-burning natural gas, and formerly anthracite coal, to preserve its flavour. The most famous component within Jameson is the "Pure Pot Still" distilling tradition.
Legally Irish Whiskey must be matured on the island of Ireland for a minimum of 3 years. Jameson is, however, matured for between 3 and 7 years. Like most Irish whiskey, Jameson is triple distilled for optimum smoothness.
The philosophy is balance, ensuring that no one flavour element overpowers another. The end result is a sweet-tasting whiskey: The balance between just the right amount of malted and un-malted barley to give a natural barley flavour. Balancing the exact proportions of triple distilled Pot Still Whiskeys and then triple distilled Grain Whiskeys to deliver exceptional smoothness. Balance the sweet, nutty flavour from Sherry casks with the toasted wood and vanilla notes from Bourbon casks.
So what did I think ?
I was really surprised by this Jameson. I don’t know quite what I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting this! The levels of complexity from a mass produced signature blend was quite stunning. I’m not sure if it is the mixture of the malted and un-malted barley, the mixture of the Pot Still Whiskey and the Grain Whisky, but I’m liking it.
Colour: Golden amber
Body: Rich, the legs taking an age to return to the glass
Nose : The nose is full and floral with a smooth sweetness. Marmalade and fudge, sherry undertones, peppered with spicy wood and a little cut grass note
Taste: A great balance of spicy, nutty, woody and vanilla notes with hints of sweet sherry and exceptional smoothness.
Finish: Medium-length with spice and honey, Incredibly smooth and mellow
I consulted Jim Murray’s whisky bible the following day, he liked it too, and gave it very high marks, an incredible 95 points putting it on a par with the likes of Argbeg 10 and Glenfiddich’s Snow Phoenix.
In terms of bang for your buck, this has it !
My ‘Brucie bonus’ was I got to take the bottle home to add to my whisky shelf at the end of the day so I can revisit this at least until the bottle is drained.