Last week, Michelle and I went to Arnold’s Bar and Grill, one of my favorite places in Cincinnati for spaghetti and meatballs, for a tasting of Jameson with Gerry Murray, the U.S. East Coast Jameson Ambassador. The atmosphere was overly social with a few great stories from Gerry to keep the tasting moving along.
We learned that all Jameson is triple pot distilled and will age in a combination of barrels that previously contained sherry or bourbon. The percentage of each as well as the age are what lend to the different flavors and colors.
Over the course of our hour long conversation, we tried 4 whiskey samples:
Jameson: 5-7 year old whiskey with 90% from bourbon barrels and 10% from sherry. A very nice toasted oak flavor with hints of orange and vanilla. Both Michelle and I enjoyed this one and surprisingly, it was Michelle’s favorite. The bourbon barrel seemed to impart a lower acidity than the other options and this was a nice smooth flavor similar to the bourbon we have at home. Gerry was coy on letting us know which distillery provided the barrels.
Jameson 12: 12 -15 year old whiskey with 75% coming from bourbon barrels. The tartness was higher on this one providing a slightly longer finish and a more abrupt mouth feel. Smokeless fuel is used to roast the barley which is one way that Irish whiskey differs from most Scotches. Overall, this one had a more present crispness.
Jameson Gold Reserve: 14 – 20 year old whiskey with an added twist. This adds in a small percentage of whiskey aged in virgin American white oak. This adds a creaminess to the initial taste while maintaining very strong honey and vanilla flavors. The end has a little bit of pepper. This was my favorite of the night.
Jameson 18: A flip of percentages from the first one: 75% 18 year old sherry aged and 25% 20 year old bourbon barrel aged. This one had a very heavy grassy flavor along side apricots and toffee. The finish was a bit much for Michelle, but I found it well rounded with the intensity of the rest of the flavors.
A few of the interesting things that I learned were that Michelle likes a whiskey that has been aged primarily in bourbon barrels without smokiness in the roasting of the grain. I think that was one of the reasons she preferred the earlier samples we tried. I enjoyed the whole range and appreciated the differences that were apparent in the different selections. Our current bar has a bottle each of Redbreast and Powers, but Jameson has earned a place as well at any of the levels.
Let me know other thoughts on Jameson or other Irish whiskeys in the comments. Here’s the rather popular “Lost Barrel” commercial for Jameson as well:
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