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:
Hello all. This is Kevin is filling in for Michelle who is in Las Vegas this week for CES.
Back in September, Michelle and I were invited (as a member of the Friends of Laphroaig) to a preview of the distillery live tasting that happened down in Loretto, KY at the Beautiful Maker’s Mark distillery. John Campbell (Distillery Manager from Laphroaig), Kevin Smith (Master Distiller of Maker’s Mark), and Simon Brooking (Master Ambassador for Laphroaig) were all there to help answer questions. Laphroaig is located on the isle of Islay (pronounced eye-luh) and is part of the Beam Global family. John also taught everyone a trick to remember the spelling by using Laphr-o-aig, with the last part standing for Oh Ain’t It Great.
The reason for the visit to Loretto is Laphroaig uses old Maker’s barrels for aging their scotches. Since, by rule, bourbon must be aged in a new charred oak barrel, bourbon distillers look for places to send the used barrels. As John mentioned, the Scotch have no problems putting those barrels to use for a few more decades. Maker’s also uses char level 3 (on a scale of 1-4) and air dried to remove the tannins that make red wines great, but cause difficulty in the creation of Maker’s Mark.
I’ve made no secret that my two favorite online programs are Marker’s Mark Ambassadors and the Friends of Laphroaig. Both offer great opportunities for their members and this was a great example of that. The Friends sent out an email inviting anyone close to the Louisville area out for a night with the Scots the day before the Distillery Live presentation was to be recorded.
We were met by John and Simon in Louisville at The Pub for appetizers and unsurprisingly a bottle of Laphroaig 10 and Laphroaig 18 year old scotches. Michelle, who is not a Scotch drinker, chose a bourbon selection from the bar instead. After a drink, we were off on a chartered bus (somehow a bottle of Makers and a bottle or 10 year Laphroaig ended up joining us as well) down to the distillery for dinner bites (fantastic bourbon BBQ meatballs, finger sandwiches and chocolate) and a few more drinks.
Then, after a quick tour of Maker’s Mark and a group signing of a barrel headed to Scotland, the main event started. John walked us through a very similar tasting to what can be seem on the final video as they adjusted for time and ran through the presentation with all the equipment to make it smooth the next day.
We were able to taste:
Laphroaig White Dog (63.6% Alcohol by volume (AbV) – This was a treat for me as trying an unaged Scotch from Islay as the sweetness from the barrel is absent and the flavor of the peat smoke and iodine of the water come through. Michelle was not a fan, but I was impressed as an excercise and I’m not sure if I could finish a full pour.
Laphroaig 10 year old (63.5% AbV) – This is the #1 selling Islay single malt and was what I have tried in the past. The time in the barrel gives this a sweeter flavor, but there still is a large amount of iodine, band-aid-ish, medicinal aromas from the moss that is part of the bog. Plenty of smoke on the finish to help cut through the early bitterness and you have a very well made item.
Laphroaig 18 year old (38% AbV) – Time has started to help add a sweetness that Michelle started to enjoy. There is still a hasrh burn on the finish, but the wood has added a lot of citrus notes as water is added. An interesting point, for anyone who has read this far, is that distillers will add almost 50% water into the scotch or bourbon before tasting in order to lower the alcohol and detect any flaws that exist. Overall this is an non-chill filtered whiskey with a great nose and balanced taste.
Laphroaig 25 year old (50.9% AbV) – This bottle runs about $275 to $300 and is bottled at cask strength. This one is an absolute beauty. It is made up of a mix of Laphroaig aged in the Maker’s barrels (about 60%) and Laphroaig aged in Oloroso sherry casks. The color ends up about as bright as Maker’s Mark and the long finish switches to a sweet fruit character from the influence of the Sherry. This one impressed both Michelle and myself.
We also got to taste some Maker’s Mark. We often drink Maker’s at home, but the context of seeing what the barrels did before the Scotch was introduced provided a nice component that was too sweet for the pure Scotch drinkers in the crowd, but I thought it was a very nice choice to have on the table. Aside from the Laphroaig 25-year old, this was Michelle’s favorite.
After we finished the tasting, it was back on the bus for the ride back to Louisville and our car, but somehow another bottle of 25 year old joined us back on the bus. A very enjoyable drive back to our cars ended up a little later than planned, but well worth the lack of sleep that evening.
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