The folks over at Jameson have been doing some experimenting with cask finishing, especially in previously used beer casks. We previously reviewed their Stout Edition and liked it well enough, but they also make a version that’s similarly finished in previously used IPA barrels. Now, I absolutely hate everything about an IPA… but even I have to admit that this combination works.
The Bow Street Distillery in Dublin, Ireland was established in 1780 by the Stein family. They started producing their version of a distilled whiskey and by 1786 they were cranking out about 30,000 gallons a year. It was at this point when Scottish businessman John Jameson joined as manager of the business. Within fifteen years of his joining, the distillery would be the second largest producer of distilled spirits in Ireland and turning out one million barrels per year.
A few years later, in 1805, John Jameson bought out the Stein family and became the sole proprietor of the distillery. This started an ambitious expansion of the facility that would eventually extend to a full five acres of land by 1886 and included all the necessary facilities to produce whiskey including an on-site barrel manufacturer.
Following some hard times during the American prohibition and two world wars, Jameson merged with two other longtime competitors to create the Irish Distiller’s Group conglomerate in an attempt to reduce production costs by combining their efforts. Jameson closed their original distillery in 1976 and moved to a combined facility in Middleton. French company Pernod Ricard later purchased the Irish Distiller’s Group in 1988, and continue to own the Middleton distillery and produce Jameson Irish whiskey from there to this day.
The original Bow Street distillery was renovated in 2016 and now serves as a tourist attraction designed to increase interest in Irish whiskey tastings.
- Learn More: What Is Irish Whiskey?
This caskmates edition Jameson uses their standard whiskey, but with a bit of a twist.
The standard Jameson whiskey starts with a blend of malted and un-malted Irish barley that is sourced from within fifty miles of the distillery. The grains are dried using natural gas kilns (unlike the peat fired kilns used in Scotland), fermented, and then distilled three times in batches within their small pot stills.
From there, the spirit is combined with some generic mass produced neutral grain spirits (hence the “blended whiskey” title) that may or may not be produced by the same company. The combination is then added to American produced oak barrels (no longer their own locally manufactured variety) and aged for a minimum of three years as per Irish law.
For their Caskmates IPA edition, Jameson re-uses oak barrels that have previously been used to make IPA style beer to age some of their newly made Irish whiskey. IPA or India Pale Ale is a style of beer that uses more hoppes in the production process than normal, which results in a bitter but invigorating flavor. Exactly how long the whiskey sits in those barrels is undisclosed, but that’s the last stop in the journey to the bottle.
Jameson sends their Irish whiskey out in rather standard shaped glass bottles, with the minor change of being green tinted instead of clear or brown (perhaps a nod to the Emerald Isle). This particular bottle is wrapped in a darker green background label (as opposed to the bright yellowed version on the standard edition) that bears the name and arms of Jameson. Also for this edition, the bottle has swapped their normal red screw-on cap for a green one.
I appreciate that this isn’t a plastic screw top, but it might as well have been. The bottle is about on the same level as Jack Daniel’s in terms of quality and construction.
I absolutely smell the IPA in here. There’s a unique hoppy note that’s a hallmark of a good IPA, and I’m getting that same crisp note here as well in the aroma. It’s in the background though — up front is the usual Jameson Irish sweetness. It’s like a slice of brown bread with some honey drizzled over it, a bit of butter, some vanilla, and then the hoppy IPA aspect adds this orange citrus on top that makes for a complex and interesting profile.
Pretty much everything translates into the flavor profile, just in different proportions. The buttered brown bread is the first thing to come through, laying down a smooth and delicious base layer for everything else to come, but it is by no means the predominant flavor. Right after it, the orange citrus and touch of bitterness arrives courtesy of the IPA finishing treatment, which absolutely dominates the flavor profile. And while the orange citrus lingers, the bitterness doesn’t last very long. At the end, it’s pretty much just this delicious mix of grain flavor from the barley, some butter and honey, and a bit of orange citrus that blends quite nicely.
Usually, when you add a little bit of ice, the more delicate flavors drop out of the flavor profile. And when it comes to a cask-finished whiskey, that usually means that the cask-finished flavors are the ones that vanish. But here, I think the only thing that really changes is that we ditch the bitterness out of the IPA, leaving behind that orange flavor.
It’s honestly like sipping a sweeter mid-century take on an old fashioned cocktail. Very sweet, very fruity, with that orange citrus component taking center stage. The only difference is that there’s not as much of the caramel or black pepper spice that you’d see from a bourbon or a rye, making this is a smoother sip.
I really don’t like an IPA. I do everything in my power to avoid it. But even I have to admit that the IPA casks here are imparting the perfect flavors to balance and complementing the whiskey.
Between this and the Stout Edition that we’ve reviewed earlier, I prefer this IPA version. But that may be a matter of personal preference — if you’re looking for a bright citrus take on an Irish whiskey, this is for you. If you prefer a darker, richer version, opt for the stout.
|Jameson Caskmates IPA Edition Blended Irish Whiskey
Classification: Blended Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $26.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 4/5
The best use of an IPA I have ever seen. A sweet, orange-forward Irish whiskey.