In the world of wine, beer, and spirits, there are two things that Dublin is primarily known for: Jameson Irish Whisky and dark beer. (Specifically a dark beer produced by a competing spirits company which we won’t name, but you can probably guess). Which makes a collaboration between Jameson and a local craft stout beer distillery a no brainer, and the Jameson Caskmates Stout edition is the result.
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, were cranking out about 30,000 gallons a year when Scottish businessman John Jameson joined as manager of the business. Within fifteen years, 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 with the American prohibition and two world wars reducing the demand for their product, Jameson merged with their long time rivals 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.
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 Stout edition, Jameson partnered with the Franciscan Well brewery in Cork to produce a pair of products blending their two respective flavors — Jameson sent them a couple used whiskey barrels to produce a whiskey aged stout, and in return Jameson got a hold of some of their previously used stout beer barrels to use to age their whiskey. 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 black 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 black 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.
On the regular Jameson product, I get a significant amount of sweetness and bright aromas coming off the glass. But in this case, there’s something darker and richer going on. Starting the color of liquid alone, it’s a clearly darker shade of amber than usual — almost bordering on a bourbon. Coming off the glass, I can smell not only the honey and vanilla, but also some of the bitter hops from the beer coming through and adding a bit of spicy depth.
That rich complexity carries over in the taste, where it’s like I just had a gulp of a dark beer and then took a shot of Jameson. There’s the rich dark chocolatey tones of the stout beer and some pleasant malty flavors coming into the mix, and interacting quite well actually with the bright cheerfulness of the Jameson whiskey. It’s just the right balance to make for a deliciously drinkable spirit all by its own.
Usually, with a bit of ice, the more delicate flavors tend to drop out of the race. And in those instances where the barrel finishing process has done the bulk of the work imparting flavors into the spirit, those barrel notes are usually the ones that get the axe.
But not here.
In this case, the stout beer flavors remained strong and present despite the addition of a bit of ice and water. They still make themselves easily known, but there’s a little more of a bite on that dark chocolate flavor than before. It could use a bit of sweetening up if I’m honest.
This is a cool little experiment, and I think it ended well. Barrel finishing adds some interesting flavors sometimes and, in this case, I think it really worked. The stout casks added some much needed depth and richness to an otherwise sweeter and more cheerful spirit, and the end result is pretty darn good. Well worth the money, at least.
|Jameson Caskmates Stout Edition Blended Irish Whiskey|
Produced By: JamesonOwned By: Pernod Ricard
Production Location: Ireland
Classification: Blended Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 59.8% ABV
Price: $26.99 / 750 ml
Overall Rating: 3/5
It would take a stout outlook on life to dislike this whiskey.