Jameson Irish Whiskey, Jameson Black Barrel Cask Strength and Jameson 18 year old

I've decided to re-tread old ground for this review. It's been nearly 8 years since I first reviewed Jameson, in fact it was only the third review for my fledgling whiskey ramblings. Who knew I'd still be spewing my opinions even after all that time, I imagine plenty wish I would cease and desist, but I think you all need a little cantankerousness in your lives so I'll plough on.

Many things have changed on the Irish whiskey scene in these last 7 to 8 years. We've went from a handful of operational distilleries in Ireland to now having 50. Plenty of new brands have popped up eager to make the most of the ground swell of interest in the Irish whiskey renaissance. That means that the old guard of brands such as Jameson and Bushmills now face a considerable amount of competition, which is why I thought I'd revisit the biggest selling gateway Irish whiskey.

Turning back the clock once more, I'm also looking at the Black Barrel Cask Strength. I originally reviewed that for Malt back in 2020 before 'The Parting' took place and I reposted the review on here in 2022. Interestingly for me this is one of the consistently most viewed articles on the site. So if you need to find out what makes Black Barrel stand out from the rest of the range go and take a gander at the piece here.  

I bought the bottle on review today from Midleton after a distillery visit in May 2022 when the world was finally opening up again and I figured why not compare it to the bottle I bought in 2018. It was still priced at €100. These bottles are only available at Midleton and the Bow St visitor centre as a 'bottle your own' experience and now cost €120 per bottle.

As a bonus I'm also throwing in my thoughts on the Jameson 18 year old. This is a bottle prior to the recent re-branding and prior to the recent uplift in abv. 

The 18 year old is a blend of grain and pot still whiskies that is pot still dominant. The grain component is matured exclusively in ex-bourbon barrels, a significant portion of this is from 2nd fill barrels to prevent the bourbon notes becoming too dominant. The pot still component is a mix of ex-oloroso butts and ex-bourbon barrels. The sherry is used sparingly to give balance & complexity rather than fruit sherry influence. On or approaching their 18th birthday the vatting is created and moved to 1st fill bourbon for a minimum finish of 6 months before being bottled at 40% abv originally, now it's 46% abv.

The bottle cost me €70 from Portugal but is now around £170/€220 a bottle in it's new iteration.

Jameson Irish Whiskey 40% abv

Nose: Youthful, floral grain spirit is very noticeable. Then we get pear drops, foam banana sweets, a mix of lemon and orange slices, caramel, mild oak and hints of baking spices.

Palate: The mouthfeel is fairly thin. Again that young grain spirit announces itself on arrival with a floral, perfumy tone. Then it's vanilla, caramel, pear and mild white pepper heat.

Finish: Short with oak, caramel and that floral grain note.

Score: 4 out of 10

Jameson Black Barrel Cask Strength Cask 388264, BTL 154, 60%, 22.05.22

Nose: Luscious caramel, vanilla and crème brûlée. Soft and slightly floral grain mixed with pot still spice. No harsh alcohol notes. Cinnamon, nutmeg, orange peel, cocoa powder and some cask char. Candied pineapple. Water brings out marzipan and Brazil nut. Also a leathery note. 

Palate: Very approachable for 60% and a great mouthfeel, like the nose there are no harsh alcohol notes here. Lots of sweetness upfront. Dried pineapple and mango, vanilla cream, honeyed grains. There is some woody spice mid palate along with clove and a little chilli heat. That cask char is again apparent. Water brings out more sweetness….banana sundae covered in caramel sauce.

Finish: Medium length with dried tropical fruit sweetness, clove rock spice and charred oak.

Score: 7 out of 10

Jameson 18 year old 40% abv

Nose: A sweet and woody nose. Toffee, crisp red apples, vanilla, sweet sherry. Milk chocolate and marzipan. Apricots, leather and toasted oak.

Palate: Creamy butterscotch, apple tart with vanilla cream, flambéed banana, marzipan, peach, lemon peel and light dustings of ginger and nutmeg. A little leather rounds things off.

Finish: Short to medium in length with oak, caramel and warming spices.

Score: 5 out of 10

Overall: Currently Jameson is on available for around £20 in most places here in Northern Ireland and for the money there is little to argue with. Sure it isn't going to blow your mind with complexity but that's not it's point. It's point is to be an easy sipper or a mixer and it does that pretty well. I mean it's why I regularly buy it even to this day alongside Black Bush. You don't always need to be drinking single malts or single pot stills, sometimes you just want something simple and effective.

The Black Barrel Cask Strength continues to be a good experience. I took my bottle over to Florida to share with friends and it didn't last long. I think especially for bourbon drinkers this is an expression of Jameson that would appeal and makes a nice memento from a trip to Midleton or Bow Street.

The Jameson 18 year old was a nice enough dram but lacked presence. I think the lower abv really did hinder it. I haven't had it in it's current expression at 46% abv but I can only think it will have benefitted from that. What it won't have benefitted from is the current pricing which is way too rich for me to be interested in buying it.

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