Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Jameson Irish Whiskey Review:

"A man who stole my whiskey used the defense that no one could
 resist a bottle of Jameson. I had no choice but to testify on his behalf." 
- Jameson whiskey ad, found on a NYC Subway

By the 1800s Jameson was the most popular spirit beverage in the world next to Rum. Today it is still the most popular Irish whiskey in the world. Produced at Middleton distillery, one of the four distilleries in Ireland, over 14 million liters of this stuff is produced every year.  Yes, I said four distilleries. For the supposed birthplace of whiskey it is a sad story. At the beginning of the 20th century there were over 60, but as the story is for much of the spirits world, prohibition in the US and the temperance movement, along with the war of independence in Ireland, put the “kibosh,” as Ralfy says, on most of the distilleries in Ireland. Fortunately things are turning around in the world of whiskey in general – Killbeggan, the forth distillery in Ireland, only just reopened in 2007.

Ironically Jameson was founded by a Scotsman and the one bar which consumes the largest portion of the stuff is some Irish pub in Minneapolis (over 22 bottles a day in 2008!) – though I think the Buena Vista Caf√© in San Francisco also comes close. Anyway, I have heard from other seasoned reviewers that 6-8 years ago Jameson was lacking when it came to expressing a true pot still taste. Since then I’ve heard it’s improved. I can’t really judge it on the past, but to give away the punch line, I do agree that this is much better than I would have expected, being that it is generally used for mixing with Coka-Cola. Whether it expresses a true pot still taste is highly debatable.

Today only the museum remains in Dublin where the old Jameson Distillery used to sit on Bow Street. There are no existing documentary records to prove it, but it is generally believed that John Jameson founded it right around 1780. John, being already part of the Haig Whiskey dynasty, was well positioned to start his venture. In fact his son married the daughter of Robert Stein, the man who invented continuous distillation. By 1902 the company became public and due to the family’s desire for a quality product, they began to mature their whiskey earlier than was the usual tradition. At the time whiskey was generally stored for short periods in the cask and drank fairly young (Maybe not quite unlike the practices of many micro-distilleries today?). Also to note, Jameson is known as one of the pioneers of aging products in sherry casks. So coming to the modern day, in 1966 Jameson, along with Powers and Cork Distillery, came together to form IDG (Pernod Ricard), thus moving production to its current home in Middleton in 1975. So enough history: how 'bout the whiskey?  

Jameson Irish Whiskey Review:
Price: Around $24.99 (give or take) for a 750ml bottle.

Packaging/Labeling: Hasn’t changed much – mass produced but ascetically it works fine.

Alcoholic Content: 80 Proof, 40% ABV. 

Color: Dark caramel – e150e. 

Nose: Light malt and fruity arrival. Green notes with dried rosemary leaves. Baked bread and oak. The nose is actually nicer/more pleasant than I would have expected but it does not have much going on – and I am not speaking of the fact that it is triple distilled, I take that into consideration.

Tasting: Light malt with much more caramel on the front and mid palette. Turns green with a bit of grainy sweetness. A drop of water does help round things out, yet it doesn’t wow the senses.

Conclusion: This is not bad, as some malt snobs would suggest, but it isn’t something I would consider a great purchase unless you're wanting to drink half the bottle during a wild evening or mixing it with soda – mixing this does work well. Will this ever be a basic staple or would it be what I think of as my heart grows warm and fuzzy while I read Oscar Wilde? No. For a true example of triple-distilled Irish whiskey I will suggest Redbreast 12 or Bushmills Black Bush – you can never go wrong with either.


  1. Jameson standard bottling is a pretty weak effort. The 12 year old is much better, but as it should be given much longer aging.

    For a no-age-statement economy Irish whiskey, I reach for Bushmills White label. Pleasant, cheap with no graininess.

    1. Yeah, a weak effort is what I would call it. As I said, I am surprised it is actually as good as it is, but than again Bushmills White Label, as an economy brand, is much better. Which just shows it could be better than it is.

  2. I also think the Redbreast 12 is much better; I paid a higher price for it, but it was much more flavourful and was nicely blended.

  3. Well, yes it is! It is in my opinion one of the best Irish whiskies out there. No comparison to Jameson - they're just in different leagues.