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Jameson Special Reserve 12 Year Old Blended Irish Whiskey (700ml)
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- ABV 40%
If Scotch and Irish whiskies are tasted side by side, the impression the Irish usually gives is of being lighter and smoother and perhaps sweeter too. The Irish have played up this 'lightness' in view of the current worldwide trend towards marketing lighter flavoured spirits. It’s a strategy that’s paid off with big brands like Jameson making huge inroads into the US market over the last decade.
While the production of Irish Whiskey is broadly similar to that of Scotch, Irish whiskey has one unique incarnation - the 'Pure Pot Still' category, which is made from malted and unmalted barley. Otherwise, the typical flavour of Irish Whiskey (i.e.- the blends which are 90% of the market) can be attributed to several factors. For this latter category, the barley is not dried over peat fires, as the Scots often do, rather it’s air dried in sealed ovens, so preserving only the pure grain flavours. The whiskies won’t have the distinctive smoky aroma of many Scotch whiskies, though some Irish have started to produced heavily peated styles.
More importantly, the wash for Irish whiskey is nearly always triple distilled, taking the ‘heart’ out of the ‘heart cut’ so to speak (and sometimes quintuply distilled); which though it produces a raw whiskey that is higher in alcohol, the spirit has less of the congeners or flavouring elements, so the whiskey seems lighter to the palate. Almost all other world whiskies are distilled only once or twice.
Some Irish Distillers run both pot and continuous stills, and this is another contributor to the aroma and flavour difference between the various Irish whiskey brands. Midleton distillery, in Cork, where Jameson’s is produced have a bewildering range of stills making the plant capable of turning out a variety of styles. The amount of pot still whiskey used determines whether the blend will be heavier, or lighter. The more pot still whiskey in the blend, the fuller and deeper it will be. Then of course, there’s the length of time the whiskey is left to mature. The longer it stays on oak, the smoother and rounder will be the blend. And finally, there’s the type of cask used. Distillers avoid using new oak casks because they believe the wood imparts a ‘roughness’ to the whiskey. Instead, many distillers select used barrels that once held the contents of another type of liquor, such as Bourbon or Rum. For some blends the whiskey is matured in Sherry casks. In this case, it’s a combination of both seasoned American and Sherry oak casks.
Jameson Special Reserve isn’t like your entry level Jameson. There’s a positive pot still contribution that adds weight and texture while the longer time in barrel has upped the complexity. No question, this is not one of the world’s most unforgettable whiskies, but it’s not priced as one either. Would we recommend it to a friend? Definitely, especially when the deal is this good. With a few friends around, the problem is drinking this sanely and in moderation.
Tasting note: Brilliant gold appearance. After an initial waft of vanilla wafer and caramel, a subtle stewed pear note emerges followed by a hint of peppermint that adds freshness. A typically light, soft Irish entry builds into a medium bodied, semi sweet, mocha and vanilla flavour profile with good concentration; a gentle peppery burst contributes depth. Silky, very gently warming mouthfeel. Finishes medium dry, fresh and clean with fine dusty tannins and a subtle though persistent mocha / vanilla / caramel aftertaste. Substantial, quality Irish. 40% Alc./Vol.
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