Jameson is owned by Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard and is produced at the Midleton distillery in Co. Cork. This was built in 1975 to replace the old Bow Street distillery in Dublin, which is now home to the brand's visitor centre. This original distillery was built by founder John Jameson in 1780. Midleton makes both single grain and single pot still whiskeys with a combined capacity of 64 million litres per year. These go towards Jameson, which is the best selling Irish whiskey in the world, and other Irish Distillers brands such as Green Spot, Paddy and Redbreast.
This whiskey is a limited edition higher strength version of the popular Black Barrel expression from Jameson. The Jameson Black Barrel Proof is bottled at 50% ABV (100 Proof in old money) and has been created to show extra depth and richness. The whiskey is a combination of triple distilled pot still and grain whiskeys, and these have been matured in three types of cask - American oak, ex-sherry and double-charred ex-bourbon barrels. It is also non chill-filtered. The Jameson Black Barrel Proof will only be available in selected retailers in Ireland, including at Dublin airport, and will cost €60 a bottle. However, the exact number of bottles in the limited release has not been revealed.
Our tasting notes
The colour is a vibrant gold and the nose is sweet and highly fragrant. Aromas of honey, golden syrup and robust cereals leap from the glass and are quickly joined by fresh green apple and vanilla custard. Underneath are further aromas of warming baking spice and ginger cake, along with hints of dried tropical fruits and freshly sawn oak.
On the palate this whiskey is expressive and bold from the beginning. Notes of juicy sultana and crisp green apple mix superbly with malty cereals and golden syrup (the combination is reminiscent of a good oat cookie). Then the dried tropical fruits come through - think of pineapple, mango and apricot especially. This develops further with some dried pear and white chocolate. There are also plenty of vanilla notes.
Then come the warming spices and these evolve to good effect. They threaten to dominate but the balance is cleverly maintained. Woody spices such as cinnamon, cassia bark and toasted oak mingle with earthier notes including ginger (this is more like gingerbread than fresh ginger) and cocoa powder. There is also a hint of mocha in the background.
The finish sees the sweetness return to full effect with the tropical fruit characteristics leading the way. Vanilla patisserie and golden syrup notes are also evident, before the malty cereal and warming spiced elements take hold for one last time. Drying oak rounds things off.
What's the verdict?
This is a lovely expression of Jameson. It is a while since we sampled the regular Black Barrel but this limited expression has incredible depth and complexity with the aromas and flavours exaggerated by the higher ABV strength. The mix of sweet, tropical and spiced notes is delightful and bold. Well worth a try if you are a Jameson fan and in Ireland. Bad luck if you are not, but maybe your local Irish bar may snag a bottle somehow.