Without doubt, one of the most, if not ‘the most’ exciting and progressive categories in the whisk(e)y world over the last seven years, and indeed the one that is now experiencing the most growth, is that of all things Irish! In fact back in 2011, when we reviewed the then newly released Redbreast 12 Year Old Cask Strength (our whisk(e)y of the year) and a number of other releases, including some stunners from the Cooley Distillery, we confidently predicted that it was the start of an Irish Whiskey Renaissance - and how right we were!
Moving forward to 2018, there’s now an ever-growing, great gaggle of new kids on the Irish whiskey distillery block, who are driving the category further forward. But those big established heritage brands, have well and truly kicked away any lingering cobwebs of complacency and are now giving the newbies a good run for their money, with regards to innovation and the targeting of a new younger generation of whisk(e)y consumer.
On the big heritage brand front, Irish Distillers are without doubt leading the way. Not only are they doing some truly exciting and innovative things at the Midleton distillery, including last year’s launch of their new Method and Madness range, but they’ve also managed to evolve and grow the most iconic of all Irish whiskey brands, Jameson!
Still and for very good reason, Jameson is the world’s best-selling Irish whiskey by a mile. After a busy couple of years, restructuring their portfolio, redeveloping their brand home in Dublin and doing some sterling work in making the whisk(e)y category as a whole more millennial friendly, they’ve just announced the launch of something special; an 18 Year Old Cask Strength expression, which we’ve recently had the pleasure of pouring and exploring.
The nose: Kicks off with an affluently alluring, richly rewarding, wondrous wave of teasing toffee, vivacious vanilla and seductive spice. Then it continues to seduce the senses with aromas of warm strawberry jam tarts, Jamaica ginger cake, dark chocolate covered coffee beans, smoked walnuts and oodles of opulent oak.
Sherry soaked sultanas, slightly overripened mango and slices of bread pudding and treacle tart make for the next set of nasal niceties, along with an infusion of sun bleached leather, grounds of white pepper, damp grass and a freshly polished oak table.
The palate: Kicks off with a tenacious taste of toffee, salted caramel and an abundance of wood and baking spices. Followed by a confident kiss of toasted oak, bourbon soaked cherries, sugared almonds, clove infused honey and another slice of that bread pudding.
Sheets of ready rolled cake icing, grilled peaches, dried apricots, mixed candied peel and wood varnish fumes (in the best possible way) make for the next plethora of palatable pleasures, before you're then left with a sassily sweet and spiced finish, which is fabulously full and feisty.
Having always been a huge fan of the Jameson range, and indeed a fan of their standard (though there’s nothing standard about it) 18 Year Old bottling, I have to say that this is one epic, cranked up to 11, cask strength cracker!
Could this be our dram of the year? We’ll nearly 6 months into 2018, it’s certainly lining itself up to be our dram of the half year!