During BarShow Week, Jameson Irish Whiskey Ambassador and Distiller, Brian Nation, led an intimate tasting event at Low 302 bar in Sydney’s Darlinghurst. Five whiskeys were on taste, each paired with food prepared by Low 302 chef Aliosha Perez in consultation with Ben Davidson of Pernod Ricard.
The Jameson range on taste
There are three points that differentiate Irish whiskey from its Scottish counterpart. Irish whiskey is distilled three times instead of twice. It does not have a smoky flavour since the barley is dried in closed ovens and not over peat smoke. Irish whiskey is always spelled with an “e” while Scotch, Canadian, Japanese and Australian whisky dispense with the “e”.
Jameson cocktails at the bar
The event kicks off with a Jameson Smash at the bar, a cocktail made with Jameson whiskey, raspberries, mint, lime, bitters and cranberry juice. A light, summery and balanced drink, it doesn’t impart much of a whiskey flavour but it makes a good conversation starter to the evening.
Jameson at Low 302
In the lounge area, the tasting session begins with Ben Davidson, Signé Spirits Ambassador, Pernod Ricard Australia, introducing Brian Nation to the audience.
Brian Nation, Jameson Whiskey Distiller and Ambassador
Brian joined the Jameson Distillery in Midleton, Co. Cork, in December 1997 and now bears the title Whiskey Ambassador for Jameson, a coveted role that has him spending most of his time travelling and educating people about Jameson and the heritage that surrounds it.
In his introduction, he explains that Jameson is a single distillery whiskey, which means that everything that goes into making it is produced at the site in Midleton. Jameson is a blend of pot still whiskeys and a grain whiskey, distilled three times, which gives it its signature smoothness. The whiskey is made using a mixture of malted and unmalted barley, the former is unpeated so it has no smokiness while the latter gives it a creamy mouthfeel. The pot still element is what gives Jameson its signature spicy characters.
Tasting in progress
Jameson 12 Year Old Special Reserve
The first whiskey on taste is the Jameson 12 year old Special Reserve, a blend of pot still and grain whiskey, some matured in American oak bourbon barrels, the rest in sherry casks. Aged for a minimum of 12 years, it can also go up to 15 and result in a whiskey with intense flavour, sherry nutty notes and spicy characters. The vanilla and nuttiness comes from being matured in sherry casks.
On the nose, there are new leather aromas, fragrant and floral notes coming from the grain whiskey itself while the pot still gives it a spicy character.
On taste, it is very smooth due to the third distillation process which removes the higher alcohol and brings to the fore the spicy character and extra smoothness, giving a creamy mouth feel from the unmalted barley. It has a long finish that is slightly peppery. Overall, a good whiskey that is versatile to drink neat or with mixers.
Jameson 12 Year Old Special Reserve paired with braised duck and banana pancake
The Jameson 12 year old Special Reserve is paired with braised duck and banana pancake, a meat chosen for being textured and a little oily with a little fattiness that goes well with this whiskey’s richness of flavour.
When cut with water in equal parts to complement a food tasting, it opens up the flavour profile and releases more subtle favours as the alcohol is muted.
Jameson Gold Reserve
The Jameson Gold Reserve is a blend of three whiskeys, pot still and grain whiskey matured in sherry cask and American oak bourbon. The pot still whiskey is matured in virgin oak casks which introduces more vanilla sweetness. It has no age statement since some are as young as 10 years old or as old 21 years old, and due to global age statement laws, the youngest age would have to be shown.
On the nose, it has a vanilla sweetness, more pronounced wood flavours and a spicy character which is not as prominent as the wood and vanilla. There are also slight hints of dried fruit coming through.
On taste, it has a smooth and creamy mouthfeel with a peppery type finish due to the use of virgin oak casks. When water is added, it releases wood notes straight away.
Jameson Gold Reserve paired with Pork belly, mixed beans and cured onion
The Jameson Gold Reserve is paired with pork belly mixed beans and cured onion. Being a sweet meat, pork brings out the vanilla and honey characters and has a creamy texture in the mouth to accentuate some of the flavours in whiskey. The onions give it depth and spice. This is a particularly good pairing with the wood notes of the whiskey complementing the flavour of the pork belly.
Jameson has been enjoying significant growth and Brian explains that the distillery is now at maximum capacity, producing 32 million litres of alcohol per year. To meet growing demand, it needs to double in size in the next 18 months, with 3 additional warehouses built to facilitate additional capacity.
When asked to explain the rise in demand, he attributes it to Jameson being a versatile drink, one that complements mixers, and can be used in shots or in long drinks with dry ginger, apple or cranberry juice. Younger people have also taken to it and it has received several plugs from Lady Gaga who dedicated a song to Jameson and Rihanna who also put it in her song, “Cheers (Drink To That)”.
Jameson 18 Year Old Limited Reserve
Again a blend of pot still and grain whiskey, the Jameson 18 year old is matured for no less than 18 years in a combination of American oak bourbon casks and sherry casks. But, at the end of the maturation period, all components are blended in a vat and recasked in American oak barrels for 6 months which allows the flavours to marry together and reintroduces more vanilla sweetness which would have been lost throughout ageing process.
This whiskey is a step up in age and complexity but not in flavour intensity. A premium whiskey that is strong and balanced, it offers different flavours on the nose every time, which is characteristic of the Jameson 18 year old.
There are dried fruit flavours first, fruitcake, apricots, raisins followed by toffee, vanilla sweetness, sherry nuttiness then fudgy flavours coming through. This is all due to the marriage of flavours after recasking.
On taste it is very smooth and offers a mouthful of aromas. There is fruitiness, spiciness, woody and nutty flavours with a warm and long finish – a premium whiskey to be enjoyed in good company.
Jameson 18 Year Old paired with wagyu beef with a charcoal eggplant with a sherry reduction vinaigrette
This is one of the favourites on taste, an amazingly complex whiskey that is paired with wagyu beef with a charcoal eggplant with a sherry reduction vinaigrette. The fattiness in the wagyu stands up well to the extra richness of this whiskey and opens up with water.
Midleton Very Rare
Midleton Very Rare was launched in 1984 to celebrate the whiskeys of the Midleton distillery, and has since had a new vintage released every year. Known as master distiller selection, it is blended from a number of 12-21 year old triple distilled whiskies and made in the Midleton Distillery in County Cork. About 6000 cases a year are produced which makes it indeed very rare.
Aged in 100% bourbon casks (no sherry casks hence lack of spice), there is a vanilla sweetness on the nose, fragrant floral aromas and a lot of honey nectar flavour from maturation in American oak.
On taste, the smoothness is evident and there are elements of fruitiness from the grain, a nectar-like sweetness and some elements of wood. The pot still spicy character is very mild due to lack of sherry oak which mutes spiciness.
Midleton Very Rare paired with cone of Brillat-Savarin mousse with quince paste and pistachio
Paired with a savoury cone of Brillat-Savarin mousse with a touch of quince paste at bottom and pistachio that complements the creamy, full-bodied and soft textures in the mouth, this combination is a mouthful of flavours that leaves you wanting another.
The Midleton Very Rare goes well with creamy cheeses, dried pears, muscatel raisins and quince.
Ben Davidson, (Signé Spirits Ambassador, Pernod Ricard Australia) introducing the food pairings
Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve
The last whiskey on taste is the Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve, a high end whiskey which has evolved from the 18 year old, it is a rare pot still whiskey matured in traditional fortified wine casks. Different in flavour, it is not chill-filtered as chill filtration is thought to remove a lot of flavour and colour.
On the nose, it has forest fruit, fleshy plums, bananas, melons with hints of chocolate, toffee, even liquorice that is imparted from the port casks.
On taste, it has a little extra strength being 46% abv but still retains its smoothness with creaminess and spiciness from the distillation. A chocolaty finish is enhanced by adding water, as sacrilegious as it may be.
Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve paired with rich chocolate fondant and ganache with salted caramel
This exceptional whiskey is paired with a decadently rich chocolate fondant and ganache with salted caramel that brings to life the chocolate aromas and rich deep chocolate notes. Indeed, this is the greatest whiskey on taste and a perfect end to the tasting session.
Jameson Irish Whiskey
When Brian asks for the favourites, the Jameson 18 year old and Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve top the show of hands. The Jameson Gold Reserve with its prominent wood notes is also one that I particularly enjoyed.
Ben Davidson and Brian Nation after the tasting
Andrew Mitchell (Pernod Ricard Asia Pacific Region Manager) with Brian Nation (taken later at the Victoria Room)
Ben Davidson, David Hernandez (Low 302 Bar Manager), Grace McGlynn (Jameson Whiskey Ambassador)
The Jameson Irish Whiskey Tasting with Brian Nation was held at Low 302 in Darlinghurst on Monday 12th September 2011 during BarShow Week.
Next… our interview with Brian Nation.
Jameson Irish Whiskey
302 Crown Street
Photography by @MrGourmantic.
Gourmantic attended the media event as media guests.
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