A Fearless Spirit

When I was in Dublin, I had the joy of going to the Bow Steet Distillery where a very special spirit has been manufactured for over two and a quarter centuries. I wrote about the experience for Refined Vices, and you can read about it here. When I was in Israel, I stopped by the duty free. They had some very expensive bourbons (about twice what they cost in the States), some Scotch that was, while undoubtedly inexpensive, still more than I wanted to spend. Their selections of other spirits were…well…undistinguished. However, their price on Jameson Irish Whiskey was quite good. And so, now I give you my review:

John Jameson & Son: Original Irish Whiskey

Tasting Conditions: I had a glass of Jameson after a day of work and an evening of classes. The bottle was room temperature, and freshly opened. I used a tulip glass of approximately six ounces (a Ministry of Rum tasting glass).

Eye: In the glass, the whiskey is a wheaty-honey color with thin, bulbous legs. The bottle is, appropriately, green glass, with the Jameson logo, the Jameson family crest, and some details. While I could not find an age statement on the bottle, the whiskey is allowed five years in the barrel.

Nose: The nose is quite bready, alsmot like a very strong beer. Given that whiskey is, after all, basically very strong beer, I guess that is appropriate. There is a fair amount of burn, which almost covers up the vanilla notes, and some nutty notes.

Mouth: Neat, as the Irish take it, the spirit is just a little sweet, but the burn obscured any other flavours on the first sip. Another sip gave me a little bit of oakiness, and a slightly sour flavour on the finish. The more I sipped, the more rancid it tasted, so I elected to add a bit of water. The water improved it immensely. While it still had the same notes, the sweetness took on a more honeyed tone. The rancid, sour note moved towards citrus, and the burn stopped off a lot. The oak moved slightly towards caramel, but not much. Next, I added a cube of ice. After giving the ice a minute to melt, I took another sip. The ice further smoothed it, leaving citrus notes, as well as burnt sugar. The sweetness retreated a fair bit. However, on reflection, I think that the burn sugar was the source of the rancid taste I had earlier.

Conclusion: This whiskey was probably worth just about every penny I paid for it, but not much more. If I saw it again at duty free or on sale, I think I would probably pick it up, as a mixing whiskey, if nothing else. However, given what it costs in the States, I think I would stick with either Bushmills or Fleck’n as long as I am not taking it straight. However, for the occasional James and ginger, or the cocktail which calls for whiskey, this will make a nice addition to my liquor cabinet.

Slainte!
The Scribe

The Old Jameson Distillery

Silvio from Refined Vices contacted me the other day about a more in deapth review of my tour of the Old Jameson Distillery. I was happy to oblige. You can now read the review over on his site. It seems Irish whiskey has been getting a lot of play here recently…

Slainte!
The Scribe

An Irish Day in an Irish City

Three quick scenes for you all:

I went to the St. James Gate Brewery and the Guinness Storehouse. Now, personally, I think the tour was a little on the pricey side. You got to see how they make Guinness Draught Stout. The one really cool thing is that during the tour you get to taste Guinness that has not been through the secondary fermentation (“unconditioned”). You can taste the amount of flavor that the conditioning adds to the so-called “mild” beer. Afterwards, we were treated to the Guinness Storehouse annual St. Patrick’s Day festival. This involved all the Guinness you can drink, learning to pour the perfect pint of Guinness yourself (which may be available all the time, I’m not sure), and tasting random dishes like Guinness-bread with salmon, some dish based on Guinness sour cream, and so on. Not too much needs to be said on the brew itself. If you don’t know what Guinness tastes like, you should. It’s quite a heavy beer that reminds me of coffee with a bare hint of sweetness and a fair bit of bitter. An Irishman informed me that the whole “perfect pour” thing promoted by Guinness is a load of tosh (surprise! surprise!), but that there is one surefire way of knowing a good pint: Hold your glass up to the light, and if any regions appear brown or red, or anything other than flat black, you should order something else for your next round.

I also went to the Old Jameson Distillery. The distillery tour was even pricier than the Guinness tour, and shorter. However, I think from a functional point of view, it was a much more informative tour. They show you the process of fermenting the mash, distilling it in pot stills, and aging it. The aging was the most interesting as they displayed barrels that were aging Jameson at one, three, five, ten, and eighteen years. You can see the angel’s share (almost 50% for the eldest cask), and how the color changes, and also how the color is leached from the wood. Then we got to taste. Some members of our tour were given the opportunity to do a tutored comparative tasting of several products of Irish Distillers. The traditional drink of Irishmen (nope, it’s not Guinness) is whiskey. Unlike their neighbors to the east, they spell it with an “e.” This is a surprisingly good whiskey, given its price point. Sipping it neat, on the rocks, or with a little water was a completely inoffensive experience, despite the fact that this dram is a lot younger than anything any single malt Scotch whisky drinker would ever consent to putting in his or her body. As to how it tastes, well, let’s just say it was a nice, complex whiskey, and I may have had a few too many drams for anything more sophisticated than that.

Lastly, we went to the St. Patrick’s Day festivities in the city center. There was a fun parade, though I saw far too many American marching bands for my preference (including the Fighting Illini!). Afterwards we went to the Irish Folk Music and Dance festival where we learned Irish dancing. We stopped in a number of bars, including the Palace, the Temple Bar, and Dublin’s oldest pub, the Brazen Head. However, the highlight was a little pub on Thomas Street known as Nash’s. If you have the opportunity, I would definitely stop in there for a bit of honest “craic.” Unlike the other pubs we visited in Dublin, where the only Irishman in the place was the publican, at Nash’s, the only ones in the pub who weren’t locals was us. There was a lot of singing. They’d sing us their songs, and then make us sing them ours. Unfortunately, coming from all over the wold, we didn’t have too many of our own songs to sing them, but it was still good fun.

And on that note, I take my leave. Next up: A review of some cider.
The Scribe