Irish whiskey, long associated with St. Patrick’s Day and with Irish coffee, is good by itself all year long.
This I discovered years ago, when I realized that Jameson Irish whiskey is wasted on Irish coffee; it’s best as a straight shot with a glass of water on the side. At first, bartenders were amazed that I didn’t want ice or water in my whiskey. Today that has become more accepted.
Jameson is one of the best known Irish whiskey brands; if it’s not available, try others as you find them – alone. Take note of the differences, and appreciate their taste and drinkability.
Some bartenders have joined the fad of putting Jameson and other Irish whiskeys in mixed drinks, some of which actually taste good, but in my opinion the whiskey is still better by itself.
Following is a summary of the history of Jameson and the pot still industry. Online, pot still is spelled two ways, as two words with and without a dash. Some people may even want to spell it as one word, as I was taught. I will use the two words without a dash.
From the 1800s to the early 20th century, single pot still Irish whiskeys were the most sought after. Then history worked against Irish whiskey producers. They lost markets due to Prohibition in Ireland and the U.S. and a marketing battle with Scotch distillers who also used the term whiskey.
Times have changed. Scotch that dominated the American market after World Was II and is still competitive, but Irish whiskey companies – survivors and new – are re-educating Americans about drinking Irish whiskey.
223 years of history
John Jameson was founded in 1780 at the Bow Street Distillery in Dublin, which is now a visitor center. Jameson, a Scottish lawyer, married into an Irish whiskey-making family.
In 1966, a descendent of the original John Jameson, also named John Jameson, joined with two other companies, John Power & Son and Cork Distillers to form the Irish Distiller Group and build New Midleton Distillers. In 1975 they built a larger building next door; the 1966 building is now a visitor center.
In 1988, the Jameson brand and the Irish Distillers Group were purchased by the French beverage conglomerate Pernod Ricard.
For some Jameson products, the company has returned to the old style of pot still whiskey making.
“Grains are still stored in the 1975 distillery,” says Simone Kelly, Florida and Georgia brand ambassador for Jameson. “Jameson uses white oak barrels from Kentucky bourbon distillers and Spanish sherry distilleries. We don’t make our own barrels, but we have our own cooper to restore and assemble them.
“We would like people to try drinking our whiskey straight or on the rocks to appreciate the brand. A drop of water in our Irish whiskey changes the taste profile. It dulls the spiciness of the pot sill liquor content, and enhances the woody undertones.”
Jameson makes and sells multiple varieties of whiskey, some of which aren’t available in the United States. The U.S. version of its Web site displays seven different labels.
Kelly says Jameson Black Barrel Irish whiskey is an 80 proof product made one day a year in small batches that are matured first in flame-charred bourbon barrels from Kentucky, and then in toasted cherry casks from Jerez, Spain, for a total of 10 to 12 years. It is sold in 750 ml bottles.
Black Barrel is available in Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Washington, DC, but so far not in Florida.
Jameson now offers two single pot still labels: Redbreast (re-introduced in 1991) and Midleton Barry Crockett. They carry natural color from their barrels and casks. Both are available in some Florida liquor stores, including Grove Liquors (associated with Milan’s Market) and Total Wine & More.
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