Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Review: Jameson 12 year old Irish Whiskey
I am on a bit of an Irish whiskey kick lately. I recently reviewed Jameson's standard bottling and wasn't terribly impressed. Nevertheless, I will not give up. I have a bottle of 12 year old Jameson and also an 18 year old. I may not be of 'fightin' Irish' lineage, but damn I know those great people can produce good whiskey! Let's see if the 12 year old can fulfil my conviction.
I’m not picking up much. Very subtle. Only some fleeting citrus notes and leather.
Delightful interplay between some citrus, sweet milk chocolate and hazelnut notes. Malty too. Silken texture. No jagged edges here. Nicely refined. You can taste the evolution from the uninspiring standard, bottom shelf (no age statement) Jameson into something pleasant. 12 years of aging makes a difference. There is a spiced buzz of sherry, cherries and other red fruit that gives the flavor profile some complexity too.
Not overly long. The flavors remain only briefly. A taste of drying, chocolate mousse, some salt and a little more malt/sherry.
This is good whiskey. Not incredible, but good. Dependable. It is a whiskey that delivers an enjoyable, gentle sherry / Belgian chocolate mouthfeel and a warm, camp fire afterglow that reassures you that you are among friends. It is not the greatest whisky I have tasted, but certainly an acceptable standard to be added to the whiskey cabinet. Some critics have described it as a 'daily drinker' but I think it is a little too expensive to fall into that category.
As with many Irish whiskies, triple distillation means it is very smooth. The challenge for many Irish distilleries is to somehow make a smooth whiskey interesting or nuanced. The typical strategy of distillers is to create a dram that has a certain degree of spiciness.
The master blender at Jameson has succeeded in distilling a spirit that is interesting, yet not relying heavily on a spiced flavor profile. How he succeeded is not easy to articulate. Nevertheless, I am never at a loss of words, so here goes: the whiskey represents a melding of sweetly contoured sherry and Belgian chocolate against a background of malt that dries upon the palate. Not a lot of spices other than the corduroy road of sherry and certainly no peatiness.
If I had to sum this whisky up in a couple of words, it would be textured sherry and milk chocolate. Serve this at a party and it is a good way to Win Friends and Influence People.
The price is fair though not a steal of a deal. Try to buy it when the price is discounted.
This whiskey is priced slightly under a few entry level 12 year old single malts. I find it similar to GlenDronach 12 years. Irish and scotch whiskies are different branches of the same tree. It gets challenging to say which is better. If you place a premium on silky texture then Jameson would be the choice.
Jameson 12 year old makes for a good whiskey gift. It will impress newcomers to whiskey and please veterans. I wouldn't describe it as the greatest of whiskies, but rather a pleasing dram that delivers the basics that most consumers require: smoothness, no bite, some spice, gentle flavors and some interesting twists in the flavor profile.
Jameson 12 years versus Jameson 18 years
I prefer the flavor profile, as well as the lower price of the Jameson 12yrs, when compared to the 18 year old Jameson (click here for my review). The 12 is more chocolate based whereas the 18 is tasting more lime and Chinese tea based.
Jameson 12 years versus Bushmills Black Bush
This whisky shares similarities with Bushmills Black Bush, but is slightly superior. Black Bush is impressive initially, but becomes quite simple and mundane upon repeat tastings. While Jameson is more interesting than Black Bush, it is not taking any chances. It is a very middle of the road whiskey that could become boring to the more serious whisky enthusiast.
What about Redbreast 12?
In a heads-up, all-in Redbreast 12 years versus Jameson 12 comparison, I prefer the former. However, the one you prefer will depend on the general flavor profile of each. Redbreast is honeyed, cinammon and zesty, though not a scotch, it does have many similarities with many Speyside single malts. Jameson, on the other hand, is darker, more sherry and chocolate, in the genre of some Highland malts like Oban. I can appreciate both, but prefer the former. You have to ask yourself, what do you prefer? And as you know, there is only one way to find out . . .
Note: The Jameson 12 year old as reviewed above has been referred to as the '1780.' The date refers to founding of the distillery. The '1780' has now been re-released as the 'Special Reserve.' The whisky hasn't changed. Just the labeling.
© Jason Debly, 2009-2010. All rights reserved.