Thursday 24 May 2012

Jameson Select Reserve lands in Ireland

Jameson Select Reserve finally landed on shop shelves in its home country last week. It was launched in South Africa in October 2010 and has already been seen in the US and the UK. I have written up this whiskey and its unusual grain component before so I won't describe it again now.

What's new is that when it turned up in the US it had a different strapline on the label: "Black Barrel". In other markets it's "Small Batch". I enquired with Irish Distillers if this reflected any difference in the contents and the answer is no. It's the same whiskey everywhere but the label can be tweaked depending on what will appeal to the local market. "Black Barrel" refers to the charring of the American bourbon barrels used during maturation. That opens up the surface of the wood, creating more oak surface for the spirit to interact with. All of Irish Distillers' bourbon casks are charred in this way, however. It is not a unique part of the process for this whiskey.

I was at an Irish Distillers tasting in WJ Kavanagh's last night where the opener was Jameson Select Reserve. Although, in theory, it is the same whiskey I tasted from a South African bottle last year, this time it was different. I really enjoyed the clarity of the restrained sherry finish the first time around but it was missing this time. It was a more soft-focus whiskey last night with nothing really to grab hold of. A decent whiskey but not quite the live wire of the Jameson family I met before. Rich Nagle of the Sláinte Irish Whiskey Blog discerned a significant change too from a tasting in the US earlier this year.

It's down to natural variation between batches, I presume, despite all efforts to recreate the recipe identically each time. We had the same experience at the Green Spot tasting when we compared the whiskey in pre- and post-relaunch liveries. IDL assured us the whiskey had not changed but the difference was obvious.

The lesson is: if you really like a whiskey today, put a few more bottles by straight away in case later batches are not so much to your taste.

Jameson Select Reserve is €40 at the Celtic Whiskey Shop.