The Jameson Anthology is a new collection that blends music and malt, the past and the present, and some delicious pot still whiskey. Here are the details.
“We’re getting the band back together”, Irish Distillers archivist Carol Quinn jokes as a rogue’s gallery of drink writers gathers in the live maturation warehouse at Jameson’s Bow Street attraction in Dublin. It’s been a long time since a lot of us have been in the same room, and we’re enjoying Quinn’s expert brand of social history, connecting the work the brand does now to the stories that surround you and the whiskey in this location.
Her choice of words are particularly apt for this event, as we were in Dublin this week to taste and learn the story behind a new series of limited-edition whiskies called The Jameson Anthology, a collection inspired by “the whiskey that conquered the world”, as Quinn put it, remastered and reimagined. Music is very much at the centre of the theme of this series, as is nostalgia, and pot still whiskey.
Charged with trying to straddle the difficult line between drawing inspiration from the past while imagining new possibilities is master distiller Kevin O’Gorman, the driving force behind the collection. He’s also present and says that the idea came to him while testing and tasting new whiskey, which naturally brings him back to the expressions that have gone before. “It got me pondering, wouldn’t it be great to look back and see what was really special about those whiskeys.”
The debut single
The conclusion of that thought was Anthology, which is made up of two distinct volumes. The first is Jameson Remastered, which aims to celebrate the spirit of classic discontinued whiskeys by reinventing them with modern techniques, but not to create exact replicas. O’Gorman was very keen to underline that, saying that, much in the same way when you remaster a record you don’t want to create a carbon copy, he is interested in delivering new taste experiences. The kind of expressions that fans of lost bottlings can get excited about, but not frustrated when it doesn’t taste exactly how they remember.
Jameson 15 Year Old Single Pot Still is the opening number within Jameson Remastered, the first Jameson single pot still whiskey in decades. Fans of the Irish whiskey may recognise it as a reinvention of the much-loved bottling last produced in 2000 as a limited edition offering. This already award-winning liquid (a gold medal at the IWSC with a score of 95/100, before it was even released) is composed of three different pot still whiskeys spanning 15 to 17 years matured in a mixture of ex-bourbon barrels and Oloroso sherry butts.
The trio of whiskeys is very much three individual components, as Midleton makes three distinct pot still whiskeys, characterised as being light, medium, and heavy (or trad). The differences are created by where the distiller makes the cuts, because the mash bill is pretty exact (always around 60% malted barley to 40% unmalted). We got to taste the three whiskeys that made up Jameson 15 Year Old Single Pot Still, starting with the Light, which had a supple texture and was full of peppery spice and marmalade notes, while the Medium brought more orchard fruit, vanilla, and clove. The third component was darker, richer, nuttier, and with a lot of herbal freshness, dried fruits, and marzipan. This Heavy pot still had all the hallmarks of lots of Oloroso sherry, and took centre stage in the final blend, to keep the music theme going.
This was owing to the style the likes of O’Gorman and Midleton blender Deirdre O’Carroll desired, but also to honour the historical contribution of sherry casks to traditional whiskey-making in Bow Street Distillery. As O’Gorman summarised, “for this limited-edition bottling, we seized the opportunity to combine the traditional single pot still style with the strong influence of the sherry casks, which was integral to historic whiskey production.” He added that the distillers were “confident to have developed a contemporary iteration of Jameson 15 Year Old that pays tribute to the torch bearers who put Irish whiskey on the map, whilst nodding to the current generation of talented craftspeople at Midleton Distillery.”
Blends, bangers, and ballots
There are plenty of things that fans will appreciate about Jameson 15 Year Old Single Pot Still, from its flavour profile, to its weighty 56.4% ABV strength, and its nostalgic newspaper wrapping around the bottle filled with references to the brand’s heritage (plus a recyclable honeycomb cardboard packaging). They’ll be less keen on its 500ml size, €300 retail price, and limited quantity of 2,220 bottles available solely through two online ballots.
Yes, we’re back in ballotsvile, with the first opening to members of Barrel Club Midleton Distillery at 9am Irish Saving Time (IST) on Monday 4 April and the second to all other whiskey fans at 2pm (IST) on Friday 8 April. We don’t know yet if every Anthology release will be balloted, but I’d say it will be unlikely. The limited supply of this one, and the fact that it’s the debut of the range, have sealed its fate this time. But there’s plenty more to come, including whiskey from a whole other volume, Jameson Remixed, which according to the marketing bumf will “explore and experiment with new tunes from Jameson for an altogether different take on the classic Irish icon”.
It’s no surprise to see another big brand embrace music and malt as it’s a connection that the drinks industry is celebrating more often these days, and why not? The two have always gone hand-in-hand, from the parallels behind making songs and spirits, and the manner in which a great tune can evoke a memory like a beloved dram. We appreciate bottle designs and album covers, we want our remasters to appreciate what made the original great, and we love the way both are elevated by the joy of good company. It’s a rich theme that O’Gorman can keep digging into, and one he’ll do so with relish from what I saw this week.
Anthology feels very much like his passion project, the first series he’s got to publicly own post-pandemic since becoming master distiller. In Dublin he recounts joining Irish Distillers in the late ’80s and going to Porto for the first time in his life with former distiller Brendan Monks. On that trip, they sourced the casks that were used in Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve, a personal favourite of O’Gorman’s. The reverence he has when remembering drinks like these is clear, and it bodes well that this isn’t just a range made with perspective, but love. For my money, the debut single kicks things off in the right direction. Jameson 15 Year Old Single Pot Still has lots of oily, creamy, and spicy pot still goodness which blends with that Midlton medley of tropical fruit that I love, and the nutty, darker tones of sherry.
Jameson 15 Year Old Single Pot Still tasting note:
Nose: Rich hazelnut, melted butter, toffee apples, and sweet pot still spices lead, with dried herbs, dates, and sherry-stained oak underneath.
Palate: There’s a burst of exotic fruit on the palate, with homemade fudge, orange peel, and oaky tannins in support. Throughout the darker fruit (stewed plums, figs) and nuttiness characteristic of oloroso appear among winter spice, cacao powder, and cherry.
Finish: Full-bodied and graceful with layers of fruit and spices mingling away for an age.