Jameson Single Pot Still is back! Yes, for the first time since the 1960s, Jameson has released a single pot still whiskey. We went to Dublin to see what all the fuss is about.
No 25 Fitzwilliam Place is one of the best-preserved Georgian houses in Dublin and a fitting place to recognise the 17th-century beginnings of Jameson Irish whiskey. While his father was the founder, it was John Jameson II who truly turned the Dublin-based distillery into a global brand. He did so by making one product and one only: single pot still whiskey.
The original single pot still whiskey
The signature taste of Irish whiskey and the one that made Jameson famous, single pot still is a style of Irish whiskey made up of a mash bill of malted and unmalted barley which is then triple distilled in copper pot stills within a single distillery. It was a luxury drink often reserved for special occasions. The original premium whiskey, favoured by those who drank Champagne and Cognac, and one that was exported as far as China, Uruguay, and India by Jameson whiskey, according to records Jameson archivist Carol Quinn dug up from the 1870s.
She’s in her element in No 25 Fitzwilliam Place, setting the scene for the brand’s latest release. Quinn tells us how the original Bow Street distillery was a small town in and of itself within Dublin, populated by an army of employees from in-house leather makers to distillers working to one purpose: creating single pot still whiskey.
Introducing: Jameson Single Pot Still
But with the fall of Irish whiskey as a powerhouse during the 20th century, Jameson did what it needed to do to survive and responded to consumer expectations. In 1968, Jameson Irish whiskey became an accessible, affordable blend. Then for the second time, it conquered the world, laying down such a foundation for success that in the last 30 years the team at Midleton has had the luxury of restoring single pot still brands like Redbreast and Spot whiskey, always with the safety net of a huge selling core whiskey.
Now Irish Distillers has announced that its signature brand is not just reviving the method, but the very blueprint. At Fitzwilliam Place last night we saw the reveal of Jameson Single Pot Still. Both a tribute to Jameson’s past, and a sign of a category’s healthy future.
The process of reviving an Irish whiskey
Made with that classic mashbill of malted and unmalted barley before being triple distilled, the new Jameson Single Pot Still is then matured in ex-bourbon (B1 and B2s) and first-fill oloroso sherry casks, with a parcel also being treated to a trio of virgin oak casks: American, European, and Irish. Master distiller Kevin O’Gorman and blender Deirdre O’Carroll were also present last night to run through a tasting, which consisted of trying the new liquid as well as its constituent parts.
Everything goes into barrel at 63.4% ABV in Midleton and each sample was about 60%. Our first was what the distillery terms as ‘medium style’ pot still whiskey. Blender Dave McCabe explained to me on a previous occasion that the light, medium, and heavy styles that Midleton makes are references to things like texture, so it might be less oily say than the heavy. The three-pronged approach stems from the fact Irish Distillers was an amalgamation of three distilleries, so everybody’s approach was acknowledged. So the sample is a ‘medium’ pot still that was aged in ex-bourbon casks for about four years. Frankly, I would buy this alone, because I love that pure presentation of pure Jameson pot still character, filled with lots of fresh orchard fruit, vanilla, toffee, and baking spice.
Then came a remarkable dram matured in first-fill oloroso sherry for about five-and-a-half years filled with these dreamy fudge notes as well as orange peel, coffee, and a forest floor element. Think of it as baby Redbreast. The casks come from Antonio Páez Lobato in Jerez, who has a 35-year relationship with the brand, and frankly, it’s not hard to see why. A little thing to note for those who love a bit of a cask chat: there are trials of American oak sherry casks, but nothing has been released yet.
Irish oak and cask experimentation
The third sample was the most intriguing because it was the virgin Irish oak sample. It’s sourced with the state-owned commercial forestry business Coillte, specifically from Ballydowling in Gleanealy in County Wicklow. About 48 casks of wood were sent to Páez, who gave them a light-to-medium toast. These barrels were filled with ‘medium style’ pot still which had first been matured in ex-bourbon and oloroso for four years before spending a further three years in Irish oak. The nose is cracking, with a drenching of vanilla followed by heaps of salted caramel and wood spice. The palate is rain-drenched oak and, to be honest, overpowering, but O’Gorman says it only makes a subtle contribution to the blend.
When he joined 25 years the early virgin oak experiment that was Jameson Gold as well as future Method and Madness releases that have utilised the tricky wood. It’s extremely extractive and can often overpower the whiskey, so when creating this sub-blend within a blend there were a lot of prototypes and debates over the last three years. “We isolated that spiciness and robustness in the pot still and wanted to elevate that, but virgin oak can be too tannic so we settled on it being 20% of the blend,” O’Carroll tells me.
O’ Gorman and O’Carroll both explain that a big focus of creating this whiskey was to retain the current Jameson DNA as the building block. The old school stuff would have been more like the ‘heavy pot still’ Midleton makes now, this uses ‘medium style’ instead, but 80% of the make-up of the whiskey is the same ex-bourbon and oloroso sherry casks used in the classic blended Jameson with the rest made up of that virgin oak-aged spirit.
The skinny on Jameson Single Pot Still
I should underline that this is a core range addition, Jameson Single Pot Still is no limited edition. How Irish Distillers manages that volume with such a complex cask process, especially with Irish oak in there will be interesting, as the first batch is just 3,000 cases. It’s worth noting that the Irish oak will become second-fill and also that Jameson Single Pot Still is a blending exercise that will have subtle differences from batch to batch.
On first impressions, what stands out initially is the pot still’s signature silky texture. Then comes all the nutty, woody, sherried flavours. We know Midleton distillate and sherry work a treat thanks to Redbreast. But this is its own brand, thanks to the virgin oak component which adds a spicy uplift that helps it stand apart. O’Gorman believes that in a really good blend every whiskey should have a say, and that’s certainly true here.
It has no outer packaging and a sophisticated dark blue label, not just a responsible move to reduce waste but also giving it a shelf presence. Then there’s the price. €60 for a blend this varied and whiskey this good represents some value, particularly given it’s bottled at 46% ABV. Of course, Redbreast 12 is also priced around this point, but as much as I love that whiskey it simply doesn’t carry the Jameson name, so this has a better chance of acting as an entry into pot still and at that price it is accessible. O’Carroll makes a great point too that it’s rare people will get a chance to taste Irish oak without paying a premium for the privilege.
Jameson Single Pot Still is made as a throwback to an era when Irish whiskey reigned supreme, but actually what it becomes is an example of how Midleton Distillery remains at the forefront of whiskey with a capacity, interest, and expertise to create one of the most unrivaled selections around. Single pot still has a long way to go to rule the world again, but the first step is making sure we get into people’s hands. The whiskey will do the rest.
Jameson Single Pot Still will arrive at MoM Towers soon. Here’s a tasting note
Nose: Opens with that salted caramel note I recall from the Irish oak sample, as well as wood-driven spice and some floral, green apple notes the ex-bourbon cask sample had. Oloroso sherry brings hazelnut and dried fruit to the party too. There’s notes of vanilla fudge, nutmeg, and Cadbury Crunchie throughout.
Palate: Through gingery spice there’s dark chocolate, orange peel, and coffee fudge. Some delicate tannins prickle through rich fruity notes of cherries and damson, so thick they’re reminiscent of a jam.
Finish: Wonderfully long and spicy with a delicate selection of orchard fruit.