Jameson is the best-selling Irish whiskey brand in the world and the third best-selling whiskey brand in the world, which is another way of saying that Jameson is a very good whiskey indeed. But I wanted a little more detail than that and after a few whiskeys I found a lot more information.
Jameson whiskeys are good as they’re easy to drink, tasty, sweet and smooth, making them great for mixed drinks, cocktails and shots. I would recommend Jameson Irish Whiskey for being the cheapest, Jameson Bow Street 18 Years as the best version of the core expression, and Jameson Cooper’s Croze as its focus on casks gives it more intense flavors.
Currently there are under twenty Jameson whiskeys, and I examined nine of them as I left out the limited editions and travel retail exclusives.
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How I Determined Whether Jameson Whiskeys Are Good
I didn’t want to present just my own personal opinion about these whiskeys but rather a more general consensus, so I gathered a team of experts (translation: anyone who would help me with this project and who knows a thing or two about whiskey) and amalgamated all our tasting notes. I left out those aromas and flavors that were found by only one person and focused on those experienced by more than one member of the group. Descriptors that appear earlier in the coming lists were detected by more people.
Everyone scored each whiskey out of 100 and I calculated the average.
The notes after each table are my summary of the general consensus and the combined results present a pretty clear picture of these whiskeys.
Here’s what we found:
Jameson Irish Whiskey
- Price: $29.99 approx. for 750ml & $54.99 approx. for 1.75L
You know how I mentioned that Jameson is the best-selling Irish whiskey in the world and the third best-selling whiskey in the world, well much of that is because of this expression. It’s a blend of pot still (meaning malted and unmalted barley) and grain whiskeys that have been triple distilled for more smoothness and aged in oak casks for at least four years.
|Nose||Vanilla, alcohol, apples, metallic, oak, floral, wood, caramel, butterscotch, grain, pineapple, citrus, pear, banana, light smoke, plums, grassy, mint, cream|
|Taste||Vanilla, oak, pepper, wood, apples, grassy, malty, cream, honey, alcohol, spices, cereal, floral, nuts|
|Finish||Short: Oak, spices, malty, burn, honey, smooth, metallic, bitter|
|Average Score – 73|
This is certainly a good whiskey. It’s simple, easy to drink, tasty and sweet. It’s light-bodied and somewhat watery, but it’s also creamy and relatively smooth.
It’s not a sipping whiskey because when compared to say, single malts, it’s one-dimensional and bland so most experienced whiskey drinkers would probably find it boring. For those new to whiskey, it’s worth a try neat, but otherwise it’s best for mixed drinks, cocktails and shots as it’s inoffensive with a pleasant taste that has just enough character to stand out but not so much that it dominates any other ingredients in your drink.
And because despite all those good points, it’s also cheap.
Or to put it another way:
Cheap + inoffensive + tasty + sweet + smooth = best-selling Irish whiskey in the world.
You can buy a bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey here.
Jameson Black Barrel
- Price: $40.99 approx. for 750ml & $49.42 approx. for 1L
Charring the barrels whiskeys are aged in, breaks down parts of the oak creating flavor compounds that are soluble in alcohol, allows easier and deeper penetration by the spirit into the wood and creates a charcoal layer that filters out unwanted flavors.
In other words, it gives the whiskey more flavor.
Jameson Black Barrel is charred twice – hence the name, to give it an even more intense taste. We wanted to see if that worked.
|Nose||Caramel, vanilla, oak char, fruit, spices, nuts, strawberry, brown sugar, butterscotch, cinnamon, peach, apricot, banana, maple, black pepper, toffee|
|Taste||Vanilla, spices, fruit, caramel, wood, oak char, honey, oak, brown sugar, butter, sherry, grain, light smoke, maple|
|Finish||Medium: Sweet, oak, vanilla, caramel, malt, bitter, fruit, spices|
|Average Score – 78|
The verdict was that Jameson Black Barrel is certainly better than the standard expression. Again, it’s an easy to drink whiskey that tastes sweet and smooth, but the mouthfeel is thicker and oilier.
The double charring does influence this whiskey as it adds bourbon like flavors and sweetness to the typical Jameson profile. It also gives it a light smokey (char smoke as opposed to peat smoke) flavor.
There is more to this whiskey, but it’s still probably not interesting enough for those who enjoy something relatively complex. Some people may enjoy this as a solid daily sipper (especially considering the price which is not that much more for something that’s definitely somewhat better) but others may find it better as a slightly higher-quality party drink.
Either way, you can buy a bottle of Jameson Black Barrel here.
Jameson 18 Years
- Price: $156.46 approx. for 750ml
So far, the Jameson expressions have been good (tasty, sweet, smooth) but not complex – which is no surprise when you consider their young age (they say it’s aged “for a minimum of four years” not “for a minimum of five years”) and inexpensive price.
We therefore had high expectations for a Jameson expression that’s been aged for 18 years. And I don’t just mean a price that’s five time higher.
|Nose||Fruit, wood, lemon, vanilla, spices, toffee, cream, peach, shortbread, dusty|
|Taste||Caramel, vanilla, spices, oak, fruit, tannin, leather, toffee, banana, wood, lemon, pepper, apples|
|Finish||Medium – long: Sweet, wood, oak, spices|
|Average Score – 81|
Jameson 18 Years did indeed have the extra depth we expected (despite still being only 40%ABV). It’s a delicious whiskey that’s very easy to drink. It’s rich and velvety with lots of soft flavors that are well integrated. It’s also incredibly smooth.
This is a great whiskey especially for fans of the Jameson flavor profile as it’s that only much much better.
The only issue is the price which is expensive when compared to other bottles of the same quality. However, if it’s within your budget, you can buy a bottle of Jameson 18 Years here.
Jameson Bow Street 18 Years
- Price: $179.99 approx. for 750ml
With Jameson 18 we saw that a longer period of maturation considerably improved its core expression. With Jameson Bow Street 18 Years we hoped that the cask strength ABV would improve it further.
This whiskey is finished at the original Jameson distillery in Bow Street, Dublin (hence the name) and bottled once a year at different cask strengths, which means each one will be slightly different. We sampled a 2018 bottling that had an ABV of 55.3%.
|Nose||Vanilla, spices, caramel, toffee, fruit, wood, bananas, coconut, leather, honey, ginger, cinnamon, crème brulé, pepper, sherry, oak, nutmeg|
|Taste||Vanilla, oak, pepper, spices, cloves, honey, caramel, wood, cinnamon, apples, bananas, leather, sherry, corn, crème brulé, nutmeg|
|Finish||Long: Oak, spices, drying, sweet|
|Average Score – 86|
This is an excellent, refined whiskey – and indeed it’s better than the 18. It has an intense nose, a thick and creamy mouthfeel and a palate that’s rich and deep. It’s full bodied, warm, sweet and smooth. The alcohol is well integrated, and the complex flavors are relatively well balanced.
It’s delicious, drinkable but expensive.
Hopefully other bottlings will be just as delicious.
And hopefully other bottlings won’t be as expensive. You can buy one of the Jameson Bow Street 18 Years bottlings here.
Jameson Caskmates Stout Edition
- Price: $34.79 approx. for 750ml & $43.99 approx. for 1L
One day the head brewer of a local craft beer brewery asked Jameson’s head of Whiskey Science if he could barrel age his stout beer in Jameson whiskey barrels. The answer was yes, and the beer that came from it was good.
However, things didn’t stop there. A lot of that goodness was now in the barrels so the only logical thing to do was refill them, only this time with fully mature Jameson whiskey so that the unique character of the barrels could be added to it.
That’s how the Jameson Caskmates series got started. And this is the Stout Edition.
|Nose||Chocolate, honey, vanilla, coffee, grains, citrus, apples, creamy, spices, floral hops, fruit, nuts, caramel, butter|
|Taste||Chocolate, coffee, vanilla, sugar, hops, honey, pepper, caramel, butterscotch, cinnamon, spices, beer, malt|
|Finish||Short – medium: Coffee, chocolate, sweet, vanilla, smooth, malt, honey, spices|
|Average Score – 70|
This is a pretty good whiskey, and the ex-stout (and ex-ex-Jameson) casks have enhanced the Jameson expression giving it some richer and deeper flavors. The mouthfeel is still thin, and the whiskey is still smooth, but the light, grassy and fruity Jameson whiskey interacts well with the creamy, chocolate, caramel and butterscotch flavors coming from the stout beer.
This is something drinkable that can be used in a cocktail but it can even be enjoyed neat, especially if you’re a fan of both whiskey and stout or want a whiskey that’s something different.
It’s also affordable and you can buy a bottle of Jameson Caskmates Stout Edition here.
Jameson Caskmates IPA Edition
- Price: $34.99 approx. for 750ml & $43.99 approx. for 1L
One good thing leads to another and once you’re finishing Jameson whiskey in one type of beer barrel it’s only a matter of time before you’re finishing it in another.
This edition of the Caskmates series is Jameson whiskey finished in Irish pale ale (not India pale ale) barrels so that it can pick up all its great flavors.
|Nose||Hops, floral, honey, pine, grapefruit, apple, fruit, lemon, grain, cereal, vanilla, citrus, malt|
|Taste||Hops, honey, citrus, bitterness, grain, malt, oak, apples, spices, vanilla, oak, lemon, fruit, caramel, bread|
|Finish||Short – medium: Hops, cocoa, malt, sour, vanilla, sweet, lemon, apples, mint, bitter, chocolate, pepper, grain|
|Average Score – 70|
Once again, the beer barrels have enhanced the Jameson expression. The IPA gives this whiskey a citrus and hoppy bitterness without being dominating, making it another simple but unique, easy to drink whiskey that can be used in a cocktail or enjoyed neat.
As for which of the two Caskmates were better, we found – unhelpfully, that some preferred the stout edition whereas others preferred the IPA edition.
However, we also found that most of those who preferred the stout edition preferred stout beers too and most of those who preferred the IPA edition preferred IPAs too, which goes to show that people prefer things they already like.
If you’re a fan of Jameson whiskeys, IPAs or trying something different you can buy a bottle of Jameson Caskmates IPA Edition here.
Jameson Whiskey Makers Series – Distiller’s Safe
- Price: $73.91 approx. for 750ml
The Whiskey Makers Series is a range of three whiskeys, each focusing on the effect a specific part of the whiskey making process has on the final spirit.
Distiller’s Safe (named for the small, locked, clear box the head distiller uses to visually analyze and cut the distillate without being able to taste it) was created by Jameson’s head distiller to showcase the flavors of the distillate, which come from the pot still and the grains.
|Color||Pale (I know pale is not a color but what else can you do when everybody says ‘it’s pale’)|
|Nose||Fruit, banana, apricot, biscuit, vanilla, coconut, lemon, barley sugars, grain, pineapple juice, chocolate, apples, pears|
|Taste||Butter, apricots, cinnamon, vanilla, grain, fruit, pepper, spices, honey, citrus, pears, malt, grass, oak|
|Finish||Short – medium: Sweet, oak, fruit, spices, pepper|
|Average Score – 73|
This whiskey achieves what it sets out to do. It focuses on the distillate and the flavors from the pot still and the grains both of which come through, so it’s light (hence the ‘color’), delicate and sweet with lots of fruity notes that are relatively well balanced.
Aside from that it’s pretty good for a light whiskey. It’s thin and not complex, but it’s pleasant, sweet, smooth and easy to drink. The only problem is the price but if you want an insight into the contribution of the distillation process to a whiskey’s flavor, you’ll get that here.
You can buy a bottle of Jameson’s Whiskey Makers Series – Distiller’s Safe here.
Jameson Whiskey Makers Series – Cooper’s Croze
- Price: $71.99 approx. for 750ml
Cooper’s Croze (named for the tool used to make the groove into which the head of the cask is fitted) was created by Jameson’s head cooper to highlight the flavors that come from the wood of the casks.
This expression contains pot-still whiskey matured in first fill bourbon barrels, second fill bourbon barrels and sherry casks, and grain whiskey matured in virgin American oak casks.
|Nose||Vanilla, apples, citrus, fruit, spices, honey, sherry, cereal, toffee, waffles, caramel, floral, grass, barrel char, lemon, raisins, wood|
|Taste||Fruit, oak, vanilla, spices, caramel, citrus, ginger, stewed apples, honey, cinnamon, raisins, malt, pepper, nuts|
|Finish||Medium – long: Drying, spices, fruit, sweet, wood, pepper, cinnamon, oak, banana, caramel|
|Average Score – 78|
This whiskey also achieves what it sets out to do in terms of highlighting the wood influence on the flavor of the whiskey, especially the virgin oak which seems to make the vanilla and spices more intense.
It also shows you how good Jameson can be with the right selection of casks because this whiskey is sweet and smooth with lots of well-balanced flavors. The mouthfeel is a bit thin and it’s a little too ethanol hot but for a non-age statement whiskey it’s pretty good.
The price is relatively expensive, but on the other hand it’s more complex than the standard expression and the Distiller’s Safe. You can buy a bottle of Jameson Whiskey Makers Series – Cooper’s Croze here.
Jameson Whiskey Makers Series – Blender’s Dog
- Price: $70.90 approx. for 750ml
Blender’s Dog (a dog is a dipper that blenders use to retrieve samples from the barrels through the bung) was created by Jameson’s head blender to highlight the skill needed to create a whiskey whose different flavors work well together.
|Nose||Vanilla, fruit, cinnamon, floral, apples, honey, clove, grain, citrus, nutmeg, cereal, cream, wood, grapes|
|Taste||Honey, fruit, caramel, pears, bananas, apricots, spices, oak, licorice, ginger, malt, cinnamon, nutmeg, butterscotch, vanilla, apples, pepper, chocolate, oranges|
|Finish||Medium: spicy, sweet, cinnamon, apple peel, vanilla, fruit, oak, chocolate|
|Average Score – 80|
This whiskey has more depth and complexity than the standard Jameson expression, so it certainly highlights the role of the master blender in ensuring that everything works well together.
It’s still quite light-bodied but it’s smooth and sweet with a nice soft mouthfeel. Like the others in this series, it’s quite expensive for what it is but on the other hand it’s a tasty, drinkable whiskey.
You can buy a bottle of Jameson Whiskey Makers Series – Blender’s Dog here.