On Monday I had a review of a malt whisky from a relatively unknown Taiwanese distillery. Here now is a review of a whiskey from the most famous brand name in Ireland: Jameson, made at the Midleton distillery. What do they have in common? Nothing other than the fact that neither is Scottish.
I know very little about Irish whiskey and have reviewed very few Irish whiskies. And I’ve not had very good luck with the few Jamesons I’ve reviewed. Those were all contemporary releases, however, whereas this one was bottled sometime in the early-mid 1980s. I assume it was still made in the same way then, as a blend of grain and pot still whiskey. You are doubtless sick of hearing Scotch whisky geeks go on about how much better single malts and blends were in the 1970s and 1980s. Was the same true of Irish whiskey? Let’s see what this one indicates.
Jameson Irish Whiskey, Bottled Early-Mid 1980s (40%; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Sweet fruit to start (peach, apple plus some lemon); there’s a slightly astringent, almost plastic note as well that might be from the oak or a sign of the grain. With time the fruit picks up some vanilla, some cream and the lemon turns into lime. Really quite nice. Two drops of water and the fruit intensifies—apricot and plum now to go with the peach.
Palate: The thinness of the texture is what makes the first impression. Not as much fruit as on the nose and it’s mostly on the tart end of things. On the second sip there’s a bit more of the sweet fruit but also some of that plastic/bitter note; somehow it works. With more time the fruit expands a bit (the peach). Okay, let’s see what happens with a drop or two of water. Ah yes, as often happens, water improves the texture and, as on the nose, the fruit expands, becoming more bubblegummy.
Finish: Medium. The citrus yields to the oak which is spicier here (peppery at the end). The sweeter fruit shows up here too with time. Water knocks the spice back a bit.
Comments: Was this made to be nosed and slowly sipped? Probably not. But it rewards the nose well enough anyway and does no harm on the palate either. And with water the palate comes on nicely too. Yes, it’s not just the Scots who were drinking better in the 1980s.
Rating: 84 points.
Thanks to Michael for the sample! See his video review here (prepare yourselves for the beard).
“You are doubtless sick of hearing Scotch whisky geeks go on about how much better single malts and blends were in the 1970s and 1980s. Was the same true of Irish whiskey?”
My impression from reviews / scores is that the best Irish whiskeys are the independent bottlings from the late ’80s/early ’90s – and some of the Redbreast and Teeling bottlings from the ’90s. I don’t think there were many independent bottlings *during* the 1970s/1980s..?
While it might be true that (Scotch) blends were better on average in the ’70s and ’80s, I’ve found them very hit and miss (also true of even older blends).
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