What Is Jameson Irish Whiskey?

Production, Types, and Recipes

Barrels of the iconic Jameson Irish Whiskey.

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Jameson Irish Whiskey is a brand of Irish blended whiskeys produced at the Midleton distillery in County Cork, Ireland. Appreciated for its smooth, reliable taste, it is one of the biggest and best-known brand names among all styles of whiskey. Jameson is made by blending triple-distilled barley whiskey with grain whiskey. There are a number of expressions available; the youngest is aged for four years, and some whiskeys for much longer. No matter which bottle you choose, Jameson is enjoyable on its own and a popular base for a variety of Irish whiskey cocktails and shots.

Fast Facts

  • Ingredients: Barley, corn
  • Proof: 80–86 
  • ABV: 40–43%
  • Calories in a shot: 79
  • Origin: Ireland
  • Taste: Sweet, oaky, honey, spicy
  • Aged: 4 years minimum
  • Serve: straight-up, on the rocks, cocktails, shots

What Is Jameson Irish Whiskey Made From?

John Jameson started in the 1770s with a dream to break into the booming whiskey business. At that time, Dublin was known for some of the best whiskey in Ireland. The brand claims that Jameson built on this success by refusing to cut corners in the production of his whiskey, selecting the best barley and casks, and keeping the entire operation in a single distillery so that quality could be ensured. The result of years of this work established the brand’s philosophy that remains intact today. It continues not in the Old Jameson Distillery (though that is open for tours), but in the newer Midleton Distillery nearby—production moved to the larger distillery in County Cork in 1975.

Irish whiskey, no matter the brand, must be (at minimum) triple-distilled and aged for three years. Jameson follows suit, distilling whiskey from a combination of malted and unmalted, locally-grown barley three times in a copper pot still. This is blended with grain whiskey, which is also produced at the distillery, though the corn used is from France since Ireland's climate is not conducive to that particular crop.

Jameson’s profile reflects its blending techniques of whiskeys aged in various casks that include former sherry butts, bourbon barrels, and port pipes. Using a combination of these woods adds to the complexity of the whiskey. While the whiskey exceeds the minimum maturation time, each cask of whiskey is monitored and aging is stopped when the whiskey is ready for blending.

Produced and cut to bottling strength with water from the Dungourney River, the majority of Jameson whiskeys are bottled at 40 percent alcohol by volume (ABV, or 80 proof). Some expressions are slightly stronger.

What Does Jameson Taste Like?

Jameson holds the sweet fragrance of malted barley with butter tones and subtle oak notes. The palate is marked by the same, with the grain turning darker and more apparent and hints of spicy nut mixing in and out. It finishes with honey and spicy, smoky snaps of barley that work through the long fade.

Types

Like many whiskey distillers, Jameson's portfolio relies on a flagship expression of their whiskey. That familiar bottle is accompanied by a number of whiskeys that have some special quality. The range changes and limited editions are regularly released, though there are a few Jameson bottles that have been around for quite some time as well.

  • Jameson Irish Whiskey: The green bottle you see in every bar and liquor store, this is an iconic example of Irish whiskey. It's a blend of pot still barley and grain whiskeys, each of which is aged at least four years, and is bottled at 80 proof.
  • Jameson Black Barrel: Since American law requires that bourbon barrels be used only once, they're often used by other spirit producers like Jameson. The barrels in which Black Barrel are aged get an extra layer of char. This blend also includes a higher portion of pot still whiskey, while the grain whiskey is small-batch. Appropriately also called "Small Batch," the 80-proof whiskey is richer and more complexly flavored than the original.
  • Jameson Caskmates: A special edition, these 80-proof whiskeys are finished in barrels that once housed craft beer. One beer, including stout and IPA, is used for each expression within the Caskmates edition, and it's fascinating to taste how the style of beer changes the whiskey's taste.
  • Jameson Whiskey Makers Series: A special series of whiskeys, each bottle celebrates the talent behind Jameson. The expressions include The Cooper's Croze, The Blender's Dog, and The Distiller's Safe, and all are 86 proof.
  • Jameson 18 Year: The oldest whiskey you'll find from Jameson, this is the top of the portfolio. The pot still whiskey is backed up by single grain whiskey then aged in former bourbon and Oloroso sherry casks. It's finished in ex-bourbon barrels that have not seen any other liquor (though still called "first-fill"), and the total aging time is 18 years. It is an expensive but beautiful 80-proof whiskey. There are other 18-year expressions worth exploring, including Old Bow Street (110.6 proof) and Limited Reserve.

How to Drink Jameson Irish Whiskey

Jameson is a delightful sipper for the whiskey connoisseur. Enjoy any expression from this brand neat or open up the aroma with a little ice in a rocks glass, also known as a lowball or Old Fashioned glass. For any that are 80 proof, water is really not necessary because it's smooth enough straight out of the bottle. The flagship bottle of Jameson is, however, not as smooth as some other Irish whiskeys. It is reasonably priced and, considering its reliability and versatility, that difference is minimal and relatively insignificant.

This whiskey makes a pleasant cocktail ingredient. Jameson is as iconic as the famous Irish coffee and a natural fit for that recipe. It works exceptionally well with ginger ale and is a nice whiskey base for tonic water. Its popularity in bars has also ensured that Jameson regularly makes its way into shot glasses, whether straight or mixed into a shooter.

Cocktail Recipes

Any Irish whiskey cocktail is a perfect venue for a shot of Jameson. Its smooth taste means it can also work well in a variety of whiskey recipes, particularly those that don't have a preference for a specific style or drinks that use another blended (including Canadian) whiskey.