Jameson Black Barrel is one of those expressions that underwent a slight rebranding pretty recently. What was formerly known as Jameson Select Reserve Black Barrel has been simplified to the iteration most of us are bound to find on shelves today. Either way, it’s easy for a more casual drinker to look at this Jameson bottling as something more upscale, thanks to its namesake and presentation. But what actually separates Jameson Black Barrel from its standard, less pricey sibling? Well, let’s just say details are a bit on the scant side.
A quick trip to Jameson’s website merely discloses that this is triple distilled, twice charred, and makes use of bourbon barrels that have gone through an additional charring process “to reveal their untold richness and complexity.” Beyond that, we’re likely left to infer that it shares similar qualities to the standard Jameson bottling, namely it being a mix of pot still and grain whiskeys. How much of a difference does it end up making? Let’s see:
Nose: Soft and lightly buttery. Honey and shortbread with faint vanilla tingles. Still has that metallic essence regular Jameson exudes, but it’s significantly dialed down. Feels like it has more sherry personality. Hints of lemon cookie. Swirling brings out some dried fig or prune notes.
Palate: Soft and a touch buttery (like the nose). Even more buttery, fruit-like essence than regular Jameson which suggests more pot still and sherry cask influence. Buttery pancakes, fig, and apricot. Slightly metallic tannin note lasts for a few seconds on the mid-palate, blemishing an otherwise stellar pour.
Finish: Slight bitterness that gives way to the light maple and shortbread residuals. Surprisingly lengthy for the proof point.
This is quite nice. I’m all but certain there’s more pot still whiskey and sherry oak in the blend for these bottles, considering how softly sweet and borderline dessert-y it is. Where regular Jameson reminds me of a slightly herbal tea thanks to its obvious use of grain whiskey, Black Barrel seems to favor the pot still portion, resulting in a richer and far more enjoyable sipping experience. While the grain whiskey still plays a part, it’s toned down enough to be little more than a mild detractor unless you’re actively critiquing your pour.
Jameson Black Barrel is a classic example of simple but effective whiskey. Compared to more entry-level options like Bushmills, Tullamore Dew, and regular Jameson, it’s a considerable step up for a fairly minimal premium. Anyone whose exposure to Irish whiskey has been limited to said bottlings will definitely notice the difference while drinking this, and likely for the better. Meanwhile, those who are familiar with single pot still offerings the likes of Redbreast will appreciate how close this gets for a fraction of the cost. Consider me a fan.