Using secondary casks to “finish” a product is the perfect example of an idea that started as something novel and quickly exploded into its own flimsily defined subspace. It wasn’t long ago that toasted bourbons and beer barrel finishes were considered new and innovative, but are slowly treading “been there, done that” territory for the more jaded drinker. In the case of the latter, Jameson were one of the first I recall doing such a thing, which they kicked off with their Caskmates Stout Edition.
The story behind Caskmates’ existence in the first place is one that feels inevitable in hindsight: Dumped barrels that once held Jameson are then sent to a brewer for aging their beer (Franciscan Well’s stout in this case), followed by returning those same barrels to Jameson so they can be refilled with the whiskey they originally held. Casks get reused a number of times, often crossing categories of beverages, such as ex-bourbon barrels being used to age tequila or scotch. To that end, Caskmates highlights the “circle of life” a barrel can go through, and today we’re going to see how Jameson and stout beer blend together as a result of this process.
Nose: Backbone of honey, malt, and a little lemon offset by a general roast coffee essence. Maybe a caramel or toffee note. More earthy than sweet. A dusting of cocoa and a touch of hazelnut. Probably my least favorite part of the pour.
Palate: Mellow and rounded off with a surprising level of chewiness. Light malt with the personality of a mocha latte, complete with whipped cream. Dark chocolate Milano cookie, but very little cookie. Overdone toffee and pralines.
Finish: Chocolate and coffee notes develop even further, striking a solid balance between sweet and tannic. Brings a surprising heft that screams “nightcap.”
I remember trying Caskmates Stout Edition when it was first released, back when my criteria for enjoying whiskey was far simpler. Since stouts are often my beer of choice when I want something other than whiskey, it left a solid enough impression on me at the time. Now that I’ve revisited it, I can see why, despite a level of fondness in hindsight, I never elected to purchase a second bottle. This is surprisingly hefty for something bottled at a mere 40%. The whiskey seems to carry not just the flavors, but also the weight of the beer itself. This results in a pour that doesn’t necessarily taste rich, but absolutely feels so after you’ve allowed a few sips to sit.
The downside is that I can’t imagine myself reaching for a pour of this at any time. On the flipside, I’d be most interested to see how this would hold up in a variety of dessert cocktails. They aren’t exactly my drink of choice, but the potential is there for the mixology-minded individuals among us. I’d certainly be more excited to try a curated drink with this as the main ingredient when compared to cocktails that incorporate regular Jameson. Ultimately, it’s a fun, respectable experiment with unfortunately little staying power.