Jameson Bow Street 18 year old Cask Strength is interestingly named – it could equally have been named ‘Distiller’s Walk’ as at least 17 of its 18 years of life have taken place at the Midleton Distillery in County Cork. However, there’s a nice piece of history and process taking place with this edition which earns it some uniqueness. Least of all, it’s an offering at a much higher ABV - perhaps this’ll help folks consider that there’s much more nuance to Irish whiskey than simply it’s ‘smoothness’.
The cask strength variant is created from a blend of ex-bourbon and sherry cask pot still and Irish grain whiskeys that have been distilled and matured at Midleton (using a combination of malted and unmalted barley). These components are then transported up to the Bow Street site in Dublin for a married finishing period (specified as 6-12 months) in 1st fill American oak ex-bourbon barrels before being bottled at 55.3% ABV. In the words of Master Blender Billy Leighton “engaged in Midleton and then married in Dublin”.
The use of 1st fill barrels is an interesting if not particularly radical departure when one considers the whisky world as a whole. Nevertheless, the Bow Street edition can be seen as a reinterpretation of the brand – the site was one of the last Irish distilleries to close back in 1971, so reutilising it as a finishing location does indeed hark back to when Bow Street was Jameson’s original production site – it’s now primarily a visitors centre, bar and gift shop.
Jameson has offered an 18 year old expression for the past 15 years – but that, like many of company’s products has been bottled at a paltry 40% ABV. Bow Street, whilst not following the same ‘recipe’ substantially ups the ABV ant - however, it is not, as some of my fellow commenters have indicated – the only cask strength bottling Jameson have created (read the press release more carefully chaps) - it is the first to be produced that is globally available for purchase. For the last few years Jameson have offered their ‘Black Barrel’ hand bottling at both their distillery locations – these BYO versions clock at even heftier ABVs directly from the cask – anywhere from 59.2 – 60.6%.
Jameson Bow Street Edition 18 year old Cask Strength has an initial run of 15,000 bottles (hold tight, I expect further batches to be produced), and is available across 20 markets. Whilst the RRP is €240, the price seems to vary greatly depending on where in the world you are located. I’ve seen this for sale for as low as €120 - in the UK, expect to pay somewhere in the region of £170 – either way, you’ve got a variety of avenues to avoid paying the full, (IMO rather excessive) asking price.
Nose: Expressive and jam-packed with both Irish pot still and grain character. 1st fill ex-bourbon leads with vanilla, tonka bean, toffee apple and coconut shaving – supported by an array of defined spicing – cinnamon and nutmeg with scattering of chopped garden herbs. The grain component offers plenty of freshly popped popcorn, porridge oats and teak panelling. As this rests, a wider assortment of fruits present themselves – stone and delicate tropical – peach, mango and guava, whilst a woody dustiness develops in the background. Reduction (seemingly defying the point of this edition – but we’re here to experiment all the same) brings out deep nuttiness of cashew and peanut alongside cracker bread and butter-laced pastries.
Taste: The higher ABV delivers a powerful, viscous arrival that’s both sweet and aromatically spiced. Foam bananas and gummy bears sit with cinnamon spiced apples and clove studded pears. The development is progressive and sustained, moving through archetypal vanilla flavours on to coffee and walnut cake, toasted cereals and choux pastry before expressing sappy and resinous oak. There’s both a grainy acetone flavour and a slight metallic tinge in the back-palate – in some circumstances either of these might prove a distraction, but in this instance they’re unified and in keeping with the wider profile of the whiskey. Water softens things up – juicy tinned orchard fruits, bags of cinema popcorn and less bite (at the expense of some creaminess and body).
Finish: Long, malty and oaty with the grain steadily exerting itself.
Jameson Bow Street 18 year old Cask Strength takes the DNA of the distillery’s house style and offers it up in an appealing high impact variant. The extra ABV helps to deliver full-bodied flavour, an excellent mouthfeel and a sustained development, whilst maintaining the inherent delicate character of the underlying distillate – nothing has been lost – definition has been gained. Fans have been clamouring for more cask strength Irish whiskey’s – this release ably sates some of those desires. Well worth looking out for, though be prepared to shop around to obtain it at a good price - for €120 I'd jump all over this, but at the full asking price of €240 the competition is stiff.
Review sample provided by Richmond & Towers on behalf of Irish Distillers