Jameson Caskmates: The result of a fearless experiment

Like many contemporary myths and legends, it all started in a bar. A dimly-lit bar in the Irish town of Cork, to be precise.

Any whiskey lover worth their salt will of course realise that Cork is where the world-famous Jameson distillery is located. It’s also home to Franciscan Well, one of Ireland’s longest established and best respected craft breweries. Now, master brewers and distillers are as mortal as the rest of us: they frequently head to the bar to unwind after a long day of focused work. And that’s exactly where Jameson Master Distiller, Brian Nation, along with Master of Whiskey Science, Dave Quinn met Franciscan Well founder and Head Brewer, Shane Long.

By the end of the night (talking shop as one might expect), a hypothetical scenario emerged. What would happen, they wondered, if beer was matured in whiskey barrels? And, in turn, what might be expected if whiskey was aged in these ‘stout-seasoned’ barrels? For all they knew then, the results could have been disastrous. But sometimes that’s exactly when the best ideas emerge; leaping headlong into the unknown.

“When Jameson barrels arrived back at Midleton from Franciscan Well, curiosity got the better of us and we experimented by maturing our Jameson Irish whiskey in the casks,” recalls Dave Quinn. “We found that after around six months, the perfect balance of flavour was achieved and we couldn’t be happier with the results.”

‘Sine Metu’ – live without fear – is emblazoned on every bottle of Jameson, and this attitude of fearlessness ultimately consecrated the discovery of a new taste sensation that became Jameson Caskmates. Described by Quinn as “retaining all the smoothness of triple-distilled Jameson with added cocoa, coffee and butterscotch notes from the stout barrels,” whiskey fans and craft beer fans alike can expect something truly unique from this bold experiment.

To be more specific (as master distillers are inclined to do), Brian Nation details the Jameson Caskmates tasting notes in the following way:

Nose: The initial aroma of freshly mown hay is complemented by a crisp orchard fruit character, green apples and pears along with a twist of lime zest. Mild pot still spices appear, deepening from green tea to hazelnut and milk chocolate. The lingering hop influence combines effortlessly with toasted oak and barley grains to form a solid base.

Taste: As expected, there is the initial sweet mouth coating typical of the Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey inclusion. Then the effect of the beer cask finish becomes apparent with the subtle touch of hops and cocoa beans. Some marzipan and charred oak add to the complexity.

Finish: Long and sweet with milk chocolate and butterscotch.

Jameson Caskmates launches this week in South Africa, the world’s second largest market for Jameson Whiskey. To celebrate the spirit of fearless collaboration exemplified by Nation, Quinn and Long back in that dimly lit Cork bar some three years ago, Jameson South Africa replicated the concept with two of the country’s most loved craft beers: Devil’s Peak, and Soweto Gold.

“These breweries were handpicked for the Jameson Caskmates collaboration. It is important for us to work with collaborators who share the Jameson brand values and who are willing to push the boundaries when it comes to innovation” says Head of Marketing for Irish Whiskeys at Pernod-Ricard, Seth Pereira.

‘667’ – an Irish Red Ale brewed by Devil’s Peak was inspired by the Cape legend of Jan van Hunks, who beat the devil in a smoking competition. “667 is a tribute to Jan and all the other brave souls who have faced their fears by edging out darkness – that was a nice tie in to the Sine Metu motto” explains JC Steyn, Devil’s Peak Head Brewer.

‘Soweto Gold 76’ – a tantalising craft beer by the Ubuntu Kraal Brewery – pays homage to the June 16 protestors, many of whom sacrificed their lives for freedom. “The bravery of those protestors gave me the freedom and courage to open up the first black-owned brewery in Soweto” says Soweto Gold founder Ndumiso Mdlala “I really wanted to honour them with ‘Soweto Gold 76′”.

This is how the Jameson Caskmates launch event in Johannesburg went down:

Keep an eye out for Jameson Caskmates in selected stores or at any decent bar. Fear a little less, and live a little more.

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