When it comes to brown spirits, black is the new black. In a continuation of the whiskey industry's current infatuation with black-branded spirits, Jameson has launched their Select Reserve Black Barrel. This latest release from the Midleton Distillery is a specialty blend. The Black Barrel's base is a higher than usual proportion of Jameson's pot still whiskey, aged to around 12 years instead of the normal 5 to 7 years in bourbon and sherry casks. Small batch grain whiskey rumored to be distilled only one day out of the year and aged in Wild Turkey barrels rounds out the blend. So what does special plus special equal? And is it worth the extra bucks to go black?
Pouring a light golden straw, the new release is visually indistinguishable from regular Jameson, but there's more here than meets the eye. On the nose, it's much fruitier with juicy green apples and more exotic stone fruit flavor: apricots, papaya, and nectarines.
The Black Barrel is much creamier and complex than I expected. The sweet cereal character of the barley structures the whiskey, but there's much more depth—vanilla and oak are familiar, but hints of toasted wood, spices, and a distinct sherry note are welcome additions. The finish is fairly short with the pepper and char lingering, and most importantly there's no hint of the alcohol bite that I can't escape with regular Jameson.
It's absolutely a better whiskey than the standard offering, deserving of sipping neat or on the rocks rather than shooting or mixing. At about $40 a bottle, it's more expensive, but this is not one of those special offerings that's all about hype. Bottom line, if you like Jameson, you'll love Black Barrel. And if you don't love Jameson, you'll probably still like Black Barrel. Well done, Jameson.
Sample provided for review consideration.
About the author: Andrew Strenio is a lover of all things potable. Since sneaking his grandmother's bourbon balls, he's moved on to touring distillers and sipping snifters. He works by day making documentary television and films for an independent production company in Brooklyn.