(Note: This post was originally published on newnownext.com, the online side on the Logo network. When I first tasted the Black Barrel my instant reaction was: gateway Irish whiskey for the unitiated and the second thought was: I could see this bracing iteration of Jameson landing with the gays. Thus, the open shirt come-on of the photo (below) I shot for the piece. But rest assured: all are welcome to enjoy this fine spirit. J.R.)
Irish Whiskey has fallen off in popularity in the last couple generations in the U.S. but as drinkers' palates get more sophisticated and complex subtleties are starting to come back into the forefront of sprits (see: mezcal, pisco) the category is swiftly coming back into vogue. One bold new expression of a classic should further hasten that return. From the gold standard of Irish whiskies, Jameson, comes a subtle, restrained new iteration that falls well below the aged versions in terms of price, but holds up beautifully on flavor profile. Jameson Black Barrel Select Reserve is made from a combination of rare grain whiskies and pot still malted and unmalted whiskies, and aged in sherry & bourbon casks for an average of 12 years (as opposed to standard Jameson's 7), Then a team of distillers blends them in a wickedly tasty ratio that has the sock in the jaw you expect from Irish whiskies, but without the more maltly, almost syrup-y quality of Jameson. Where Jameson has a green apple sweetness the Black Barrel goes more autumnal, with notes of vanilla, toasted oak and stone fruit, set off by a touch of welcome spice and heat that gives each sip a complex and evolving arc. Bracing and supple, this sipper may just be the gateway Irish whiskey that seduces you.