By Richard Thomas
At the core of the Jameson Irish Whiskey brand reorganization was the introduction of The Whiskey Makers series. Some old expressions were repackaged into Black Barrel and Crested, Signature Reserve was brought into wider distribution, and the travel retail Deconstructed series was introduced. Yet all of these steps were comparatively modest or had taken place months before the shake up announcement.
The big news when the broader announcement was made was the discontinuance of Jameson 12 Year Old, and the introduction of The Whiskey Makers. Each of these three expressions was developed jointly by Head Distiller Brian Nation, Head Cooper Ger Buckley, and Head Blender Billy Leighton, so as to emphasize the role each of them plays in turn.
In the case of Distiller’s Safe, that emphasis is on Nation’s department and the role that the copper still plays on whiskey flavor.
Distiller’s Safe is reportedly a blend of pot still and grain whiskeys, with no malt whiskey involved. This expression is also the youngest in The Whiskey Makers, appropriately so because it should be not too far removed from new make. According to Irish law, the whiskey must be at least three years old, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn it wasn’t too far off that mark. The stock comes entirely from whiskeys matured in ex-bourbon barrels, and it’s bottled at 43% ABV.
The first sign of the youth of the whiskey is its appearance, a strikingly pale yellow. The coloring is so pale, in fact, that it is just one firm step on this side of translucent.
The nose is light, smooth, and subtle, it has a waft of the herb garden and the pear orchard in bloom, and about the strength one might experience walking on a grassy path between them. The palate is again light and smooth, with a silken texture. The flavor is malty sweet, with a trace of fruit peel and just the barest pinch of cinnamon. The finish, following in the delicate character of the whiskey, is moderate and fleeting.
This is a remarkably smooth, light whiskey, and in my opinion that is it’s problem. I firmly believe an understated, subtle, delicate whiskey should always carry sophistication in equal measure. The balance between the subtlety and the complexity just isn’t there, making it pretty much just light. It’s an interesting insight into the stillhouse at New Midleton, and I’d recommend buying a dram whole heartedly. I just wouldn’t buy the bottle.
The Whiskey Masters series is priced at €70, as the series essentially replaces Jameson 12 Year Old. At that price, this particular expression is a disappointing successor.