February 10, 2008

Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve

Bill Dowd photo

This is the fourth blend in the Jameson Reserve line from Ireland's biggest whiskey exporter. It was launched last October, joining Jameson 12 Year Old Special Reserve, Jameson Gold Reserve and Jameson 18 Year Old Limited Reserve. My sample was dated January 18, 2008.

Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve

When a whiskey/whisky is stamped with a "vintage," it requires careful attention. Like wine vintages, the same label may adorn very different products over a span of years. Thus, this latest addition to the Jameson Reserve line no doubt will taste different from one year to the next because it is a blend of older grain whiskies (over 20 ) plus pure pot still whiskey with both unmalted and malted barleys.

In addition, some of the Rarest Vintage Reserve was matured in used bourbon casks and some in port casks. It's a 92 proof blend. The company regards them as "the oldest and rarest whiskies" stored at the distillers' facility near Cork.

What all this boils down to is a brilliant whiskey: crystal clear, understated at first with slight touches of lavendar and vanilla, middle notes that reveal the mixed cask heritage by laying a hint of spice on the tongue, and a smooth, almost ethereal, finish.

The suggested U.S. retail price is $250, if you can find it at all. Only 1,300 three-litre cases were produced for this first vintage.

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