Reaching the 18 year milestone brings the distinction of achievement, experience, and celebration. This age is looked upon and reminisced fondly in subsequent years, often to the point of wishing you could be 18 again. Jameson 18 year old seemingly embodies all of these characteristics. Despite arguably the pinnacle of the Jameson range, the 18 year keeps re-inventing itself into newer versions. The latest facelift is imminent after the last re-launch only a few years ago. That re-brand ushered in the "retirement" of the much loved Limited Reserve version.
Why another makeover so soon? Let's take a look at the 18 year over the past decade.
The Limited Reserve Jameson 18 year blend came in the traditional dark green bottle with premium green box packaging to match. At 40% abv, this blend of single pot still and grain was aged for 18 years in both ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks (it also contained some much less publicized port cask components). This premium blend was a limited release each year but received much less fanfare compared to its sister whiskey blend Midleton Very Rare (both are traditionally 40% abv single pot still and grain blends using aged stock from Midleton distillery). However, other than one-off Jameson Vintage Reserves in 2007 and 2009, this annual limited release was the top of the Jameson lineup. During this period the other Jameson releases were the core expression, Crested Ten, and the popular 12 year Special Reserve blend.
In 2016, the Jameson portfolio was revamped with the 12 year discontinued, a re-named Jameson Crested (no implied aged statement), and the subsequent release of the Whiskey Maker's Trilogy (Distiller's Safe, Cooper's Croze, and Blender's Dog). At the time, the Jameson 18 year was spared but there were rumors.
In 2017, further changes were made within the Midleton lineup as the Very Rare received a new bottle design while the 18 year Jameson was "retired". At the time some felt the popularity of Irish whiskey was draining aged stock of whiskey at Midleton leading to the offering of only non-age statement releases. However, Jameson 18 year was re-branded and re-released in 2018 with new packaging and a "big" brother.
The new release was generally consistent with the prior version, a 40% abv blend of single pot still and grain whiskies aged 18 years in ex- bourbon and sherry casks before finishing in first-fill bourbon barrels. However, the port component was no longer included. Gone was the dark green bottle, replaced with the new wave of clear glass in a more squat design than its predecessor. Were these the only changes? Was the distillate the same? Opinions vary but there will always be those who prefer the way things were.
The other change during this re-introduction was the release of a cask strength version. This had the additional distinction of being partially aged in the old Bow street distillery in Dublin. This release solved a major criticism of the original 18 year offering, finally a higher abv version. Both new 18 year versions came at a higher price than before.
So, after only 4 years, it was recently announced that Jameson is once again re-branding the 18 year offering. Why the makeover so soon? In the July 2022 press release, two primary changes were highlighted. The first change was going "green"; however, not the glass bottle. While the box packaging is the traditional green color, it is the emphasis on sustainability and recyclable cardboard that aims to reduce waste. The other change is the raising of the abv from 40% to 46%. Many would agree that a premium aged offering should come at this higher abv without chill filtration. Finally, a technological twist is the addition of a QR code on the package which will provide access to a virtual guided tasting by Master Distiller Kevin O'Gorman.
The newest iteration should be available later this year. At that time we can compare/contrast the different bottling releases from the past decade.
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