Whisky Advocate

Malt Advocate Whisky Awards “Irish Whiskey of the Year”: Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve (2009 release)

February 5th, 2010

Irish Whiskey of the Year

Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve (2009 release), 46%, $250

The Midleton Distillery, where Jameson is made, has proven that it can make wonderful whiskeys of great diversity. Jameson Gold, Jameson 18 year old, Redbreast 12 year old, and Power’s 12 year old are just a few of them.

Late in 2007, the distillery introduced Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve (which didn’t get into circulation in the U.S. until 2008). The combination of aging some whiskey in port casks, including some older whiskeys (over 20 years old), and bottling—without chill-filtering—at 46% ABV has helped make Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve rich, deep, and complex.

A 2009 vintage was released toward the end of the 2009 calendar year. (The 2008 vintage was never brought into the U.S.) How does it stack up to the 2007 release, our award winner last year? I like the 2009 vintage even better! If anything, it’s richer and lusher than the 2007 vintage.

It’s rich, silky, and oily in texture. You’ll discover extremely well-integrated flavors loaded with fruits, ripe berries, caramelized banana, nougat, date nut bread, glazed tangerine, and maple syrup, peppered with warming cinnamon, vanilla icing, and nutmeg. A firm, dry, resinous finish balances the sweetness. I love the pot still character and the lushness that some of the port-wood aging has imparted. This is another classic Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve.

Tomorrow’s Malt Advocate Whisky Award annoucement: Scotch Whisky Blend of the Year.

29 Responses to “Malt Advocate Whisky Awards “Irish Whiskey of the Year”: Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve (2009 release)”

  1. Luke says:

    As this bottling costs 400 Euro in Ireland (!) I’ll have to be satisfied with Redbreast 15 Year-Old for the present.

    With Redbreast 15 Year-Old finally becoming available in the States I’d expect it to take this award next year.

    • John Hansell says:

      Luke, my sources at Pernod tell me that we can expect to see Redbreast 15 yr. old here in the U.S. around October 2010. But, another great whisky, Power’s 12 year old, is just getting into circulation now (as is Paddy).

      • Luke says:

        John, re Paddy keep your eyes peeled for “Writers Tears” a Pure Pot Still/Malt Whiskey Blend (no Grain in the vatting) from “an unnamed distillery outside Cork”. A lovely drop and what Paddy should really taste like!

        • Red_Arremer says:

          Writer’s Tears sounds really cool, Luke. I have a friend who digs Irish I’ll have to tell about it. Have you heard that it’s coming to the US?

          • Luke says:

            Alas Red! “Writers Tears” is an unusual limited release from “an unnamed distillery outside Cork” and, as such, may not be available outside Ireland (I am open to correction on this).

            The “unnamed distillery outside Cork” specialises in Irish Pure Pot Still (PPS) whiskey, used in blends such as Jameson and Powers, and has, on this occasion, produced Single Malt for the “Writers Tears” Blend.

            “The Irishman” Whiskey, which should be available in the States, has a similar (very tasty) blend of PPS and Malt Whiskey (from Bushmills) if the idea of a PPS/Malt blend intrigues ye!

            Hoping this is of use in any search – Good Luck!

        • Luke says:

          I forgot to add; “Writer’s Tears” has the CORNIEST marketing blurb I’ve ever seen on a bottle – along the lines of “…it was said When Irish writers cried they cried tears of Whiskey…”

          Believe me, after thirty years of drinking in “literary” pubs in Dublin I steer well clear fluids seeping out of anyone, never mind the writers!

      • Mark says:

        I saw Power’s 12 on the shelf at Binny’s (Ivanhoe) a few days ago — just under $35.

        I’m hoping my son, studying in Ireland this term, can bring me a bottle of Writer’s Tears.

  2. Marc says:

    I tried the 2007 release last year at a workshop with Damien from WhiskyMag. For an Irish whisky I was blown away, really fantastic stuff. Very expensive so I won’t ever buy a bottle though, I’d rather spend the same amount of money on a Scotch malt.

    • John Hansell says:

      Marc, the 2009 is just as good. But for those of you who can’t afford this whiskey, it’s younger siblings (Jameson 12, Jameson Gold, and Jameson 18) are also lovely whiskeys, as is Redbreast 12 year old, which is also made at the same distillery.

  3. Excellent choice John but as people have identified not a very accessible whiskey due to price. So on that premise can you let us into what came 2nd & 3rd as I don’t think I can wait for my issue of MA to be delivered in a couple months. please, please, please … pretty please 😉

  4. Chef! says:

    Too rich for my blood but I would love to try. Sounds great! I always have Red Breast 12 on hand and cannot wait to finally get the 15.

    The only Tyrconnell I’ve tried was the Port finish and I wasn’t impressed enough (compared to the price and availability of the Red Breast 12) to ever consider purchasing another.

  5. JC Skinner says:

    I couldn’t agree less.
    Jameson RVR is:
    a) outrageously overpriced
    b) lacks age statement or indeed any information on what’s in the bottle
    c) isn’t rare at all (three ‘vintages’ issued so far) and most importantly
    d) isn’t anything like the best whiskey in Ireland.
    I can think of a dozen Irish whiskeys, all a fraction of the price of the RVR, which are all superior.
    This decision surprises me. I’m saddened to see MA award what has to be the least impressive Irish bottling in recent years.

    • John Hansell says:

      JC, your first three items (A-C), while I will not disagree with you, do not factor into our decisionmaking. The award is based purely on merit. And we can agree to disagree on “D”. If you get any, you can share it with Mark @2, Irishwhiskeychaser @3, and, of course, me. 🙂

      Out of curiosity, JC, what would be your top three choices?

  6. JC Skinner says:

    I appreciate you must choose from what’s commercially available in the US. That undoubtedly trims down the field somewhat.
    You would not have been able to consider things like the Writers Tears, the various single cask Midletons and Cooleys, the distillers’ editions of Jameson or Bushmills, or independent bottlings like the Grand Crew. And I’d rate many of the above as better whiskeys (never mind better value whiskeys) than the RVR.
    It’s not even the best Jameson, in my opinion. Of the few whiskeys that get to the US, I’d probably plump for the Bush 21, the Jameson Gold, the Connemara sherry finish, and the Tyrconnell sherry finish, if it made it there, all ahead of the RVR.
    I suppose I loathe seeing IDL getting awards for a NAS whiskey which they price outrageously and refuse to state what’s in the bottle. But also, I’ve tried the whiskey in question (first vintage) and thought it cloying, grainy and underwhelming for what had been billed as an exceptional experience.

    • John Hansell says:

      J.C., all those great whiskeys you mention (Writers Tears, single cask Midletons, single cask Cooleys, Distillers Editions of Jameson and Bushmills, Grand Crew, Connemaray Sherry Finish, etc.) are NOT sold in the U.S. The remainder on your list were also on my short list, so we are actually thinking along the same lines with the ones we have both tasted, no?

      And you are now admitting that you haven’t even tried the 2009 vintage of Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve, the one we picked as our award winner, and the one you are criticizing so much? It IS different than the 2007 vintage. I tried them side by side, and I like the 2009 better.

      It seems that you are just more pissed off about the whole concept of charging a lot of money for a NAS whiskey.

  7. Mark says:

    John, while not a big fan of Jameson, I’m intrigued by this bottling and glad to hear reports of the increasing sophistication of the range (as we encounter it in the States).

    I’m especially intrigued with the RVR because it’s bottled without chill-filtering and at 46% ABV; this seems almost always (if not always) an excellent step toward better drams. Did their choice in this regard directly influence your decision making, or would you just say the influence was indirect, by making the whiskey better? In the former case, it seems reasonable to me for MA to award partly in order to encourage a good trend.

    Also, sure hope there’s an opportunity to try this in Chicago come April.

  8. JC Skinner says:

    IDL claim that the RVR doesn’t vary in taste, being taken from the same clutch of specially chosen casks for all the various vintages.
    That claim may or may not go down better with a pinch of salt, needless to say.
    I don’t have any problem at all with your shortlist, which contains some truly splendid Irish whiskeys.
    I just think the completely wrong one won.

  9. Texas says:

    John, I have done my fair share of complaining about prices (however you will also note that I have also commented on seeing as how some like the Parker’s are justifiable). However, I agree with what you are doing with the awards..unless you are specifying some sort of bang for buck criteria (as with the 3 MacPhail’s) then the best whisk(e)y regardless of price should be chosen. Then it’s up to the consumer to decide if the price is worth it. As long as you keep reviewing lower-end–but quality– as well as high-end that that’s all we can ask for.

  10. JohnM says:

    Excellent choice, John (in my opinion, of course). I love this whiskey. I buy mine in the US, as they charge 400 euro in Ireland. I do think the Redbreast 15 trumps it, but that was not available for the judging. Congratulations to IDL. I think this is what Irish whiskey is all about.


  11. Great choice John. I do wish there were more new choices to pick from (same thing goes for the Canadian Whiskys).

  12. lawschooldrunk says:


    I’ll just stick to my Jameson 12, redbreast 12, bushmills black & 10, connemara NAS, and Michael collins…

  13. JC Skinner says:

    You could do a lot worse than that lineup, LSD.
    There are more Irish whiskeys slowly emerging, but they don’t seem to all be reaching stateside.
    Hopefully, we’ll see even more now that Kilbeggan (and hopefully soon Dingle) are distilling.

  14. We are working right now to bring Writer’s Tears to both the Canadian and American markets. I have a bottle in front of me and have to say that I was definitely impressed. Lovely balance. I don’t really have a lot of information as yet but no doubt we will get more back story as time goes on

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