*Sincere thanks to Irish Distillers, Jameson, and Ketchum for the sample.
In a distillery/whiskey production setting, the word “dog” can be used for several different things…or really just two very, very different things and then a few variations on the theme. There is, of course, the four-legged kind of dog (Canis lupus familiaris), who often proves to be a welcome and jovial companion to those lucky few working at a distillery. Pictured at right are two such dogs that I met at the Knockdhu (anCnoc) distillery a few years ago. Their names are Tosca or Meg or something else I’ve forgotten. Dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) like these are, the vast majority of the time, not that great at holding liquor.
In contrast, the other kind of dog you’ll find in a distillery/whiskey production setting is a small thin vessel, usually made of copper or stainless steel, attached to a length of chain. I’m not sure if there’s a classifying latin term for this kind of dog. A whiskey dog such as this has served a few purposes over time. The chain and slimness allows it to be dipped into a cask of maturing whiskey to draw out a small measure. In the context of the whiskey we’re looking at here, this “blender’s dog” allows the blender to collect samples from maturing stocks to aid in the creation of an expression of whiskey. Many years ago, this kind of dog was reportedly also employed in a far sneakier fashion by thirsty, yet dishonest workers who would slyly dip into a cask, and then dangle the filled-up dog and chain down their pants to bring home a little of the good stuff undetected. While this kind of whiskey dog is relatively excellent at holding liquor, the vast majority of the time it does not make for a welcome and jovial companion. Unless of course you like dangling cold metal tubes down your pants legs. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, you do you.
Jameson’s “The Blender’s Dog” Irish Whiskey is the second expression of three in Jameson’s The Whiskey Makers Series to make it to the U.S. The series is part of Jameson’s line-up overhaul, designed to be a trio of super premium whiskeys that celebrate three key figures in the brand’s production. The first release to hit U.S. shelves, the Cooper’s Croze was created by Ger Buckley who is the head cooper for all of Irish Distillers. The Cooper’s Croze, named after the tool that grooves the ends of staves so the barrelhead fits perfectly, is a blended whiskey aged between 12 and 16 years in a combination of ex-bourbon American oak, virgin American oak and ex-sherry casks. The release that hasn’t yet made it to these blighted shores is the Distiller’s Safe. This one was put together by Jameson’s master distiller, Brian Nation, and is named after the spirit safe, that magical apparatus that helps distillers make their cuts during distilling. The Distiller’s Safe is a younger blended whiskey, around five to six years old, that has been matured completely in ex-bourbon casks. The Blender’s Dog is the creation of Irish Distillers’ master blender Bill Leighton. It’s a blend of whiskeys, presumably grain, malt, and pot still, between five and twelve years old, that have matured in a variety of casks. Whereas the Cooper’s Croze showcased the effects of barrel on a whiskey, and the Distiller’s Safe highlighted the distillate character, the Blender’s Dog is all about creating harmony between the different types of whiskey, types of cask, and different ages of whiskey..
The Nose: A balanced, pleasant, mildly robust nose. There are sweet notes of pineapple, floral honey, and poached pears, with some slightly earthier notes of fig paste, vanilla bean, and toasted barley. Behind that, a subtle pleasant hint of dandelions and damp cotton sheets hung out to dry. Sturdy oak notes of sanded wood with cinnamon, candied ginger, and a touch of cedar.
The Palate: Slightly oily mouthfeel with more tropical fruit that floats over the entire palate. Both pineapple juice and pineapple rind are joined by navel oranges and a bit of guava. More vanilla bean and sweetened grain with the addition of some semi-sweet chocolate notes and a little almond extract. There’s a subtle but present bit of spicy grain hinting at the pot still whiskeys used. Weightier, more tannic oak with cinnamon & sugar mix, more candied ginger, a little clove, and a bit of fine ground pepper.
The Finish: Just long enough and very mouth-watering. That slight pineapple rind sweetness lingers with the cinnamon, clove, and grippy oak following behind.
Thoughts: Really very nice. This stuff is almost dangerously drinkable. The appealing, persistent fruitiness that runs throughout is countered by the grain and oak as well as a few earthier notes. True to its name, this is expertly blended, balancing and integrating different whiskeys and different casks while allowing the character of each to come through. It’s both easy drinking and complex and rich. Yes, the ~$70 price tag seems a bit high, but what else is new these days. A well made and very enjoyable Irish whiskey. Recommended.
- “Dog.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 6 Jan. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog.
- “Jameson Whiskey Makers Series – Distiller’s Safe.” Master of Malt, masterofmalt.com/whiskies/john-jameson-and-son/jameson-whiskey-makers-series-distillers-safe-whiskey.
- “Review – Jameson The Whiskey Makers Series.” Whisky For Everyone, 13 July 2016, whiskyforeveryone.blogspot.com/2016/07/review-jameson-whiskey-makers-series.html.
- “The Blender’s Dog.” Jameson Whiskey, jamesonwhiskey.com/en/ourwhiskeys/Blenders-Dog.