*Sincere thanks to Irish Distillers, Jameson, and Ketchum for the sample.
For this year’s St. Patrick’s Day’s Irish whiskey review, I thought we’d take a look at St. Francis. Ok, perhaps more specifically, the Franciscans, the religious orders and sects that follow the teachings of St. Francis. What the hell, let’s narrow it down even further and talk about the water sources used by those often monk-ish followers. Alright, maybe just one water source, like maybe a spring or a well? Oooooo, wouldn’t it be great if there was a brewery that was named after a water source used by the followers of St. Francis?
Ah, well, what do you know…the luck of the Irish!
The Franciscan Well Brewery in Cork was founded in 1998 by a man named Shane Long on the former site of a Franciscan monastery that dates back to 1219. It’s one of the oldest “craft” breweries in Ireland and has been an important and well-regarded part of that scene. In 2013, the brewery was purchased by Molson Coors, though operations are still helmed by Mr. Long.
I mention all this not because I’m interested in St. Francis or wells, at least not any more or less than what’s considered socially acceptable, but because the Franciscan Well Brewery figures pretty significantly into Jameson’s Caskmates series. Back in 2014, the distillery released, in Ireland only, an experimental expression that consisted of their standard blend finished in ex-Jameson barrels that had been turned over to Franciscan Well to age their stout in. The resulting whiskey was met with enough approval, that a second, much wider release of the Caskmates Stout Edition happened in 2015. A couple of years later, in late 2017, the Jameson Caskmates IPA Edition Irish Whiskey was released. Collaborating once again with the Franciscan Well Brewery, this one has gone through pretty much the same process as the stout edition except the stout has been replaced by an IPA. In this case, Jameson has one again handed a number of barrels over to the brewery, who aged their Chieftain IPA in the barrels for while, and once they were emptied, handed the barrels back over to Jameson. The barrels were then filled with the standard Jameson blended whiskey and aged for an undisclosed amount of time. It’s worth noting that the brewery (and several reviews) describe the Chieftain IPA as a more easy-drinking, approachable, Irish take on the usually heavily hopped, relatively bitter IPA style.
The Nose: Quite sweet, light-ish, and somewhat different. Floral honey drizzled on ruby red grapefruit pulp, tart applesauce, and a bit of lime. On the less fruity-sweet side of things, there’s some subtle, faintly herbal fresh hop notes, semi-sweet chocolate, and lemon oil. The oak is quite subdued with sanded boards, vanilla, and anise candy.
The Palate: Lightly creamy mouthfeel with more honeyed sweetness right away. More citrus as well, with lemon zest, pulpy grapefruit, and a hint of Rose’s lime juice. A subtle herbal hoppiness present here as well, but it’s relatively faint and integrated. Some bitter chocolate and a few salted nuts provide a nice counterpoint to bright fruity sweetness. The oak has more tannic bite and spice, with vanilla bean, ginger candies, and white peppercorns.
The Finish: That bright, honeyed citrus continues for a while, as does the slightly peppery, ginger-y bit of spice.
Thoughts: Interesting, and ultimately pretty enjoyable. The standard Jameson is a fairly simple and light canvas with which to paint a finish on, so one would assume it wouldn’t take too much to add to its flavor profile. And the IPA Cask manages to not add too much, which actually works out well. While the nose is rather reserved and somewhat uninspiring, the palate makes up for it with a very pleasant, juicy, slightly herbal, citrus-y burst. There are some subtle, hoppy beer notes, but mostly the influence of those finishing casks seems to come through in that faint herbal quality and the bright, fresh-squeezed citrus quality. Lively, easy-drinking stuff that, for around $25-$30/bottle is certainly a worthwhile step up from ye olde basic Jameson.
- “Francsican Well.” Franciscan Well, www.franciscanwellbrewery.com/en/our-beers/core-range/chieftain-ipa
- “Francsican Well – Our History.” Franciscan Well, www.franciscanwellbrewery.com/en/about-us/our-history
- “Jameson Caskmates IPA Edition.” Jameson Whiskey, www.jamesonwhiskey.com/en/ourwhiskeys/jameson-caskmates-ipa
- Marchetti, Nino. “The Irish Whisky You Will Want To Have But Can’t: Jameson Caskmates.” The Whiskey Wash, 18 Nov. 2014, thewhiskeywash.com/whiskey-styles/irish-whiskey/the-irish-whisky-you-will-want-to-have-but-cant-jameson-caskmates/
- Marchetti, Nino. “Jameson Caskmates Is A Stout Barrel Finished Whiskey Treat.” The Whiskey Wash, 22 Sept. 2015, thewhiskeywash.com/whiskey-styles/irish-whiskey/jameson-caskmates-is-a-stout-barrel-finished-whiskey-treat/
- “Molson Coors purchases Franciscan Well.” Drinks Industry Ireland, 14 Jan. 2013, www.drinksindustryireland.ie/molson-coors-purchases-franciscan-well/