By Aaron Ramson
Loved by casual whiskey drinkers for being as easy on your taste buds as it is on your wallet, Jameson Irish Whiskey is a recipe that has persevered since 1780, where it was first brewed by John Jameson and his son, John Jameson Jr. at the Bow Street Distillery in Dublin, Ireland. A blend of grain whiskey and single pot still whiskey (which is made by combining malted and unmalted barley, as opposed to a single malt whiskey which is made exclusively with malted barley), Jameson whiskey has seen significant growth in the 2000’s, and aligned itself with the craft beer market in 2015 with the addition of their Caskmates (whiskey aged in barrels that had previously been used to age IPA or stout beer) products.
Dubbed the Drinking Buddies Program, the distillery traded barrels with select craft breweries, and born from that project was another beer and Jameson’s product, Great Divide Brewing Company’s “The Smoothness.”
Jameson whiskey selected 5 American craft breweries for their Caskmates Drinking Buddies Program, and Denver, CO brewery Great Divide was amongst the chosen. Through the program, Jameson shipped several of their used whiskey barrels to the brewery, which Great Divide used to age a recipe they had been working on for the project, a doppelbock-inspired dark lager aptly named “The Smoothness.” The beer proved to be very popular for Great Divide, with the limited stock selling out very quickly in their Colorado taprooms. Jameson responded by shipping the brewery an additional 50 wet barrels, which allowed Great Divide to create enough product for bottling and limited distribution.
Great Divide has long been one of my favorite Colorado craft beer makers, with their “Claymore Wee Heavy” earning rave reviews in past installments of this column. I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a bottle of “The Smoothness” for review, not an easy feat for a product of this limited nature. At $10 per 12 oz bottle, the price reflects its exclusivity, but does this barrel aged lager live up to the hype?
THE SMOOTHNESS – 8.7% ABV, Great Divide Brewing Company, Denver, CO.
Appearance: Poured from a 12 oz bottle that uses Jameson’s familiar green and beige color scheme on its label to invoke the synergy between the Irish whiskey and craft beer that’s accomplished with this product. The Smoothness pours a near brilliant jet-black center that turns almost blood red around the edges of the glass. Head is almost non-existent, dissipating almost immediately after pouring. 3.5/5
Nose: Straight-up smells like Jameson and wood. Sweet toasted caramel; woody, campfire wood bundles, cedar. A second inhale reinforces a bouquet that begins with sugary dark malts and ends with an almost smoky wood aroma. 4/5
Taste: The maillard richness and dark malt flavors of a Doppelbock married to the intense woodiness and caramel sweetness of Jameson whiskey. Piquant and toasty, with both unsweetened cocoa and semi-sweet dark chocolate appearing in sips. 4.5/5
Mouthfeel: Velvety and full, almost bordering on heavy in the mouth. The Smoothness coats the tongue with rich and thick malt. 5/5
Overall: This beer lives up to its name with a fantastic smoothness; exhibiting the caramel sweetness, big oak flavors, and malty richness of Jameson Whiskey without any boozy burn. Well-made with experience and care, this is as good as craft beer gets.
TOTAL SCORE 4.25/5