Looking at the numbers, it appears to be an unlikely duo: Jameson, the best-selling Irish whiskey in the world, teaming up with KelSo Beer, a craft brewery in Brooklyn that's sold only in the surrounding tri-state area. But then you taste the results of this unique collaboration—a Jameson whisky matured in Jameson barrels previously used to age KelSo IPA beer—and realize size doesn't matter a whole hell of a lot.
This new whiskey is called Jameson Caskmates KelSo Pale Ale Edition, and I got the chance to drink it on Thursday at the launch event held in the KelSo Beer taproom. The taproom was teeming with young blood; an acoustic band played cover songs and Pizza Loves Emily catered the event. I also got the chance to speak with Jameson brand ambassador Greg Slattery about the project, as well as Kelly Taylor, owner and brewmaster of KelSo.
Jameson Caskmaktes KelSo Pale Ale Edition marks the end of a journey that began in 2014, when six barrels from Jameson's Midleton Distillery were emptied and sent to KelSo Beer. Taylor then filled those barrels with his hoppy KelSo IPA and let it age for eight weeks. This one-off, barrel-aged IPA was then released at the 2014 Northside Arts Festival in Brooklyn.
But the story doesn't end there. Taylor then added a handful of Nelson hops from New Zealand (the primary hop used in KelSo IPA) to each barrel, along with a fifth of Jameson whiskey ("to keep the barrel from drying out," says Taylor), and shipped them back to Midleton. There, Dave Quinn, Jameson's master of whiskey science, refilled the barrels with Jameson whiskey and let it mature for six months.
The Nelson hops essentially dry-hopped the Jameson inside the barrels, resulting in a whiskey that offers intense hops aromatics in the nose as well as a floral, citrusy effervescence.
Only 3,000 bottles ($29.99 each) are being released now to the market, albeit only in New York due to the limited quantities. Additionally, six Brooklyn bars will be stocking it: Randolph Brooklyn, Reclamation, Forrest Point, Pearls Social, Black Swan and Greenwood Park.
This crafty whiskey is unlike any Jameson you've tried before and not meant to be swallowed in one shot, but sipped neat and enjoyed. Sure, it's hard to find, but for fans of Jameson, it's worth seeking out.