I recently had the wonderful opportunity to meet with Ger Buckley, fourth generation Head Cooper at Jameson Distillery, and Steve Beauchesne of Beau’s Brewery and ask questions about their respective companies, roles and upcoming collaboration.
Jameson shots are virtually synonymous with St. Patrick’s Day in North America, along with green beer and other things the Irish likely find abominable about our celebration of their holiday! However, Jameson isn’t just good for shots at the bar, and they’ve been getting very creative with multiple craft-inspired releases in the past few years.
One such innovation is the Caskmates line, which has been around for a few years and include the Stout and IPA editions. What I didn’t know is that they have been collaborating with local breweries around the world, providing whiskey casks to age beer in, after which they fly the casks back to Midleton, finish their whisky in them, and release a limited edition in the breweries’ local markets! Jameson hand-picks the breweries they want to work with based on their reputation and commitment to the same principles of innovation and quality as Jameson holds.
The first such collaboration is coming to Ontario soon, and in fact, part 1 is already in market! The Beau’s Strong Patrick is an Irish Red Ale finished in Jameson casks and presents a fantastic combination of malty notes with some spice and oak mixed in. I’ve got a few of them tucked away for Saturday and it’s available at the LCBO for a limited time!
The Jameson Caskmates that is aged in Strong Patrick barrels will be coming to the LCBO sometime in June, so keep your eyes peeled for that too!
Some of the other innovations Jameson has released in the past few years include Black Barrel (a tribute to Cooperage where Jameson spirit is aged in very heavily charred casks), and The Whiskey Makers Series which include the Distiller’s Safe, the Blender’s Dog and the Cooper’s Croze, all celebrating the tools used to create Jameson Whiskey. Ger shared some of the Cooper’s Croze with me and showed that it really is his fingerprint on the bottle!
Ger also brought along some of the tools he uses to repair and optimize the barrels at Jameson, including the Croze! He went through an entire demonstration of how to disassemble a barrel, trim staves, cut a groove and fix leaks! Here are the tools and descriptions of each, starting with the hammer on the far right of the picture and moving clockwise:
- Coopers Hammer: Quite heavy so that the weight of the hammer does the work
- Coopers Driver: Used to drive down the hoops on a barrel
- Coopers Adze: Used for pairing the top of the cask or for trimming the staves when the bar is fully made
- Coopers broad Axe: Use for trimming oak boards into the shape of a stave. (Wide in the middle of the stave getting thinner towards the end)
- Coopers Croze: This is used to cut a groove at both ends of the barrel so that it can hold the barrel head in place
After the demonstration I had a chance to ask Ger a few more questions about things that may be of interest to Irish whiskey lovers and here are the most interesting tidbits:
- Redbreast Single Cask releases are a thing! You just need to join Redbreast’s Birdhouse Club to be notified of their release. One he remembered quite fondly was aged in a Madeira cask!
- The Method & Madness line of whiskies is their brand used for incredibly innovative releases that don’t quite fit under the umbrella of their main brands. Some recent releases include Chestnut finished, limosine oak finished, hyper-aged whiskies, 4-whiskey blends and more. They’re all small batches and may be coming to Ontario soon!
- Midleton Dair Ghaelach is a line of Midleton whiskies aged entirely in Irish Oak. Ireland used to be covered in oak but was clear-cut centuries ago, and after years of conservation efforts, there are finally oak forests on the Emrald Isle once again! This line-up takes single cask to the next level by being aged in casks made from a SINGLE TREE! They number the logs and stumps, take the single oak to be milled and seasoned in Spain, and age the whiskey in it, then release in small batches. You can actually visit the stump of the tree that aged your bottle of whiskey and he showed a picture of Midleton lovers doing just that. Of course, they plant 4+ trees for every one they cut down to ensure the regrowth of Irelands Oak forests continues!
A huge thanks to Ger Buckley and Steve Beauchesne for meeting with me and answering questions, and to Corby for hosting us! I look forward to some Strong Patrick and probably some Caskmates on Saturday, as well as free rides on the TTC courtesy of Jameson! Have fun and be safe out there!