Jameson Caskmates was born from an idea shared between Jameson’s head distiller and the head brewer of the Franciscan Well Brewery in Cork, Ireland. When talking at the neighborhood bar, the brewer asked for a few whiskey barrels to see how his stout would taste finished in them. When the barrels came back, whiskey was added to the stout-seasoned casks and the concept was brought to life.
I recently spoke to Sebastien Borda, Director of Jameson Irish Whiskey for Pernod Ricard USA, about Caskmates and the Irish Whiskey category in general.
Beverage Wholesaler: What logistical hurdles did you have to overcome to create this new whiskey?
Sebastien Borda: This started in a very artisinal way, so we had to find a way to fill the casks by hand and monitor the whiskey over time. It had to be well-seasoned, but we had to find the right balance to make sure it came out with the best taste profile. The whole creation process was very labor-intensive.
BW: What’s the difference in target consumers with Caskmates compared to Jameson Original?
SB: They’re very aligned in terms of distribution and targeting. Caskmates feel’s very “Jameson,” so while it’s a unique expression it lives in the same family and world as the original whiskey. But since we have a craft beer barrel finish, it helps us tap into a new pool of consumers who are craft beer enthusiasts.
BW: What are your plans for the Drinking Buddies program, which ages craft beers from the U.S. in Jameson barrels?
SB: Drinking buddies has been very successful, and we’ve been lucky to work with some great brewery partners. It’s a case of passionate people coming together and sharing in a collaborative spirit. We’re definitely looking at how we can continue the program, because the feedback has been amazing. The idea of those worlds coming together to create something greater aligns with the Jameson family motto, Sine Metu (without fear).
BW: What are the biggest consumer trends impacting the Irish Whiskey category right now?
SB: Irish Whiskey has been dynamic for a few years now, and Jameson has contributed to that. The category is growing because there are so many different tastes and expressions, be it unique agings, finishings or new collaborations. The category is attracting a variety of consumers by appealing to modern, more educated whiskey drinkers.
BW: As other suppliers invest in Irish Whiskey distilleries, what does that mean for Jameson?
SB: It can only be positive for the entire category. It will foster more dynamism, innovation and attract more customers to our world. We see it as a positive thing, as long as the love for Irish Whiskey grows.
BW: What are your future plans for the Jameson brand?
SB: We are committed to offering consumers new expressions that can help them discover new facets and dimensions of Jameson. We believe in innovation and always challenging ourselves to perfect our technique. We have a distillery that’s state of the art after being transformed after the past few years. We’re genuinely trying to live by our values, which inspires everything we do.