“Dublin’s only live maturation warehouse”… but who cares if it means a price hike? Jameson have announced the re-release of Jameson 18 with a hefty price increase. Check out the full story here with Potstilled.com.
Irish Distillers Limited (IDL), parent company of Jameson, have just announced their newest whiskey releases, Jameson 18 year old and 18 year old cask strength. These are the first age statement expressions to join the Jameson family, since IDL culled the existing age statements from the line up several years ago. In-fact, some of you that remember the original 18 year old may be delighted to hear that these new releases share the same maturation patterns as the original, although, I’m sad to say the price tag is anything but familiar.
Before we go into that, lets look at what exactly has been released;
Jameson 18 year old is a blend of grain and pot still whiskeys that have been simultaneously matured in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry barrels for a period of no less than 18 years. At this point the barrels are then disgorged, married and re-casked in another ex-bourbon barrel before being shipped from their long time of home, of somewhere near Dungorney, County Cork, up to the capital of the country. It is here in “Dublin’s only live maturation warehouse” where they spend an additional six to twelve months maturing before they are ready to be bottled.
Once they are ready, these barrels are once again disgorged, and bottled at two different strengths; 40% (80 Proof) and 55.5% (111 Proof). These new releases are clad in a newly re-designed bottle, accompanied by an new wooden gift case and are both non-chill filtered. 15,000 bottles of the 18 cask strength will be released for batch 1, with a recommended retail price of €240. It is unclear at the moment how many bottles will be released for the 40% edition, although the recommended retail price appears to be €200.
As many of you would have noticed the 18 year old’s new starting price of €200 is a hefty €70 increase on the last 18 year old edition which sold for what now seems like a measly €130 retail. This is, of course, before we even start talking about the more alcoholic big brother which see’s an incredible 185% price hike in return for a meager 15.5% increase in alcohol by volume. This new release has honestly left me scratching my head wondering about the upward only direction Irish Distillers now find themselves travelling in.
If we look at some of the other recent moments made by Irish Distillers in the last year, we see some other familiar brands receive price increases alongside re-brands. Last year Midleton Very Rare received a very fancy facelift that saw a packaging and label re-design. That said, while the face, case and price got an overhaul, Irish Distillers did go as far as to explain that at least some of the price increase was due to the fact that they were including older and more premium whiskey in the blend. Considering this brand’s raison d’être is to showcase of the best whiskeys that the Midleton Distillery has to offer, one can forgive the almost modest €30 increase for a full facelift and an increase in premium whiskey. So are consumers getting higher quality whiskey with Jameson 18 also or are they getting left on the hook for fancy marketing?
Admittedly, all whiskey brands are subject to clever marketing to drive sales, that’s just the way you stand out from the crowd but this goes beyond that for me. Unlike in the aforementioned Midleton Very Rare re-brand, the liquid and the maturation routine of the Jameson 18 hasn’t changed at all. The only variation here at all is the half year/year finish in the back of the Jameson visitors centre in Dublin. So why has the price increased astronomically? Neither the products are even equatable in price to anything similar or even more premium on the market, at the moment.
To break down the reason for my confusion, Irish Distillers took the components that already made Jameson 18 year old, then married them and re-casked them in a barrel style that half (if not more of the blend) was already maturing in. They then simply moved the barrel across the country to their visitors centre in Dublin, for reasons that I can only assume were motivated by marketing and released the same whiskey as before with a higher price tag and a fancier story.
Now don’t get me wrong, bringing the barrels back to the original Jameson distillery is a really fun and quaint that has a nice connection to the history of the brand and opens more avenues for consumers to explore the history of the brand. But the actual location of the barrels resting in the miniature warehouse in Dublin doesn’t actually have any tangible increase to the quality or flavour of the whiskey, at least not any increase that wouldn’t have been achieved by leaving them mature in Cork.
So why is it that, last year, Irish Distillers could distill, bond, mature, bottle, ship, distribute, pay all the taxes on a bottle of 18 year old and still make a profit at the price of €130, but this year the price suddenly spikes by €70. There’s got to be a catch somewhere and I’ve a very strong suspicion that this is just the cost of their marketing.
To be totally honest I’m sad to see such a powerhouse like Irish Distillers so blatantly cash in on consumers with so little effort. They have an absolutely amazing portfolio of Irish brands that span three categories, which ultimately provide such breath and depth of choice for consumers and they could have done so much more in the vacant premium space in the Jameson portfolio. They opted for some fancy packaging, and some clever misdirection, by focusing the entire press release around the new cask strength edition, they diverted the attention to the positive aspects instead of allowing consumers make a like by like comparison between the new and old 18 year old 40%.
Of course, I am under no illusions that this product will fly off the shelves. Consumers with money burning a hole in their pockets will eat up the fancy new marketing and will probably buy one of each whiskey. What saddens me is that there are so many other Irish whiskeys, even within the IDL portfolio, that could offer consumers the same, if not more value for half that money. As ever, I’m sure the liquid itself will be lovely, Irish Distillers can certainly make good juice, but I have to ask myself is it worth it at that price? I think not. And while it is true that Irish Whiskey is accelerating at break neck speeds, I’m just hoping this race to the top won’t make the market burn out before it matures.
**As always these are simply my opinions and I am always happy to have a discussion with anyone regarding them. Please feel free to get in contact at Potstilled@gmail.com**