Jameson vs Proper 12

Jameson vs Proper 12 | Who wins the fight?

When you think of quintessential Irish whiskey, Jameson is one of the leading brand names which spring to mind. Blended, triple distilled and silky smooth, it’s an affordable back-bar staple that’s been in production since 1780.

Contrastingly, there’s a new blend on the block. (Or should I say – a new fighter in the ring?) Founded in November 2018 by MMA superstar Conor McGregor, Proper 12 is a fresh faced Irish whiskey brand designed for mass appeal. Built on the knowledge of former Bushmills manager David Elder, the whiskey is made at Ireland’s oldest licenced distillery, the Old Bushmills Distillery in Northern Ireland.

So which do you choose? The established Jameson, or the peppy Proper 12?

In this blog post, I’ll compare Jameson vs Proper 12 Irish whiskey so that you can find the right bottle for your needs. I’ll cover their smell, taste, finish and style in order to help you decide which whiskey best suits your personal tastes and budget. So if you’re curious about what makes Jameson and Proper 12 different from each other, read on.

Quick brand overview

Jameson is a blended Irish whiskey brand, founded in 1780 by Scotsman John Jameson and is currently owned by Pernod Ricard. Their large range of spirits are made at the New Midleton Distillery in County Cork using a triple distillation method of both malted and grain whiskeys. With over 8 million cases sold annually, they’re repeatedly the top selling Irish whiskey brand in the world.

Proper 12 is also a blended Irish whiskey, founded in 2018 by the famed MMA (mixed martial arts) fighter Conor McGregor. The brand is owned and distributed by American spirits brand, Proximo spirits. With a small offering of just two bottles, Proper No. 12 and Proper No. 12 Apple, their whiskeys are made by the Old Bushmills Distillery in county Antrim, Northern Ireland. These are triple distilled and blended from single malt and grain whiskeys.

Jameson vs Proper 12

Bottle of Jameson Irish whiskey in front of green background

Jameson (Original)

Nose: Floral, sweet, fudge & grassy

Palate: Fruity, creamy, sweet & metallic

Mouthfeel: Thick & full bodied

Finish: Medium, sweet & spiced

Age: 4 years (minimum)

Barrels: Ex-bourbon & sherry butts

Grains: malted barley, un-malted barley & maize

Strength: 80 proof / 40% ABV

Price: £24 / $29

Bottle of Proper 12 Irish whiskey

Proper 12

Nose: Cedar, vanilla pod, floral & barley

Palate: Fruit, honey with spice

Mouthfeel: Thin, dry & light

Finish: Oak, spice, pepper & sweet

Age: 3-5 years (average)

Barrels: Ex-bourbon

Grains: Malted barley & maize (corn)

Strength: 80 proof / 40% ABV

Price: £27 / $33

Jameson Irish whiskey bottle

A closer look at Jameson whiskey

Jameson is a blended Irish whiskey made at the new Midleton distillery in County Cork. It’s made from a mixture of malted and unmalted barley – as well as column distilled grain (corn) whiskey.

Triple distillation is a common method for Irish whiskies which makes them incredibly smooth, with very little burn. Jameson use this to great effect, making their flagship ‘original’ blend which I’ve reviewed in the breakdown below.

Nose: Pouring the Jameson into my glass, it has an inviting floral aroma, with the sweet notes of marmalade and fudge being the dominant smells. With a little swirl and a chance to ‘breathe’ I eventually get more delicate hints of Madeira and this organic, earthy sort of smell that reminds me of freshly-cut grass. Overall, the nose is fairly mild and I feel I have to search past the sweetness for the more complex notes. Overall, not a bad aroma – just hard to discern.

Palate: On the palate, this whiskey is more abundant in flavour than it’s smell. Texturally, it’s incredibly smooth and creamy – almost velvet-like. I’m met with waves of sweet, fruity notes up front, such as white grape and tart green apple, alongside honey. As I continue sipping, I start to pick out more subtle notes of caramel, vanilla and cream which linger on the tongue.

Strangely, there’s also a gentle metallic twang that seems to appear on the mid palate. This is actually kind of annoying as it sort of interrupts the overall taste. Thankfully, there’s some spice and vanilla that comes through which pairs well with the fruity sweetness. Generally, this whiskey is a fairly well-rounded spirit, with enough complexity to keep me interested.

Mouthfeel: This dram has a wonderfully rich and full-bodied mouthfeel. For its price point, it’s incredibly smooth and creamy with a velvety texture that glides across the tongue. As you savour it, you’ll be met with notes of sweetness from honey and white grape, as well as complex flavours like tart green apple and caramel.

Finish: The finish is a medium-length one with a sweet and spicy balance. The honey notes that were present on the palate now come to the fore, lingering in a pleasant way for several seconds after each sip. There’s also a subtle spice profile that hits the back of the tongue, which adds complexity and depth.

Price: No doubt about it, Jameson offers pretty unbeatable value for its price. The blend of malted and grain whiskeys is carefully balanced for a smooth sweet dram. At just under $30 for a bottle, it’s a quintessential Irish blend of sweet, fruity and spiced flavours.

For me, this whiskey punches above it’s weight in terms of complexity. By no means is it a 30 year old single malt. But for a 4 year old blend, it’s a surprisingly full-bodied experience that you can enjoy neat, with ice or as part of your favourite mixed drink. If you’re new to Irish whiskey, or want a reliable daily-driver, this would be a safe but enjoyable bottle to have on your shelf at home.

Skillet with steak and carrots inside on top of wooden table

Jameson Food pairings

For starters, Jameson pairs nicely with smoked salmon. The smoky notes of the whiskey bring out the best of the salmon’s delicate flavour while complimenting its natural saltiness. The whiskey’s smoothness helps to cut through the fish’s richness, making it an ideal pairing. This whiskey also goes great with charcuterie, particularly salami and chorizo. The sweet, spicy notes of the whiskey bring out the best of the cured meats’ flavour.

For mains, Jameson is perfect for accompanying a hearty beef stew or shepherd’s pie. Its full bodied flavour stands up well against the rich meatiness of these dishes but it also has enough sweetness to balance them out. It goes particularly well with slow cooked lamb shoulder too, as Jameson’s fruity notes contrast well with the tender meat.

For dessert, Jameson works incredibly well with dessert items like dark chocolate mousse or apple crumble. The sweetness of the whiskey really helps to lift the richness of the desserts, making them even more enjoyable.

Two highball cocktails beside Jameson whiskey bottle on kitchen chopping board

Jameson Cocktail suggestions


  • 30 ml Jameson
  • 75 ml Kombucha
  • 50 ml apple juice
  • 30 ml lemon juice
  • 10 ml dry white wine
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • Nutmeg


In a cocktail shaker, mix together all ingredients, excluding the kombucha. Strain into an iced and chilled highball glass. Top with your kombucha before garnishing it with an apple wedge. Dust with grated nutmeg and serve.


  • 10 ml Jameson original
  • 50 ml chilled Lapsang souchong tea
  • 10 ml Honey syrup
  • 4 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 dashes Orange bitters
  • 1 twist Orange


Measure all your ingredients into an ice-filled mixing jug and stir. Strain into a chilled, ice-filled rocks glass and top it off with a flamed orange. Serve.


  • 35 ml Jameson Original
  • 60 ml Coffee
  • 25 ml Demerara Sugar Syrup
  • 15 ml Milk
  • 1 tbsp Peanut Butter
  • 1 Handful Toasted Peanut


Add all of the ingredients with some ice to a food blender. Puree everything until creamy, then serve in a chilled rocks glass. Garnish with crushed peanuts. Serve. (For something more luxurious, swap the demerara syrup for a scoop of ice cream!)

Proper No.12 Irish whiskey bottle in front of dark background

A closer look at Proper No.12 whiskey

Like Jameson, Proper No.12 is an Irish blended whiskey. It’s made with whiskies from two grain types; malted barley and corn. These are triple distilled and then aged seperatley in ex-bourbon casks for a minimum of three years. Later, the casks are selected, sampled and blended to make Proper’s signature bottle – No.12 whiskey.

To get the brand off the ground, founder (Conor McGregor) consulted the expertise of ex-Bushmills distillery manager (David Elder) to compose a whisky that could be ‘enjoyed by everyone’. Their team developed over 100 different variations during development, eventually choosing a relitively sweet blend which I’ve reviewed in the section below.

Nose: Opening the bottle of Proper No. 12, it emits a rich and inviting smell of sweetness with hints of cedar and vanilla. After a little ‘back and forth’ with my nose, there’s some lighter, more delicate floral notes. As I breathe in, I get a scent of barley, giving it an earthy heartiness. There’s also a hint of sandalwood which enrichens to the aroma, creating an overall pleasant bouquet. Compared to the Jameson, I think this whisky has a better smell.

Palate: On my first sip of Proper No.12, I’m met with a strong yet smooth flavour. Truthfully, I’m a little surprised with the lack of burn from this whiskey. For some reason, I assumed it’d be a little rougher and perhaps need some water. But this is really quite good on its own!

On the mid palate, there’s flavours orchard fruits such as apples, pears and apricots, along with notes of honey. On a basic level, Proper No.12 is sweet and and smooth. (Presumably to make it easy to drink and appeal to a broad audience.)

However, this whisky isn’t entirely one-dimensional. As the drink lingers on my tongue, there’s a building heat of white pepper which adds some warmth and spice. For a new whiskey drinker, it’s a nice transition from sweet-to-heat that isn’t too overpowering. Overall, it’s a fairly mellow taste that’s palatable, simple and ‘alright’ in my books. Not bad at all.

Mouthfeel: The overall mouthfeel is dry and light. It’s much thinner feeling than the Jameson, with less body and oilyness. Again, I think this is an intentional move for the No.12 audience who, dare I say, are likely early-stage whiskey drinkers who might prefer a lighter spirit. For me, the finish is a little lacking in terms of body, but it still has the honey sweetness and a slight oaky dryness.

Finish: The finish is drying with a mix of oak and heat, as well as a subtle drizzle of caramel to balance out the dryness. It’s nice and smooth, leaving my mouth feeling refreshed after each sip. Compared to Jameson, the Proper No. 12 has a much more pleasant finish, making it an excellent choice for those who prefer sweeter whiskeys.

Price: Proper No. 12 Irish whiskey is super affordable. At just £27 ($33) for a 70cl bottle, you get an rounded blend of Irish whiskey that’s been aged for 3 to 5 years in ex-bourbon barrels.

For it’s age, it delivers a lovely sweet flavour of vanilla, along with a fairly simple palate full of fruit, honey and spice. For anyone (regardless of experience), it’s a ‘nice’ whiskey that certainly won’t break the bank. All in all, Proper No. 12 is great value for money and perfect for those who want to explore the world of Irish whisky without shelling out too much cash.

As a vague McGregor fan, I think he chose wisely with this style of bottle – both in terms of positioning and flavour profile. If you’re familiar with his brashy style and boisterous demeanour, this whisky is actually fairly reserved and surprisingly subdued.

The branding is suitably Irish, paired back and simple. To match, the flavour profile is also simple with abundant sweetness, light body and relatively mild spice. Nothing special, but certainly not a bad tasting whiskey either.

Salmon fillets with slices of lemon on top

Proper No.12 Food pairings

For starters, a cheese plate, like a selection of Irish cheddar and gouda, would pair nicely with Proper No.12 Irish whiskey. The sweet and slightly spicy flavour of the whiskey would contrast nicely with the saltiness and sharpness of the cheese. Additionally, the caramel notes in the whiskey will bring out even more flavours from the cheese. To complement this, a bowl of Marcona almonds will give an added crunch to balance out the smoothness of the whiskey.

For mains, grilled salmon would be a great choice. The subtle smokiness from grilling combined with the light flavours of salmon goes wonderfully with Proper No.12 Irish whiskey’s sweetness and oak undertones. Plus, its delicate body won’t overpower the natural flavour or texture of the fish. For an extra layer of flavour, serve with a side salad made with greens like arugula, spinach and kale that have been lightly dressed and seasoned with sea salt and cracked pepper – it’ll further enhance both food and drink!

For dessert, nothing beats warm apple crumble. The tart apples are perfectly complemented by Proper No 12’s gentle sweetness which will make for a delicious finish to any meal! And don’t forget to top off your dinner with some freshly brewed coffee that beautifully brings out all of whiskey’s bolder notes such as vanilla, sandalwood and cedar wood.

Person pouring cream into a whiskey cocktail highball glass

Cocktail suggestions


  • 50ml Proper No.12 Whiskey
  • 12ml Double cream
  • 12 ml simple syrup
  • 150 ml cold brew coffee
  • 1/2 ripe banana


Add all your ingredients to a food blender with some ice. Blend and then strain into a tall glass with more ice. Garnish with some ground coffee or a couple of beans. Serve.


  • 50ml Proper No.12 Whiskey
  • 12ml simple syrup
  • Mint leaves


Add most of your mint and and sugar syrup into a metal julep cup. Muddle with crushed ice and and measure-in your whiskey. Garnish with remaining mint. Serve.


  • 50ml Proper No.12 Whiskey
  • 12ml fresh lemon juice
  • 12ml simple syrup
  • Lemon wedge
  • Cherry


In an ice-filled shaker, measure-in the Proper No.12 whiskey, lemon juice and simple syrup. Shake and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with lemon wedge and cherry. Serve.

Final thoughts

Jameson is a great place to start if you’re curious to try some Irish whiskey. As the leading blend from the Emerald Isle, this quintessential bottle a sensible place to start. It has a nice smooth taste with notes of honey and spice, aged in ex-bourbon barrels for at least three years which gives it a lovely sweet vanilla flavour. Although it’s slightly more expensive than the Proper, Jameson is still very affordable and easy to find.

Proper 12, on the other hand, is a lesser known ‘new kid’. With a punchy backing from Conor McGregor and blending wisdom of David Elder, it’s slightly sweeter than Jameson and more mellow in terms of its flavour profile. For me, it was a relitively simple taste and gave an enjoyable drinking experience. On top of the whiskey’s delicate sweetness, it also comes with an attractive price tag that makes it an ideal choice for anyone looking to experiment with less common Irish whiskeys without breaking the bank.

Author’s recommendation

Between the two, I’d go with Jameson as it’s easier to get a hold of in stores or out in pubs. Although they’re similarly priced, I prefer the flavour profile as I found the Proper No.12 to be a little too simple and a little too sweet. Jameson is smooth, but with more spice and floral notes which gave it more depth. For me, it’s a more mature flavour.

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