During our third trip to Dublin we decided to visit Jameson’s Bow Street Distillery. Of course I was the biggest proponent of the visit.
The place was packed and we had a bit of a wait before our tour time. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do, all of which have something to do with Jameson.
The site has been updated since operations began in 1780.
To get visitors in the mood, the ticket price includes one of these drinks. The mixed drink consists of ginger ale, Jameson, and lime. Neat for me, as usual.
At our appointed time, we queued up and went upstairs to a waiting are where we could overlook the entrance way and peruse some historical information about one of Dublin’s oldest distilleries.
Once the tour began, I realized this “Bow Street Experience” was much like the Evan Williams Experience in downtown Louisville. The real production has outgrown this facility and moved elsewhere, so, whilst educational, it doesn’t show the real production. In other words, we’re not going to see any fermenting vats or barrels aging in rick houses. It’s a great explanation, though.
Jameson is a whiskey, but the sub category is “Irish whiskey”. The distinction is important to whisky purists and snobs alike. How is it different from Bourbon or Scotch? See the square tile in the top of the photo above? That is a tile on which barley is malted. Malting takes place on a large floor with a heat source below. The holes allow heat and smoke to seep through the grain to get it to germinate. Scotch and Irish whiskey start that way, but Irish differs a bit. At some point the British decided they needed to tax malted barley. The Irish, being belligerent capitalists, decided they didn’t need to malt ALL of the barley, and started mixing in unmalted barley to cut costs. Why give away tax money when you don’t need to? The result is their elixir is a bit sweeter, smoother, and often said to taste of biscuits. And they threw the E in whiskey for marketing. The other key to making an Irish whiskey is making it in Ireland. One can’t make it in America and call it Irish. Bourbon is a whole different animal, but it’s still whiskey, not to be confused with whisky.
The exhibits in the room were quite well done. There were buckets of malted barley and unmalted barley, different things to smell, and other examples things to experience from different stages of manufacturing.
Many of the barrels used in maturation are shipped in from the US, having aged bourbon once and are no longer usable for that industry. The Irish and Scots can reuse barrels so the US distillers sell their old ones. I have heard Jameson uses Maker’s Mark, but I don’t know if that’s 100% accurate.
Once the description of the process was completed, of course we had a tasting. Typically distilleries give out the legal maximum of different versions of their offerings. I thought Jameson would be giving us a taste of the Black Barrel and Distiller’s Edition on the table.
Jameson is quite different. We got to compare their ubiquitous green bottle Jameson whiskey with Scotch whisky and American whiskey. It was an effective way to market their product and describe the niche they occupy. We were quizzed to see if we could figure out the actual brands of the other two. The Scotch was Johnny Walker Black and the American was Jack Daniel’s, two of the most available brands around the world. And yes, I consider Jack to be bourbon. It essentially is charcoal filtered bourbon with a different marketing spin. It’s a distinction without a difference.
The tasting process worked. Bella came away with a new appreciation for whiskey. She even suggested we purchase some at the duty free when returning home.