While in Dublin, two of the tours were recommended were The Guinness Storehouse and the Jameson Distillery.
Neither one of us had toured a distillery before. Surprisingly, the tour was similar to the beer tours we’d done. The feel was the same, with walking through the ingredients, the process, the barreling, etc.
Jameson is special because its double malted and triple distilled. What that means is that they use two types of barley – both malted and unmalted. And that they put the liquor through 3 stills to get out more impurities.
Everything is done throughout the tour to show Jameson’s superiority.
Jameson Whisky starts its life as barley. It is spread in a malt house on a heated floor, where it sprouts. Then it goes into the oven for drying. This is in contrast to some which are entirely done in the oven, like scotch, which gets a smoky taste.
Next, it goes to a Mill where both barkeys into powder called grist. Jameson used a real river water wheel until 1971, but when they moved their factory, they changed.
Then comes the Mashing where it is warmed and the starch turns to sugar. They drain the liquid out which is now called wort but later becomes the whisky. The leftover grain matter goes to animal feed. How green!
Next is Fermentation, done in a washback…here the wort is mixed with yeast. It rests 3 days and a the end is 8% alcohol.
Distillation comes after. This is done in a Pot Still to separate the water from the alcohol. They boil the wort and the alcohol becomes vapor and goes into the neck and comes back down the other side as alcohol.
Our guide claimed that this triple distillation makes Jameson more pure and helps Ireland function better without hangovers.
Next comes Maturation. The minimum time for whisky to “rest” before consumption is 3 years. Jameson’s minimum is 5 years. When you are in the room, it smells like vanilla which is the evaporated whisky. Each year, the barrel loses 2% of its stock, which equates to 15,000 bottles in a year. There is no way around it. They tried burying the barrels but the whisky never matured. So evaporation is key in maturation. They call it the “angels share.” It makes sense why the aged whisky is more expensive. It is reduced significantly in volume after 25 years…someone has to pay for that.
They talked a bit about the barrels. They actually use white oak barrels that are recycled…they come from Spanish port, sherry and Bourbon* from Kentucky! The residue from the various other alcoholic drinks is critical. I thought that was pretty neat.
The person who makes barrels is called a cooper. They have to train for 8 years…more than a doctor!
After the barrels are done at Jameson, they ship them to the Carribean for rum. Another green practice.
After this, next is marrying and vatting. They mix the liquid made in each barrel, then add water and then bottle.
After this, we each got a shot of Jameson. We could add ginger ale, sprite, or coke or have it “neat”. We could also could use ice. However, the guide told us it was only for “girls”. Glad i was a girl. I had mine with ice and ginger.
Gabe volunteered to be among the elite whisky tasters who would try Jameson vs. Johnnie Walker Black Label vs. Jack Daniels. This was meant to further drive the point of Jameson’s quality and to demonstrate what we learned. It was a bonus because it was a lot more free whisky for him.
He had to go in the order of Jameson, then Johnnie Walker (top scotch) and Jack (top American whisky).
The guide talked about the flaws in each one with the scotch being smoky and the Americans using new barrels vs. old, and corn vs. barley, which produced a sweet result. It cracked me up that when the guide introduced Jack as smelling like “college and bad decisions”. He also noted his frustration that when he visited Lynchburg, Tennesee it was a dry county and he couldn’t even buy it there. He was perplexed.
After Gabe tasted, I tried. I agreed that Jameson was the best. It was the smoothest. The Johnnie Walker didn’t do much for me. But I am fine with the sweet taste of Jack.
You got me, Jameson, I am now a fan!
*We learned that the reason Bourbon is different from Whisky is that it is made in Kentucky. Plus some other reasons. But good to know….its like Champagne can only come from Champagne.