My knowledge of whiskey was limited. I knew Jameson was Irish, Jack Daniels was American and I could list a few whiskey-based cocktails, but that was about it. That was strange, given that whiskey is one of Ireland's most famous products, and I could definitely rattle off more than a couple of facts about Guinness or U2.
To try to educate myself, I visited the Old Jameson Distillery in Smithfield and took the tour. The Jameson brand was founded in Dublin in the 1780’s, and although production moved to Cork in 1975, the original distillery remains a spiritual home for the company Irish Distillers - Pernod Ricard and is now open as a brand home.
A bit of knowledge and a bit of whiskey, it’s not a bad way to spend an afternoon. Here’s four things I learned:
1. The Jameson distillery was a huge part of Dublin life. At its height the distillery, and other parts of the whiskey making enterprise, occupied over 5 acres of land in Smithfield.
2. Employees of the distillery got a daily allowance of whiskey as part of their wages. As job perks go, that’s not a bad one.
3. Irish whiskey has to be matured for at least three years before it can be bottled and sold. It’s the law.
4. There are loads of differences between Irish, Scottish and American whiskey other than their country of origin. Scottish whiskey is made from barley malt dried over a peat fuelled fire, giving it a distinct smoky flavour different to the whiskey of other countries. Ireland is the only country that distils its whiskey three times; Scotland distils theirs twice, while American whiskey is distilled only once.
To finish off the tour, and put my new found knowledge into practice, I was provided with samples of whiskey from different countries and a taste of the final Jameson product with ginger ale over ice. The tour by no means turned me into a whiskey expert, but learning about the effort that goes into manufacturing process, made me really appreciate the final product.