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Jameson Distillery Review

For our latest instalment of ‘An American in Dublin’, Emma became a whiskey taster at the Jameson Distillery and learned about triple-distillation, ageing whiskey and “angel’s share”:

Shockingly, as an eighteen-year-old girl, I am not exactly a whiskey connoisseur. Still, I am all about experiencing Irish culture, so when I got tickets for the Jameson Distillery, I was more than willing to try it out.

The Jameson Distillery is an impressive building, with a nice open floor plan, soaring ceilings, hardwood beams, lots of light, etc. Very pleasant. Having never been to a whiskey distillery, I think I was expecting a dark, dingy, cavernous sort of feel, so I was delighted with the lovely open space.

When you enter the museum, you buy a ticket for a tour that runs every twenty minutes; tours book up quickly, so you’re likely to have to wait for an hour or more for your tour. To kill time, you can browse in the gift shop, have a cup of tea or bite to eat in the little café upstairs, or, for the more hard-core Jameson fans, head straight to the bar. It was 11am when I arrived, and I have a strict no-drinking-before-noon policy, so my friend and I headed to the café. After waiting for about ten minutes for a table, we ordered some tea and apple cake. Also on the menu: salads, sandwiches, a pasta dish or two—that sort of thing. I wouldn’t say that anyone’s going to the Jameson Distillery so that they can visit 3rd Still Restaurant, but it’s a perfectly serviceable café.

And then it was time for the tour.

The tour starts with an absolutely hilarious video about an American who comes to Ireland to meet John Jameson. After he’s ripped off by a carriage driver (“Six shillings?!” “Ye said ye wanted the scenic route!”), he’s led around on a tour of the distillery by a mysterious man. At the end, the American tastes the whiskey, and his reaction is delightfully over-the-top. There are angels involved, and a choir, and it is just brilliant.

After the video, a guide leads the group around for about forty-five minutes. It was great; I learned all about triple-distillation, and why you can’t use new barrels to age the whiskey, and the “angel’s share”. I thought the angel’s share was fascinating: each year, as a barrel of Jameson ages, 2% of the liquid will be lost to evaporation. When you realize that Jameson 12, one of their most popular types of whiskey, ages for twelve years, this becomes a huge problem.

At the end of the tour, eight people are chosen for a whiskey tasting. (The tour groups are between twenty and thirty people, I’d estimate, so it’s a pretty selective process.) A colleague had told me that this would happen, so when our guide asked for volunteers, I was ready. My hand shot into the air faster than it ever had in twelve years of school. I was chosen. I was ecstatic. (It was noon by that point. Hi Mom!)

Everyone filed into yet another room, and we whiskey tasters were brought aside to a special table. Now, my friend was not chosen, so that was unfortunate for her, but that was not going to stop me. At my special whiskey-tasters table, there were two sixty-something, tweed-wearing Scottish men and a bachelor party. And me. Obviously, I fit right in.

We tasted Scottish whiskey, American whiskey, and—of course—Jameson. There was sniffing and swishing involved. All very fun. Even if you’re not chosen to be a whiskey taster, you get a free drink at the end of the tour—either straight Jameson or Jameson with gingerale. And if you want to experience even more Irish culture, head to the bar: you’ll find an astonishing number of Jameson cocktails. So don’t feel too bad for my non-chosen friend.

All in all, it was an excellent tour. Engaging and educational! I highly recommend it.

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