When we last left our heros, they were leaving the Guinness storehouse and thrust onto the rainy streets of Dublin. Since we heard their exciting adventure, they trudged two blocks and hailed a cab. This cab sped off across the Liffey River to arrive at the front door of The Old Jameson Distillery.The Old Jameson Distillery tour starts with a small educational video that demonstrates the long history of Jameson Whiskey and celebrates the care that goes into each batch. Like Guinness, Jameson came about at around the time of the American revolution, so all of the imagery seems downright patriotic. The ships in the movie look like eighteenth century naval ships. Jameson takes their hooch delivery very seriously. They portray John Jameson as a mythic hero--taking his time to make sure the ingredients are measured right, paying more for only the finest barley, heroically waving away salesmen who offer false aging additives for his whiskey. According to the people at Jameson, John Jameson was a hell of a guy--on a par with Superman perhaps. All he needed was a cape. The Jameson website refers to him as a legend. I don't know about that but I did hear that he once fought the sasquatch.
After the video, we were all itching to get on with the tour so that we could get our shot of Jameson we were promised. But first a few matters of business. Everyone on the tour gets a free shot of Jameson with their admission, but from each tour group, eight lucky people are selected to be part of a free additional whiskey tasting. Normally there are about forty people in a tour group, but we had about twelve. So our odds were good. Our tour guide, Erin, had eight batons to give out. She asked if there were any women who wanted to participate. Heather's hand flew up. She's in. Now the gentlemen. Erin saw my hand but walked past me because she didn't want two people from the same group. Bummer. Heather took pity on me and blurted out, "It's our honeymoon." It was pretty shameless and underhanded, but what can I say? Those are the qualities I look for in a woman. Her ploy worked though and we both set out on our tour, batons in hand.
This tour was considerably shorter than the Guinness storehouse. We got to see displays with miniature versions of all the equipment used to make whiskey. There were mannequins of all the people who worked in the distillery. And Erin was there to field any questions that we had. I'll say that as much as I enjoy the freedom of a self guided tour, sometimes it's nice to have a guide lead you and tell you what's important to look at. At one point, we realized someone in our group spoke only French. Then Erin started speaking French back. Jameson employs only the most talented of the Irish citizenry to lead booze seeking tourists around.
One of the parts on the tour that I thought was particularly neat was a display in which a bunch of barrels were stacked horizontally with glass bottoms. They contained whiskeys at different stages of aging. The one on the left was clear and had barely been aged at all. I think the final one had been aged eighteen years and had a considerably darker color due to the wood barrels. Also there was far less liquid in this barrel, due to evaporation, which is known as "The Angel's Share." Those are some drunk angels.
Then the tour moved into the Jameson Distillery bar. The eight golden ticket holders (or green baton holders) sat around a big table with green place mats. On those place mats were three shots of whiskey: Jack Daniels (American), Johnny Walker Black (Scotch), and Jameson (Irish). We were given a brief tutorial about each. Irish whiskeys like Jameson are triple distilled, giving it a smooth clean finish. Scotches tend to be distilled twice and American whiskey only once. We tried the other two. They were good. I'm not the biggest fan of blended scotch but the Johnny Walker Black was okay. It had a very smokey from the particular type of oak barrels it's aged in. Erin joked that when in Ireland, the traditional thing to do with a shot of scotch is to hurl it over your shoulder and onto the ground. The Jack Daniels is made from corn so it has a sweeter more syrupy taste.
Finally we got to the Jameson and it was good. Of course it was good, it's Jameson. I didn't need to go to Ireland to figure that out. To cap off the tasting Erin went around the table and asked each of us which one was our favorite, keeping in mind that we were sitting in the middle of the old Jameson distillery in Ireland. She started with me and when I answered, "Jameson Irish Whiskey" she responded with, "Good man." Everyone else at the table followed suit and we were rewarded with a shot of Jameson. As an added bonus, we all got a certificate saying we completed the tasting. The batons that we received at the beginning of the tour were actually tubes we could hose our certificates in. Between this and the perfect pint diploma, I'm getting certification left and right. I'm looking forward to impressing people in conversation with my drinking credentials. I suppose my next step is a drinking masters program.
We ended the tour with the obligatory stroll through the gift shop where we purchased a small bottle of their twelve year old whiskey. (We learned on the tour that the age of their non-premium whiskey is typically five to seven years.) We haven't tried it yet but we look forward to it. Between the Guinness storehouse and the Jameson Distillery we had had a pretty full day. But there was one more stop on our Dublin drinking tour that we needed to make. Stay tuned next week for part three of the Ireland series.