This morning I did the tour at the Old Jameson Distillery in Dublin.
But before I tell you about it, I should probably mention that a friend of mine works there as a tour guide – and in fact she took my tour today – so my comments may not be entirely objective (even though I don’t think she reads this site).
It was pretty quiet in the reception of the old distillery when I arrived at about 11.00am. On this cold December day, only a week before Christmas, the tourists were a bit thin on the ground – and those just ahead of me had only moments earlier set off on one of the regular tours.
But I wasn’t here to see any old tour – I wanted to see my friend in action, and she wasn’t starting the next tour for another 30 minutes, so I decided to settle back in the café and treat myself to a hot whiskey (Jamesons of course). I don’t normally drink spirits so early in the day – and rarely drink whiskey at all – but it seemed like a good idea at the time. And I must say I did enjoy it very much, and it helped the wait pass very quickly.
The tour started, and my small group were ushered into an auditorium for an introduction and film about Irish whiskey and the history of John Jameson. My friend was taking the tour, and we had kind-of colluded not to disclose to any of the other visitors that we knew each other – mostly so as to not spoil things for them – but also so that I could secretly infiltrate the group and encourage them all to laugh at her jokes.
After the film, we were taken through a series of rooms, each showing the different stages in the manufacturing process. This isn’t a working distillery however (the production of Jameson moved from Dublin to County Cork some years ago) – it’s more of a whiskey makers museum, with mock-ups of the different parts of the whiskey making processes. As you go from room to room, you learn about the preparation of the barley, the mashing of the grains, and the distilling and ageing of the resultant spirit.
It’s an interesting tour, and slickly put together. But best of all, everyone over 18 years of age gets a free shot of Jamesons (with a mixer if preferred) to try for them self at the end. And three people from each tour group are also invited to take part in a tasting – which involves sampling five different drinks (3 different Irish whiskeys, a Scottish whisky, and an American bourbon), with the eventual aim of picking out your favourite.
Of course, I made sure that I volunteered for the tasting at the end (it was free booze!), joining two enthusiastic American gentlemen from Washington DC. And all three of us ended up selecting Jameson as our favourite – for my part because I found it more smooth and drinkable than the Scottish and American varieties (a statement that will no doubt get me into a lot of trouble with my whisky-drinking Scottish friends).
Anyway, so I really enjoyed the tour, and ended up feeling pleasantly merry by the end of the tasting (just in time for lunch), so it was all good. And I enjoyed the Jamesons so much, that I even stopped off to buy myself a bottle on the way home. Here in Dublin, I hear the cool thing to do is to mix it with Cranberry juice, which I’ll have to try. But in the mean time, I’ll just make do with a dash of water in it (which is how I was taught to drink whisky in Scotland).