The original site of John Jameson's distillery on Bow St. Dublin West, Dublin is now a museum offering visitors an education in the distillation of whiskey from grain to bottle. The Jameson Company was established in 1780 and produced one of Ireland's most famous whiskies for nearly 200 years until local distillers merged to form the Irish Distillers. The brand was acquired by French drinks conglomerate Pernod Ricard in 1988. The Jameson distillery operation was moved to an ultra -modern establishment in Middleton, County Cork and still produces Jameson Whiskey, although vatting still takes place at the Bow St. location. When Jameson acquired the distillery on Bow St. in 1780, it was producing 30,000 gallons annually. By the turn of the 19th century, it was the second largest whiskey producer in Ireland and one of the largest in the world producing 1,000,000 gallons annually. Dublin, at the time, was the world centre of whiskey production. By 1805, Jameson became number one. Today it is the world's third largest single-distillery whiskey producer.
Visiting the Distillery
More than 300,000 guests per year visit the museum. It can be found on the north side of the city, in the Smithfield area, which is about a 15 minute walk from city centre (starting from O'Connell Street), following close to the River Liffey. Alternatively, take the LUAS tram system, red line. Stop at the Smithfield, in the Central Zone. While the old distillery is recreated on a small scale, and despite the fact that no whiskey is made there, the tour offers the visitor an in-depth look in the process of making whiskey with each step of the distilling process described. The tour begins with a short audio/video presentation in which the details of the history of Irish whiskey are illustrated, emphasizing the role the Jameson distillery played in history over the last 200 years. There is a fee for the tour, but at the end of the tour a complimentary drink is offered to everyone. Four visitors are invited to taste different brands of Irish whiskey and are then asked to compare them against bourbon and scotch. Visitors also have an opportunity to be tutored and then certified in whiskey tasting. The Bow St. distillery is open seven days all year from 9 AM to 6 PM. It is closed on Good Friday and on December 24 and 25. Because of alcohol regulation in Ireland, alcohol cannot be served on Sunday before 12:30 PM. The final tour is at 5:15 PM. The tour is strictly a guided tour. Tours run approximately every half-hour.
Restaurants and Shops
There is a restaurant on Bow St. called the "3rd Still" and there are two bars, "JJ's Bar" and the "Jameson Reserve Bar." There is a shop offering Jameson merchandise and Jameson whiskies, including the Jameson Distillery Reserve, a 12-year-old whiskey. The shop sells many whiskeys not commonly sold elsewhere in Ireland.
From April to October, the distillery/museum hosts Irish Nights filled with Irish music and dancing, on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. The evening includes a guided tour, complimentary cocktail, four-course meal and live entertainment with the Jameson Players and the Claddagh Dancers.
Is Irish Whiskey Different to Scotch?
Yes! Among the many things visitors to the Old Distillery learn is that, while many people associated whiskey with Scotland, Irish whiskey has a taste and tradition all of its own.
- Irish whiskey is spelt with an 'e' -- the Scots drink whisky, but the Irish drink whiskey!
- The Irish invented whiskey and have been making whiskey longer than any country in the world -- James I of England granted a licence to the Bushmills distillery in 1608.
- Most Irish whiskeys are triple distilled -- meaning they pass through a filtration process three times, to ensure impurities are removed. Scotch whiskies are usually double distilled.
- Irish whiskeys are produced using raw barley, or a mixture of raw and malted barely, while Scotch uses barely that is entirely malted. "Malted" means barely that has first sprouted and then it is dried.
- Irish whiskeys are usually aged in an oak cask for three years; Scotch is usually aged for two years.
- The barely used in Scotch is dried using peat smoke -- this gives Scotch a smoky aroma. The distillation and ageing process used to produce Irish whiskey gives it a lighter, more delicate taste.
Origin of the Name Whiskey
The word whiskey comes from the Gaelic phrase uisce beatha (pronounced ishkeh baha), meaning water of life".