Joe Magowan, Irish Whiskey Ambassador, recently visited the Jameson Distillery Bow St. Experience – here’s how he got on!
In 1971 following the formation of Irish Distillers Group – the Jameson Bow St. Distillery closed its doors as production moved to a new purpose built distillery in Midleton, County Cork. Decades later, in 1997 it reopened as a tourist experience following years of renewed global interest in Irish whiskey. For years it was one of Dublin’s most popular and highly acclaimed visitor attractions. Over the next 20 years the Irish whiskey comeback continued (and is now the fastest growing premium spirits category in the world). In 2016 the historic distillery closed its doors once again – only this time it was for refurbishment. Anticipating massive growth in ‘Irish whiskey tourism’ the site needed to prepare itself for the millions of visitors which would walk through the iconic green doors in search of the story, and world renowned taste of Irish whiskey.
The site reopened again as the Jameson Bow Street Experience in March 2017 and shortly after myself and the Dillon Bass team made the short trip to Dublin to see the new face of the Jameson home. The word refurbishment doesn’t quite do it justice. The historic pot still in the courtyard remains, as do the iconic Jameson bottle chandeliers in the foyer – but the rest is new, and impressive. As we entered the main building we are greeted immediately by two long bars and a bustling crowd. The tall room is decorated which portraits of John Jameson, artwork, bottles, mirrors and eye catching Jameson memorabilia.
I could have spent hours exploring this room (or having a whiskey or two at the bar) but we were all eager to begin our tour so we hurried to reception to collect our tickets.
After a short wait we were greeted by our tour guide who took us into a dark room with a large round table. For the next 10 minutes or so our tour guide took us through the history of Jameson and Irish whiskey (aided by some impressive visuals which appeared across the round table in front of us). After some learning and a bit of craic we were taken to another, much bigger room to learn about the unique production of Irish whiskey.
Throughout the room were numerous large tables on which lay various flasks and containers. Before I could start meddling with what was on the table in front of me our guide began to explain to use the unique production of pot still Irish whiskey and grain whiskey, after which we were permitted to explore the contents of the tables in front of us – malted and unmalted barley, new make pot still spirit, new make grain, bourbon barrel aged whiskey and sherry cask aged whiskey. It was clear that this impressive section of the tour could easily help anyone understand what makes Jameson so special.
Now, for the final section of our tour – the tasting. We entered a large room with an impressive circular table decorated with illuminated words carved along the sides. Upon inspection I quickly realised these were tasting notes; floral, nutty, spicy, smooth etc. We made our way around the table and grabbed a space. In front of each of us were three glasses of whiskey. This was to be a comparative tasting and we tasted each of the whiskeys in front of us. The first was a sweet American whiskey with plenty of vanilla and heavy oak flavours. The second was a smoky and malty scotch whiskey. The final was undeniably Jameson. Sweet, floral, spicy and smooth. It was the clear favourite amongst everyone in room. I was reminded at this point that although the history and fantastic story of Jameson make it so unique, ultimately it is the flavour of the whiskey which matters most.
Words by Joe Magowan, Irish Whiskey Ambassador.