Jameson Irish Whiskey is one of the most popular whiskey brands in the world. It is the hallmark whiskey that qualifies the excellence which Irish Distillers have been known for over the centuries.
A glass of Jameson in hand is a glass of the most popular Irish whiskey in the world, loved most especially for its smoothness and affinity with ginger ale.
The love for Jameson has led to its widespread distribution in 122 countries globally, accounting for the largest share of the global Irish whiskey market. The market estimate for whiskey stands at more than 22 million bottles per year.
History of Jameson Irish Whiskey
Jameson Irish Whiskey was born in the 1780s following John Jameson’s marriage to Margaret Haig in 1786,and subsequent move with his new wife to Dublin to manage the Stein’s Bow Street Distillery.
The year 1780 is, however, used in Jameson marketing in line with the year of establishment of the Stein’s Distillery.
Ireland was the whiskey capital of the world at the time, meaning the decision for Jameson, a Scottish lawyer, to venture into the distilling business was not out of place.
With a remarkable acumen in business, John Jameson soon increased the production of whiskey in the factory from 30, 000 gallons a year to 1,000,000 gallons by the turn of the 19th century.
In 1810, John established the The John Jameson and Son Irish Whiskey Company. Sales soon slowed down following the temperance campaign in Ireland, Irish War of Independence and trade war with Britain.
John Jameson merged with Cork Distillers and John Powers in 1966 to form the new Irish Distillers triumvirate. By 1976, production moved from the famous Bow Street distillery in Dublin of Jameson and in John’s Lane to the enormous modern distillery in County Cork built by Irish Distillers.
This brought an end to over 200 years of Jameson whiskey production in Dublin. The Old Jameson Distillery in Bow Street is now a tourist centre which offers tours and tastings.
Today, Jameson is owned by the Pernod Ricard group which took over Irish Distillers in 1988. In 2013, annual sales topped 4.7 million cases (56.4 million bottles).
How Jameson Irish Whiskey is made
Although it involves a tedious process, but the Jameson Irish Whiskey is made from the finest ingredients, triple distillation, and aging the drink in seasoned oak barrels.
The whiskey is distilled from a blend of grain whiskey, single malt whiskey and single pot still whiskey. The process uses a mixture of malted and unmalted or “green” Irish barley, all sourced from within a fifty-mile radius around the distillery in Cork.
The traditional method required that the barley was collected during the harvest season and stored in the silos at the distillery before being transported to the malting floors.
To start the natural germination, the barley was steeped in water, after which, it was spread out on malting floors by hand with various tools. The grain is turned regularly to ensure a even growth over the next five days. This also guards the malt from attacks of the all present mould.
After enzymes inside the grain have transformed the starch into sugar the germination process needs to be stopped. Therefore the grains are dried until only 4% moisture remains.
In today’s malting process, the traditional method has been abandoned as several adjustments have been made. The barley is malted in the big malting companies that produce more efficiently and supply both the whiskey and beer industry. The desired peat level can be specified exactly.
For Jameson, the barley is dried in a closed kiln fired by natural gas – anthracite coal was used earlier. This method contrasts with the traditional method used in distilling some Scotch whiskies where the kiln is fired with peat, to create a distinctive peat flavour.
When the starch has been converted by enzymes into sugar, it needs to be extracted from the corn. Malt mills grind down the malt into a coarse substance called grist.
The grist is mixed with hot water to wash out the sugar. Each of the three times the grist and water are mixed in mash tuns, the temperature is increased until 95 °C.
The last time the extracted sugar is least. And this last water is used for the next batch in the mash tun. The resulting sweet water is called wort and goes on to the fermentation.
The wort is cooled down to 20 °C before yeast is added to it. The resultant solution is left in pine wood wash backs for 48-96 hours, allowing the yeast to produce alcohol from the sugar. During this time, bubbles of CO2 can be seen rising from the solution.
Wash backs, today, are made most often of stainless steel and are sometimes equipped with cooling systems to precisely control the speed of the fermentation.
The Jameson distillery uses a blend of column-distilled grain whiskey and triple distilled “pure pot still” (now called “single-pot still”) whiskey.
“Pure Single pot still” refers to distilling a blend of malted and unmalted barely. This came into practice in Ireland as a way to avoid taxes- malted barley was taxed but unmalted was not.
Pot Still Distillation
This process begins by the wash into the first pot still called wash still. It is then heated to produce an alcohol solution with about 20 to 25 vol %.
The heat makes the lighter alcohol to evaporate to the neck of the pot still, while the rest of the wash remains in the pot. The vapour, after cooling, is collected in spirit receivers.
Column Still Distillation
The wash is inserted high and flows down through the still. At the bottom steam is inserted and rises against the stream of wash. The alcohol is more likely to evaporate and rise in the still.
In the end the different elements in the wash are distributed through the whole still. The lighter alcohols are at the top and the water and residue are collected at the bottom.
Other whiskey brands repeat the distillation process once, but for the special blended smoothness of Jameson, the process is repeated three times.
Cask and Maturation
Oak barrels are used in maturing the whiskey. During the maturation, some of the alcohol escape – these are called the Angel’s Share. After the whiskey has matured long enough it is vatted in large steel tanks for bottling.
Types of Jameson Irish Whiskey
- Jameson Original
- Jameson 12 Year Old Special Reserve, which was formerly known as Jameson 1780
- Jameson 12 Year Old Distillery Reserve is available at their two visitor centres in Ireland and also available from their online shop.
- Jameson Gold Reserve, which is the only expression of Jameson that uses virgin American oak
- Jameson 18 Year Old Limited Reserve
- Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve. Containing Jameson’s oldest and rarest whiskey components
- Jameson Signature Reserve, which is exclusive to travel retail and duty-free shops around the world
- Jameson Select Reserve Black Barrel, an expression available in limited quantities in the United States
- Jameson Caskmates, a blend finished in stout-seasoned barrels
Fun Facts About Jameson
- Jameson is by far the best selling Irish whiskey in the world.
- The Local Pub in Minneapolis pours more Jameson than any other bar in the world.
- In 2008, The Local, an Irish pub in Minneapolis, sold 671 cases of Jameson (22 bottles a day) to become the largest server of Jameson Whiskey in the world. It held the title for four consecutive years.
- The Latin motto on the bottle’s label, “sine metu,” means “without fear.”
- Jameson’s main ingredients are unmalted and malted barley, maize, and Irish water from the Dungourney River local to the distillery.
- The whiskey is distilled three times, making extra smooth such that John Jameson himself once said it is, “so smooth I would drink it even if my name were not on it.”
- Jameson is aged in sherry, bourbon, and port barrels.
- Jameson was not sold in bottles until 1968. For nearly two centuries the whiskey had been sold exclusively by the cask to bonders.
How to drink your Jameson Irish Whiskey
Drinking your whiskey is always down to a matter of choice and taste. However, you can either choose to drink your Jameson Irish whiskey in one of the following ways:
- On the rocks
- With a bit of water
- With a bit of club soda
- With ginger ale (1 part Jameson, 2 parts ginger ale)
- In cocktails
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