Whiskey, It's Neat: Jameson Whiskey Masterclass Experience
In the past, I have only associated Jameson drinking with drunken St. Patrick’s Day bar crawls. That is why when I went to Dublin last year, I skipped out on stopping by the Jameson Distillery. Also, Jameson has never been a whiskey I’ve reached for in the past due to always reaching for bourbon over Irish whiskey. But during the past year, I have expanded my palate to include many Irish whiskeys and now have many in my home whiskey collection. During a trip to Dublin this past March, I (on a whim) decided to swing by the Jameson Distillery. I was not disappointed. This location is very welcoming with a giant pot still sitting outside the entrance. Walking inside you are welcomed with two huge bars serving whiskey and cocktails. These bars are stocked full with all things Jameson: Method of Madness, all the various types of Jameson, Redbreast, and Middleton. So, if you do not want to partake in standard Jameson, there are many other options. The atmosphere is bright and welcoming, celebrating the pride and spirit of Ireland. Two impressive chandeliers made of Jameson bottles hang over the common area where people meet before tours. I decided to do the Masterclass to see if their “most expensive” experience was worth it. The experience cost 60 euro which is about $69. This price tag may seem high but the experience includes a lot. The Masterclass is led by a Jameson ambassador and consists of a 90-minute whiskey blending masterclass where you blend your own whiskey, learn about all the steps of the distilling process, taste several different types of Jameson, tour the maturation warehouse, and have the opportunity to taste whiskey straight from one of the barrels aging in the maturation warehouse. In total, you consume a lot of whiskey during this experience. If I had to guess, I’d say we consumed at least 6oz of whiskey during this 90-minute class.
The class starts out with tasting standard Jameson to get the taste of Irish whiskey on your palate. Then the distilling process is discussed in great detail and using three Irish whiskeys as the guide. The three main whiskeys discussed were Distiller’s Safe, Cooper’s Croze, and Blender’s Dog. These three whiskeys were made to celebrate the different steps of the distilling process. Distiller’s Safe highlights head distiller, Brian Nation, who wanted to show off the purity of the spirit before the whiskey has a lot of influence from the barrel. Cooper’s Croze was made to highlight head cooper, Ger Buckley. The goal of this whiskey is to showcase the influence that the barrel has during the whiskey process. Lastly, Blender’s Dog highlights head blender Billy Leighton who blends the whiskeys together to create a perfectly harmonious spirit.
Before blending our own whiskey, we learned how to taste whiskey and detect different flavor notes. We were each given a blindfold and asked to taste different things (citrus, fig sorbet, chocolate, etc), to try and see if we could detect those flavors. I think this was an interesting part of the class, because it helps the consumer be able to identify flavors within the whiskey and develop a greater appreciation for the tastes of whiskey. When I drink Irish whiskey, I taste a whiskey much sweeter than bourbon with rich notes of butterscotch, vanilla, caramel, and raisins. We were able to put our “flavor detecting skills” to the test at the end of the class when we blended our own whiskey to take home. This was a neat part of the experience and a souvenir to take home.
The experience ended with the maturation warehouse. The maturation warehouse at Jameson is the only place in Dublin were whiskey is being aged. There are only 20 or so barrels in this warehouse. All the other barrels are located in Cork, Ireland where all the distilling happens. The maturation warehouse smells strongly of oaky sweetness from the all the whiskey ageing. To end the experience, the Jameson ambassador opened a barrel and used a whiskey thief to sample out cask strength Irish whiskey which had been aging in a Wild Turkey barrel. I will always love the ties between Ireland and the United States when it comes to whiskey. We make bourbon, Ireland uses those ex-bourbon barrels to make delicious Irish whiskey. If you ask me, that sounds like the world’s best “hand-me-down”. In my opinion, this was the best part of the experience and why this experience is worth the price tag. How many people can say they have stood in a maturation warehouse and sipped whiskey that came straight from the barrel? If you’re ever in Dublin, I would highly recommend swinging by the Jameson Distillery on Bow Street.