On an unusually warm spring day in Dublin, Ireland four travel-weary Busted Wallet writers walked through the emerald green gates of whiskey heaven: Jameson Distillery Bow St. A marvel of engineering and design, Jameson Distillery Bow St. recently reopened to the public after exhaustive renovations. From the moment you enter Bow St. you can feel the storied history of the distillery come to life. A private tour took us from “grain to glass” and made us Jameson converts for life. Follow along as we take you through The Bow St. Experience!
First Stop: History in the Making.
The first stop on the Bow St. tour took us back to the beginning: 1780. An intimate, 180 degree amphitheater drew our attention to a center table boasting original relics from the days that JJ walked the halls of Bow St. The artifacts were painstakingly and lovingly restored by Jameson’s resident historian and curator. The console then burst to life with state-of-the-art projection technology showing, with stunning graphics, the story of the Scotsman John Jameson and how he staked his claim in the Irish whiskey market over 230 years ago with a recipe for triple distilled gold. Impressive as the technology was, it was the tour guide that had us enraptured with the legend of John Jameson. With palpable intensity and passion, our guide brought the history of Jameson to life with the cadence of a fire-side story teller. Leaving the first stop, it was clear that the ethos and drive of John Jameson is alive and well with the caretakers of his legacy.
Second Stop: The Family Recipe.
Upon entering the second station we were enveloped with the earthy, toasted smell of malted barley. Tables line the hall with samples of malted and unmalted barley – two of the three ingredients in classic Jameson Whiskey. The guide walked us though JJ’s original recipe with striking graphics and sensory interaction. Starting with the barley, we could feel, smell, and taste the distinct flavors of the grain with samples provided at our tables. Sourced from within 100 miles of its Midleton Distillery in Cork County, local Irish farmers take pride in producing some of the world’s best barley. The malting process was expertly explained by the guide: Barley is soaked in warm water to begin the germination process and then gently dried on custom tiles. Germination and drying allows the barley to produce the perfect amount of sugar during the mashing process. Jameson only uses the purest Irish water during the mashing process, sourced from the Dungourney River in County Cork that flows through its Midleton Distillery. After fermentation the liquid is triple distilled. The triple distillation process sets Jameson apart from traditional Scottish Distilleries and results in a velvety-smooth mouth-feel. Before earning its place in an emerald-green bottle, Jameson ages in oak barrels imported from the United States and Spain for a minimum of four years – one year longer than required by Irish law. The oak barrels, once used to age bourbon and fortified wine, impart subtle notes of vanilla, toasted wood, and sherry. By seeing and smelling samples of the barrels and whiskeys at different stages of maturation, we began to understand the magic of John Jameson’s perfect whiskey recipe.
By the end of the second stop we truly appreciated that Jameson makes an exception product because it controls the quality of ingredients and process quite literally from “grain to glass” in a single distillery. The result is an exceptional Irish whiskey with each and every pour.
Third Stop: The Tasting Experience.
Armed with the storied history of John Jameson, and a new-found appreciation of the ingredients and distilling process, we were ready to taste. Three different samples were offered: a premium American whiskey, a premium Scotch, and Jameson Original. Sitting at a round tasting table, our guide walked us through the proper way to taste a whiskey.
Tasting is done in three stages. First, you slowly roll the glass at an angle in the light to admire the color, clarity, and legs (or tears) of the whiskey. Next, with an open mouth you gently breath the vapors of the whiskey with your nose. The “open-mouth” method allows the vapors to perfume your nose and mouth so that you can pick up the subtle fragrances of the whiskey. Finally, to taste the whiskey, you take a small sip and “chew” the whiskey in your mouth so that it hits each part of your pallet.
After tasting the American Whiskey and Scotch, our mouths were watering for a taste of Jameson. Holding our glasses to the light, Jameson sparkled like an amber jewel. Clear and deep, the tears dripped ever so slowly down the sides of our glasses. Using the open-mouth method, we smelled notes of vanilla, caramel, and toasted wood. The first sip was velvet; noticeably smoother than the American whiskey and traditional Scotch. Chewing the Jameson brought out rich vanilla and caramel flavors with a very subtle sweetness. The finish was clean with a slight earthy flavor owed to the malted barley. With a hearty “Slainte” we finished our samples of Jameson- but this was not the end of our tour!
The Daily Grog:
At the conclusion of the tour we were invited to head to the bar for the time-honored tradition of the Daily Grog! Each Jameson worker, from the cooper to the master blender, were allotted one drink of Jameson at the end of a long day’s work. This is a tradition that continues today at the newly remodeled bar. The bar at Bow St. is the centerpiece of facility. Raw brick and joists nod to the original distillery founded in 1780, while a gob-smacking Jameson bottle chandelier hangs overhead. The bartenders are true artists; mixing and blending the best that Jameson has to offer with fresh, quality ingredients. Sample a refreshing Jameson and ginger beer, or try a craft cocktail like JJ’s Rhubarb Sour! With Jameson as the star of the show, you can’t go wrong with your drink selection. While enjoying your cocktail at the bar, be sure to take-in the history of Bow St. Wandering around the grounds, original artifacts from days past will catch your eye. A collection of original bottles of Jameson graces one bar, while the ruins of the 1780 Bow St. distillery peek through the floor!
Behind the Scenes:
Through winding hallways and locked doorways, were were lead to Bow St.’s onsite maturation room. Barrels are stacked high and presided over by an installation of angel wings made from the ribs of a barrel. The wings signify the Angels Share of the whiskey – the 2% of Jameson that evaporates during the maturation process each and every year!
From the maturation room, we followed our hosts to a hidden bar, used for the special experiences offered by Jameson Bow St…. but more on that later!
After all of this, we thought we had seen it all, but our host lead us to one last stop: JJ’s office! Boasting an intimate bar and collection of genuine JJ artifacts, we were immediately struck by the history of the place. The centerpiece is JJ’s desk. Adorned with his typewriter and personal diary, you can almost picture JJ conducting the business of the day. Sitting in his chair (yes, JJ’s real chair), for a moment you are transported to a different time. Truly a special experience, a visit to JJ’s office is not to be missed!
Experiences of a Lifetime:
Jameson Distillery Bow St. offers tours and experiences for every whiskey aficionado. If you are lucky enough to find yourself in Dublin, Ireland, make sure you reserve one of the following Jameson experiences!
The Bow St. Experience:
The Bow St. Experience is the intimate tour that we scheduled for our visit! A forty minute tasting tour takes you from “grain to glass” with an expert guide and excellent story telling. Your ticket not only includes a tasting during the tour, but a Daily Grog. For 20 Euros, this experience is an exceptional value!
Buy tickets now: 20 Euros.
The Whiskey Shakers:
The Bow St. Experience is not to be missed, but if you are an at-home bartender, or a professional looking for an edge you must take The Whiskey Shakers master class! This 90-minute course is held in a private bar and led by a master Jameson mixologist. In an intimate setting with no more than 16 participants, you will learn the art of crafting perfect Jameson cocktails with professional bar equipment and quality ingredients. After the class, you are invited to the maturation room where you are offered the rare opportunity to taste Jameson straight from a cask. You leave the day with incredible memories and a copy of Jameson’s Whiskey Makers Book! For 60 Euros, this is an experience you do not want to miss!
Buy tickets now: 60 Euros.
If you already have a knowledge and love for Irish Whiskey, then the 40 minute Whiskey Tasters experience is for you! You will taste the best that Jameson has to offer, from Jameson Original to Jameson Black Barrel Cask Strength. An expert Brand Ambassador will walk you through the tasting, imparting the history and legacy of JJ with each pour. Perhaps the most memorable part of The Whiskey Tasters experience is that it is held in JJ’s office. Take a spin in his chair and review his personal diary as you sip on the Whiskey that made him a household name. For 30 Euros, The Whiskey Tasters experience is a must for all whiskey drinkers.
Buy tickets now: 30 Euros.
The Whiskey Makers:
Interested in trying your hand at whiskey blending? The Whiskey Makers experience is for you! A 90-minute, expertly guided blending experience in a private bar will explore three whiskeys: Distiller’s Safe, Cooper’s Croze and Blender’s Dog. You will learn how each of these three whiskeys were developed by Jameson’s Master Whiskey Makers to express their highest ideal of what a whiskey should be. After guiding you through a tasting and blending exercise, you are welcomed into the maturation room where you can sample Jameson straight from a cask! This 60 Euro experience will transform your appreciation of Irish Whiskey!
Buy tickets now: 60 Euros.
It is hard to put into words the experience that we had at Jameson Distillery Bow St. It is more than the brick-and-mortar exterior, more than the bar, and so much more than the liquid gold whiskey produced for its namesake. Jameson is its people. The passion, excitement, and legacy of JJ lives in the bar tenders, Brand Ambassadors, and guides; it is evident from the moment you pass through the gates of Bow St. Perhaps most importantly, it is apparent that Jameson is, as it once was, a family – a family that rises to meet JJ’s motto of Sine Metu – without fear- each and ever day. I am sure that this is why we entered the emerald gates of Jameson Distillery Bow St. as whiskey novices, but left as lifelong Jameson disciples.
- This was the best tasting experience we have ever had! Exceptional guides and a beautiful facility.
- This is an exceptional value. For a reasonable rate you get an intimate tour, tasting, and cocktail!
- Once in a lifetime experiences are offered for very reasonable rates!
- We have absolutely nothing negative to say about our experience.