I was first introduced to Irish Whiskey by a friend when I was 17. We always mixed it with Coke and I remember it being very smooth. Back in those days, we didn’t always drink whiskey for the taste!
I haven’t been too much of a whiskey drinker since then, but I’ve dabbled in mostly the scotch variety from time to time. The first difference I noticed between Scottish and Irish whiskey is that the letter ‘e’ appears in Ireland. Why? That’s for you and Google to get acquainted with. While in Cork, we decided to take the short drive to the town of Midleton to undertake the ‘Jameson Experience at the Old Distillery’ and find out the other differences.
Once barley is soaked in water and allowed to sprout, the grain is dried in the kiln using a smokeless fuel. No direct heat is used, whereas in Scotland, peat smoke is blown through the grain. So that’s why the rare Johnnie Walker Blue had that distinct taste which drove the senses into oblivion. The other main difference is the all-important triple distillation, as opposed to double distillation in the Highlands.
The tour of the old distillery starts with a short film, then a guided walk of the grounds. The new distillery is not too far away and we were told that every drop of Jameson drunk in the world is made there. A very interesting fact indeed! One of the most fascinating things I learned was about the barrels in which the whiskey is stored and allowed to mature. There are three types that were once used for American bourbon whiskey, Spanish wine and Portuguese port. The maturation period ranges from five to 18 years and the colours change from golden to brown to deep red.
The highlight of any distillery or brewery tour is undoubtedly the sampling of the goods after the formalities of the guided part. I chose to taste my standard Jameson whiskey ‘neat.’ I’ve been informed by more astute scholars in whiskey that one or two blocks of ice is the best way to go, but certainly too much ice or mixing it is ill-advised.
A great perk of the tour is for those chosen to participate in extra tastings. When the guide asked for female volunteers, Andrea put her hand up faster than I could say Jimmy McNulty! I declined when males were requested, because I was after all, the designated driver of the day. Prior to her included drink, she tried one shot each of Jameson, Johnnie Walker Black and Jack Daniels to understand the complexities of each whiskey. As well as this, she also received a certificate to acknowledge her status as a whiskey taster!
The Jameson Experience was a great way to spend an hour and a half. The tour was informative and while the gift shop tempted us to ship some bottles back to Australia, we refrained from doing so. Hopefully one day I can become a connoisseur of whiskey, but for now, I will compare the Irish and Scottish types as I continue to expand my horizons in the alcohol world.
Getting There: From the great town of Cork, take the N25 to Midleton and follow the signs to the Jameson Experience. There is ample free parking and the tour costs €13 per adult which includes one drink. A discount is available for booking online ahead of your visit. The Old Distillery is also 18km from Cork airport, 15km from Ringaskiddy ferry port and public buses can drop you off one minute walk away.
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