5 things we learned drinking Irish whiskey in Ireland on St Patrick's Day
We headed to Dublin with Jameson for St Patrick's Day - and learned a lot about whiskey.
St Patrick’s Day 2022 was always going to be a special one. After two years of no big celebrations, Dublin was all set to put on a party.
To make sure we didn’t miss out, we headed to the Republic of Ireland’s capital, invited by Jameson, to sample some whiskey and understand a little more about how it makes its spirit.
The day we arrived, the atmosphere in Jameson Distillery Bow Street was one of excitement. That night Dublin-based band Fontaines DC were set to play a gig at The Complex which has a capacity of a few hundred - it was to be live-streamed, though, to thousands of fans across the globe as part of the Jameson Connects campaign.
But before the gig, we had some whiskey tasting to embark on. So, here are 5 things we learned about whiskey while drinking the stuff on St Patrick’s Day...
1. There’s a trick to tasting whiskey: open your mouth
We went on The Whiskey Shakers experience, where bartender Kieran was on hand to lend us some whiskey tasting advice.
“To taste your whiskey, you need to pick up a glass and give it a little swirl to release and then under your nose take a nice deep inhale and then take it away from your nose. On your first nose you know it's whiskey as you get that strong booze note,” he told us.
“Then go again and think of vanilla, caramel and honey. You are going to start picking up the sweeter side of the whiskey. For the third time I want you to aerate it and to do this keep your mouth open. Breathe in both through your nose and your mouth you will pick up a lot more of the aromas that you wouldn’t have gotten the first time around,” he continued.
As for how long we have to keep it in our mouths for, there is an answer: “When it comes to tasting they used to say that you hold it in your mouth for the same time as the age, so a four-year whiskey it’s in there for four seconds.
"Our Midleton range can be matured up to 38 years, so don’t stand at the bar staring at the bartender when you taste one of those as it can get unsettling!”
2. There’s a certain age before whiskey can be called whiskey
After the cocktail making we headed on a tour of the Jameson Bow Street distillery, where our tour guide noted: “When it comes to maturation, you can put the spirit into barrels but it won’t technically become whiskey until it has aged three years.
"It’s Irish law that it has to be three years old until it can be called whiskey.”
3. A hell of a lot of whiskey is lost in the maturing process
“We lose 2% of our whiskey every year through evaporation (called the angel’s share). 2% may not sound like much but it works out as 34,000 bottles of whiskey every day, or a bottle every 2.5 seconds lost,” reveals our guide.
He continues: “2% evaporation is actually kind of low. If you were from somewhere warmer in the world, you could lose way more whiskey. You might have up to 15% evaporation. If you had 15% evaporation in a warehouse, the heat’s gonna rise. So you're going to want to rotate barrels to make sure that every barrel is going to be treated the same way.
"Lucky for us, the Irish weather is consistently inconsistent."
4. The right barrel is as important as the spirit inside
The Jameson tour heads to a barrel room which is filled with hundreds of barrels but the size of the place is tiny compared to Jameson’s main distillery in Midleton, County Cork.
“In Midleton we have around 1.4 million casks at the distillery and depending on the barrel used they have to be a particular shape,” explains our guide. “If it’s a bourbon barrel it has to be 200 litres in size and made of white American oak. Jameson gets through 150,000 of these barrels in a year.
“The thing with bourbon is, if you want to make it then you need to use a new barrel, so it creates this secondary overflow for brands like Jameson to use these used barrels. In terms of the barrels we get in, we get roughly 25 years out of them.”
5. Jameson’s Black Barrel whiskey is called that for a very good reason
“The reason it’s called Black Barrel is because of the barrel,” says our guide. “The Irish weather would beat up the barrels and our way of re-invigorating them was by charring the inside of them, lighting them up.
“For one of the whiskies in Black Barrel we are using a barrel that has been charred twice. This means that there is a real spiciness that comes through and a sweeter side, too. I wouldn’t say it’s smokey but it definitely has a toasty taste to it.
“It’s our tribute to the coopers method of charring barrels.”
You can book a tour at the Jameson Bow Street distillery now, from €25. A whiskey cocktail class and whiskey blending class are also available.