First off, let me start by saying that we Americans have been saying Jameson all wrong. We’ve been saying it like James- Jaaaaymisson, but in Dublin and the rest of Europe, I presume (since Suzanne did in Holland as well) pronounce it JAMison. And since it’s an Irish heritage, I’m going to assume that they are the ones saying it correctly these last few hundred years. So on behalf of all of us uncultured Americans let me be the one to say this with all sincerity- our bad.
The Jameson Distillery Tour was a part of our Dublin CityPass (or Go Pass) list of available stops. For some unbeknownst reason even to myself, I really wanted to go here. It’s probably because I am very proud of my Hogan Irish heritage and want to immerse myself in everything that Dublin and Ireland are known for or because I thought that even for an afternoon I could grin and bear drinking straight whiskey. I could not. But more on that later. The Bow Street location no longer runs as a distillery, but rather an educational center and tour spot for travelers like us.
Ross told us to #besttourguideever
Tour Step One: We started out fine, making it to Bow Street early enough to be considered nerds if this were a classroom. Kind of was, I guess. We took the available 40-minute Bow Street experience, which runs through whiskey history complete with a tasting comparing American whiskey and Scotch to the Irish booze. Well, we got our passes and entry and waited for everything to begin whilst standing around shoulder to shoulder in a holding cell big enough to seat 12 but standing room was at about 25. It was exciting! Ross, our quirky and Improv friendly host (#besttourguideever) welcomes us into the dark room in which he held open- a projection room for learnin’! After introducing ourselves with name and location (again, see classroom) we found that not a single person sharing our company that day was a Dubliner! Nobody else from Michigan joined us like on our last tours but we had a few Canadians, a Hawaiian and a family from West Virginia. Close enough. I digress. During the projection stop of the tour we learned about the Jameson family, the history of their whiskey and building, how the distillery became a home to many and how you’d work all day just to get that end of day glass of liquid gold to top you off for your walk home. The stories were accompanied by projections down and around the room, my favorite part being the family motto, Sine Metu, meaning “without fear” and how it’s still used to this day within the company in open and some secretive ways.
Tour Step Two: More viewing, but this time it’s hands (and noses) on! We took in a showing of the brewing process at stations that can only be described as pairs of mini science lab, three to a side. Being the rebel I am, I prematurely smelled and stuck my hands in things. Don’t. Don’t be like me. It was a mistake. It didn’t take any of the fun away or spoil it, rather it was that I didn’t know what was in each thing and some of it is unpleasant and had I known one would smell like old raisins and spit- well, you get it. Such is life. We tasted some ingredients (I forget now if we were supposed to or not, but I did it- pumpkin seedy!), smelled ingredients on wooden knobs that are part of the process and tried to make friends with our neighbors.
The Second Station- so full of science!
The Golden Trio
Tour Stop Three: The tasting! Most people would be excited about this part the most! Ross spoke about all three brands we were about to sample- Jameson of course, Jack Daniels and Johnny Walker Black. We piled in and joked about getting too drunk to function off of three shots, but thanks be that there was a water glass at each station as well! We started with the lighter stuff, as they call it, the Jack. Again, American- so I am familiar enough with it to know that I do not care for it, but, alas, just like with Guinness, do as the Irish do. I figured, why not? Everyone else was jumping off of that bridge, so, off we go! I drank about half a shot’s worth because it was all I could take. Well, all I wanted to take at least. People savored and danced about the flavors while I drank some water to clear it away. I’m such a waste of booze. Worth a try though! We moved from America to Scotland and Johnny Walker Black. Scotch Whisky. Black. Black like Soot. Because to me that’s what it tasted like. It was smoked flavor and I could not. It tasted to me like the garage fire that happened this past summer around the block from my house. Not fiery like cinnamon, more like it tastes like a house was formerly on fire and I licked it. I licked the ruins of some guy’s sad house. I looked at my husband like I was just stabbed or something with some of it in my mouth ("It'll only make it worse the longer you hold it there", he said), not even half a shot’s worth this time because just smelling it felt like I was going to cry. But I did it because I hadn’t before and I did not cry. I drank my whole glass of water and the guy’s glass next to me (he had a water bottle and was a complete stranger). Well, let’s just say that only one guy liked Johnny best. And he was from Scotland. On to the Jameson! A little better, and it gave me that feeling of when you have a piece of metal in your mouth. Kind of sharp in taste, much easier for my apparently gentle palette and nose, triple distilled so it burned in my belly! (We learned from Ross that single distilled burns the throat, double burns the chest and triple, the stomach) I still did not like it. The Jack was the sissiest of samples, I’d say, and Jameson definitely the easiest to drink, but that Johnny, never again. Let that be a lesson in going with your gut, kids! If the smell makes you sad and/or horrified, don’t drink it! But I’m the “You jump, I jump, Jack” of the party. For being such a brave soldier I (and everyone else) was awarded with a certificate stating that I am an “Official Jameson Whiskey Taster”. Gold stars plastered all over my forehead for sure! Probably everyone else on the tour and in all of Ireland/the World has had Jameson before that moment but I’ve always been a late bloomer.
Something for the ol' Resume
The Jameson Distillery tour is really fun and even though I hated the taste tests, I liked making my husband laugh at me as hard as he did while I tried new things. The tour was pretty zany but we did learn a lot about the brewing and brewery processes, about Dublin and the Jameson family. I’m proud that I tried it even if I did drink almost three people’s worth of water at the tasting. After the tour was over we were ushered into a gift shop where we spent too much money on booze since this particular bottle of 12 year could only be purchased on this Bow Street tour but you only get the chance once. Unless you come back. Which we might. We also got vouchers for free drinks at JJ’s Bar, the bar within the distillery. You could get a glass of Jameson neat, on the rocks or with ginger ale. Being a weenie, I went with the ginger ale with extra lime to try to mask the whiskey AND ginger tastes- but again, as is pretty much our whole trip, you only YOLO once! Definitely make it a point to hit this tour spot if you find yourself in Dublin alley ways looking for things to do. It's not very expensive for the 40-minute tour, plus you get to taste things, and choose a drink at the end. Plus, there's a cafe, Christophe's, just outside that serves up some of the best mashed potatoes I have ever had in my tuber lovin' life!
When I go back to Dublin one day I don't reckon I will take this specific tour again, but there is also a Bartender's course where you can mix your own, and even though I do not much care for whiskey, I still want to do this- sans Johnny Walker and all of his colors!