Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Midleton Distillery: Built Heritage and Whiskey

I went on a number of great guided tours during my visit to Ireland but the award for most cheery tour guide definitely goes to the Jameson Experience at the Midleton Distillery in County Cork.  The enthusiasm and friendliness of the guide reminded me a lot of Mary Poppins.  It was clear the guide was reading from a set script, but she also took time to interact with everyone in the group and answer individual questions. 

The Midleton Distillery tour takes visitors through the old distillery buildings, some of which date from the late 1700s.  The tour focuses on the history of the Jameson family, brand, and the whiskey making process.  Featured on the tour are mills, water wheel, maltings, stillhouse, warehouses and kilns.  The distillery which is featured on the tour is no longer actively used and the newer Midleton Distillery can only be seen at a distance from the tour route.  The old brick buildings included in the tour were interesting and a variety of the old equipment such as steam engine and pot-still were still located in their original locations.

Prior to this tour I knew very little about the whiskey distillation process and the history of legislation
Whiskey at different stages of maturation. 
around whiskey.  Apparently, in Ireland whiskey needs to be matured for a minimum of three years to be called whiskey -- if it is sold prior to the three year mark it can't use the title whiskey and can only be sold as a 'spirit'.  This requirement was introduced following a number of upstarts which attempted to sell products which were not 'pure' whiskey and hadn't been matured for as long.  The tour clearly explained all the steps involved in making whiskey from the growing of the raw ingredients to the bottling process.

At the conclusion of the tour a handful of members from the tour group participated in a tasting test. The tasting compared American, Scottish and Irish whiskey and explained the differences in the production process of each country.  I found the Jameson tour less focused on the Jameson family/corporate history than the Guinness experience.  Granted, the very nature of the tour means that it was closely connected to the history of the Jameson product but overall the experience didn't feel as though the brand was being forced upon you. 

Photographs by Andrew MacKay

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