The famous whiskey maker’s close links to the Irish capital go back more than two centuries. Thus, when it flew down a bunch of journalists from around the world to explore the city, it was never going to be regular tourist fare.

There’s nothing like bright sunshine and blue skies to liberate oneself from that catatonic post-flight demeanour. And the universe had indeed been kind, as I landed in Dublin on a pristine Wednesday morning, not knowing what to expect, but curious enough to skip a post-flight nap. Maybe listening to Lou Reed’s `Perfect Day’ on the plane had been ominous after all. I was part of an eclectic motley of people from over 20 countries who had been flown into the Irish capital for a taste of something called the ‘Jameson Dublin Experience’. We were lucky, because March isn’t when the weather gods are benevolent in this part of the globe, though it was forecast to be frigid over the next two days. We reckoned that in a few hours, we would get enough of the Irish vigour into us to not be apprehensive about the impending weather. And that’s exactly what happened.

We dropped off our bags at the hotel in the city center and bumbled our way through the streets, convinced that an Irish breakfast would help consign the uninspiring in-flight fodder to oblivion. It didn’t take too long, and we found ourselves seated in Sofias, an unpretentious breakfast house where everyone from construction workers to swanky office goers find unison in hunger. The fried eggs came sunny side up, surrounded by crackling sausages with humble potatoes completing the wholesome star cast. The lardy meal and the sun-kissed streets outside have a perfect prequel to our destination, Kilmainham Gaol, a converted jail.

Dublin has a small town character. Restrictions on the heights of structures have made the city lean towards an architecture that never overwhelms. The jail, however, had a different feel. Built in 1796, it serves as a sombre reminder of the great freedom struggles of the Irish revolutionaries, a monument to Irish nationalism. It was heart breaking to learn about the overcrowded conditions during the potato famine of 1845. Men, women and children were imprisoned here for begging or stealing food, some of them, we were told, did it deliberately so that they could get at least one square meal within the confines of this dark heaven.

As the afternoon approached, we decided to seek redemption in a pub called The Barge, where many Dubliners partook in beer along the outdoor periphery on a rare sunny day. Pleasantries were exchanged, conversations were engaged in, not just amongst ourselves but also with Dubliners enjoying the pleasant weather. After indulging in as many pints as we could, we walked back to the hotel with curious anticipation of a special dinner invitation.

Showered and restored to some degree of order, I put on a jacket and cabbed to a feast at the Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, an 800-year-old city landmark. On the agenda was a gastronomic fire along with a presentation on the new Jameson bottle. The bottle and its label are part of drinking folklore in Ireland. Jameson started making its famous whisky in a nearby facility in the 1780s, and was a key player in Irish whiskey’s domination of the world’s spirits trade in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Irish whisky is seeing a renaissance around the world in recent years, with Jameson again leading the way.

The story of the famous Jameson bottle label revolves around the Irish expression of `chancing one’s arm’ which in turn is connected to an event that took place in this cathedral in the year 1492 involving two powerful, but feuding, Dublin families, the Fitzgeralds and the Butlers. During one such lively encounter, the Butlers were subdued and craftily sought shelter in the Cathedral. The Fitzgeralds caught wind of this and arrived there demanding that the door be opened since any violent action would not have been appropriate in the house of the Lord. Finally, they agreed to a truce, but the Butlers were still suspicious about their enemies’ intent. Then in a bold move, Gerard Fitzgerald cracked open a crevice in the door, through which he put his arm out and ‘chanced his arm’, thereby giving birth to the expression. The door in all its glory still exists at the site and is the only part of the structure that survives till date. Dublin sure loves a chancer. The story blended perfectly with the motto of Jameson, as inscribed on the fingers of the two chanced arms: Sine Metu, or ‘without fear’.

We expected it to be a sober evening, starting with a grand dinner. But that was too much to hope for, when you are in Ireland. We were ushered through a hatch door at the side of the main church building into a grand room at the back of the altar. Laid out here were tables that went on for miles, covered with the whitest linen and dozens of bottles of Jameson whiskey. It was an evening of drinking unlike none I had witnessed. As the night was drawing to an end I took a solitary walk down the corridors, staring at the altitudinous magnificence of God’s manifestation. I had the whiskey to thank for softening the strain in my neck as I made my way back to the hotel.

The next morning was palpably gloomy. Gusty winds and drizzle greeted us as we stepped on to the streets. How does one make a gloomy day look good? Jameson had the right cure in mind. We strode into the Dublin Bar Academy for a special session on creating a bespoke blended Irish whiskey, conducted by Jameson master blender Billy Leighton. Billy has the onerous job of consuming 25-30 drams of whiskey on a daily basis, to ensure perfect blends for the Jameson range. Perched on a table with a plethora of snifter glasses before me, I couldn’t resist the sight of the three Irish whiskeys. Two were pot stilled whiskeys (one from a bourbon cask and the other from a sherry cask), and the other a grain whiskey from a first fill bourbon cask. Billy also taught us how to best taste a whiskey – by adding drops of whiskey to a bit of water without stirring. According to him, this process, which he called ‘self-diluting of whiskey in water’, is best to release all its flavours.

We were assigned the task of tasting each of the three whiskeys in isolation, and making mental notes, and then to combine the three to make a new blend. I wanted to create a whiskey that was easy to drink, the kind that would overcome gloom at 10 am in the morning. After much tasting and thinking, I settled on the creamy vanilla notes of the grain whiskey as a personal favourite, and created a blend that was partial to it. I called my personalised Jameson blend Carpe-diem.

One of the many interesting things one sees on a Dublin street is the way business owners play around with branding. Out of curiosity, I walked into one such shop, which was just titled with just two symbols “><”. It was a small fish and chips restaurant run by a young couple. They had no menu and just served what they thought was the freshest from the day’s catch. The menu for the day was charmingly scribbled on the tile-glazed wall with black marker pens. Unfortunately, they were only open in the evening, but there was a great coffee shop next door befittingly called the Proper Order. What you can’t miss there is their signature Slap and Tickle. It consisted of a shot of espresso that was chased down by a cascara based soda. It felt like rolling in the grass. No wonder it won ‘Dublin’s Best Coffee 2016’ award. Our next stop was a butcher’s shop a few blocks away. The stench of meat and macabre wall-hung diagrams of meat carving techniques gave way to a small hatch door at the back, which led to a rickety spiral stairway that took you to a dark, musty, cobwebbed speakeasy bar in the basement. Standing tall behind the bar was a renowned mixologist, who was going to teach us how to make an Irish coffee. The right ingredients, chief of which is an Irish whiskey such as Jameson, he tells us are indispensable if you want to whip up an authentic Irish coffee. The coffee was an outcome of the genius of a man named Joe Sheriddan at Ireland’s Shannon Airport, when transatlantic flights recommenced after WW1. Joe wanted to serve the travelers a local drink that would warm the bones of travelers at the airport, most of whom were Americans. He added a dash of whiskey to the hot coffee he served, and thus was born the famous Irish Coffee. The hot Irish coffee proved to be a good precursor to our visit to Jameson Bow Street Sessions nearby. An annual event, it provides a platform for new bands from the lively Irish music scene. This evening though was the turn of a Denver based rhythm and blues band called Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. And they played a rocking set. I slipped out at 1 AM, hoping to get a good night’s sleep in preparation for the carnival the next day. If the weather on Day 2 was unsavoury, Day 3 was even worse, the kind that could freeze your marrow. We began the day with a tasting session conducted by the head distiller Brian Nation at the historic Jameson Distillery at Bow Street. Set up in 1780, it ceased operations in 1975, when most of Jameson’s distilling activity was shifted to a grander facility in Cork in the southern part of country. Bow Street is now a museum, where Brian explained the nuances that make Irish whiskey distinctive, through a juxtaposed tasting with Scotch and American whiskeys. On the main porch of the distillery, we were introduced to Ger Buckley, an energetic, stocky man in his early 60s. As the chief cooper of Irish Distillers, he is a 5th generation barrel maker. His experience and knowledge shone through, as he explained the rich history of the cooperage industry, dating back to the Romans 2000 years ago. Then, he worked his ><”. It was a small fish and chips restaurant run by a young couple. They had no menu and just served what they thought was the freshest from the day’s catch. The menu for the day was charmingly scribbled on the tile-glazed wall with black marker pens. Unfortunately, they were only open in the evening, but there was a great coffee shop next door befittingly called the Proper Order. What you can’t miss there is their signature Slap and Tickle. It consisted of a shot of espresso that was chased down by a cascara based soda. It felt like rolling in the grass. No wonder it won ‘Dublin’s Best Coffee 2016’ award.

Our next stop was a butcher’s shop a few blocks away. The stench of meat and macabre wall-hung diagrams of meat carving techniques gave way to a small hatch door at the back, which led to a rickety spiral stairway that took you to a dark, musty, cobwebbed speakeasy bar in the basement. Standing tall behind the bar was a renowned mixologist, who was going to teach us how to make an Irish coffee. The right ingredients, chief of which is an Irish whiskey such as Jameson, he tells us are indispensable if you want to whip up an authentic Irish coffee. The coffee was an outcome of the genius of a man named Joe Sheriddan at Ireland’s Shannon Airport, when transatlantic flights recommenced after WW1. Joe wanted to serve the travelers a local drink that would warm the bones of travelers at the airport, most of whom were Americans. recommenced after WW1. Joe wanted to serve the travelers a local drink that would warm the bones of travelers at the airport, most of whom were Americans.

He added a dash of whiskey to the hot coffee he served, and thus was born the famous Irish Coffee.

The hot Irish coffee proved to be a good precursor to our visit to Jameson Bow Street Sessions nearby. An annual event, it provides a platform for new bands from the lively Irish music scene. This evening though was the turn of a Denver based rhythm and blues band called Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. And they played a rocking set. I slipped out at 1 AM, hoping to get a good night’s sleep in preparation for the carnival the next day.

If the weather on Day 2 was unsavoury, Day 3 was even worse, the kind that could freeze your marrow. We began the day with a tasting session conducted by the head distiller Brian Nation at the historic Jameson Distillery at Bow Street. Set up in 1780, it ceased operations in 1975, when most of Jameson’s distilling activity was shifted to a grander facility in Cork in the southern part of country. Bow Street is now a museum, where Brian explained the nuances that make Irish whiskey distinctive, through a juxtaposed tasting with Scotch and American whiskeys.

On the main porch of the distillery, we were introduced to Ger Buckley, an energetic, stocky man in his early 60s. As the chief cooper of Irish Distillers, he is a 5th generation barrel maker. His experience and knowledge shone through, as he explained the rich history of the cooperage industry, dating back to the Romans 2000 years ago. Then, he worked his magic, disassembling and reassembling a wooden cask in ten minutes flat. Under Ger’s supervision, the cask has assumed a central role in a popular product called Jameson Cask mates. Casks used for whiskey are loaned to craft breweries to age beer, and then returned to the distillery for reintroducing whiskey into them.

Meanwhile the weather outside was still dreary but the big parade had already begun. Saint Patrick, in Ireland’s folklore, began the process of converting the pagan islanders to Catholicism in the 4th century. He apparently used the Irish three leaf clover, or shamrock, to signify the Holy Trinity. The modern day celebrations began somewhere around 1631, when the Church declared March 17th as the feast of Saint Patrick. Since the day falls in the middle of the Lent period, it provided Christians a much needed reprieve from work. Till not long ago, the occasion was celebrated in a somber manner across this religious country, beginning with a church service in the morning. It was a religious holiday, with businesses including bars closed as a matter of respect.

How then did this occasion metamorphose into a raucous cacophony? Perhaps the millions of American who claim Irish descent had a role to play. The first St Patrick’s Day parade took place in the USA in 1792. The festivities grew larger, serving as an occasion for the migrants to connect with their Irish roots. Consumerism could have had a hand too, with the active role Budweiser took in promoting the big day in the 1980s, and let’s not forget the 13 million pints of Guinness sold worldwide on this day.

Even on the streets of Dublin on this weathercursed morning, the faces were predominantly touristy. On closer inspection, the locals were conspicuous by their absence, preferring instead the warmth of friends and family in the cozier confines of their homes. Crowds gathered around the parade, which consisted of pageantry groups performing around the theme “Ireland you are…” The dreadful weather meant viewing obstructions resulting from the sea of umbrellas along the periphery of the parade’s path. We tugged along a bunch of people to enter a bar that was exasperatingly full, like a Mumbai local.

Sounds of Sláinte (Irish for cheers which translates roughly into `health’, (pronounced slawn-tcha) resounded all around. I ended up befriending at least ten nationalities, apart from the occasional Irish folk. The lack of elbow room did add to a sense of camaraderie, which we took forward to another bar 30 metres down the road. In about three hours we had made our way to the popular Temple Bar area whilst conquering our fifth bar, each one fuller than the other with revellers. Though the celebrations would continue into early morning, I slipped out of the madness early enough to tick off three ‘must sees’ on my Dublin bucket list – the legendary Trinity College, Dublin Castle and the chapel where St Valentine is buried.

After a good night’s rest, I peeped outside my window to see the square bereft of people. On the way to the airport, I recalled the art of adding drops of whiskey to self dilute in water. A dram of Ireland was in me without a stir, almost effortlessly. Sláinte!

Irish vs. Scotch Whiskey

Though Scotch is now the best known whiskey in the world, the western style whiskey that we know today is believed to have originated in Ireland. The evolution of whiskey making in the two countries has resulted in significant differences between the two. Here are a few of them.

  1. The Irish prefer to spell their spirit as ‘whiskey’, while the Scots call it ‘whisky’.
  2. The Irish distill their whiskey thrice, which gives it lightness. The Scots distill it only twice.
  3. The ‘lightness’ is further helped by the fact that the Irish distill the whiskey in pot stills that are three times the size of the copper stills used by Scottish distilleries.
  4. While making Scotch whisky, great emphasis is laid on the skill of the master blender in ‘blending’ the various finished whiskies, a process the Irish look down upon. They pay more attention to the distillers ability to mix the right distillates, called ‘vatting’.
  5. Scotch whisky is aged in casks for a minimum of two years, while the Irish age it for a minimum of three years.

The Perfect Jameson Irish Coffee

INGREDIENTS:

  • 35ml Jameson • 90ml medium-roasted espresso coffee • 10ml sugar syrup • 30ml lightly whipped double cream • Freshly ground nutmeg

HOW TO MAKE IT:

  • Stir the sugar syrup into the Jameson in your warmed glass
  • Whip your chilled double cream lightly until it starts to stiffen
  • Brew a 45ml shot into your glass from your espresso machine
  • Reload and brew a second 45ml shot
  • Pour the whipped cream over the back of a spoon so it floats on top
  • Dust with a grating of fresh nutmeg
Facebook Comments