Today “Jameson” is pretty much a synonym for “Irish whiskey” the world over. In fact, Jameson is currently the world’s number one selling Irish whiskey by a fair margin. Although, what many people don’t know is the man that started it all wasn’t in fact Irish at all, but a Scotsman.
John was born in 1740 into the Jameson family whose motto was “Sine Metu” or without fear in English. This motto was awarded to the Jameson family for their bravery in battling pirates on the high seas in the 1500s. Even to this day, the family motto can still be seen on every bottle of Jameson Irish whiskey.
Fast forward to a 40 year old John Jameson and we see the establishment of a distillery in Bow Street in the outskirts of Dublin city. This distillery, which would one day become the Jameson whiskey distillery, was often described as “a city within a city”. It was here that John Jameson would begin to build a family legacy that would eventually become a household name.
The original distillery spawned over 5 acres and boasted a workforce of over 300 people. His employees experienced the best working conditions in the city. Of course there were plenty of distillers but the distillery also housed doctors, blacksmiths, stonemasons, coppersmiths and of course the all-important coopers to build the barrels.
For a long time Irish whiskey was the most popular spirit in the world, with output 50 times that of their Scottish counterparts. In the 1800’s there were hundreds of distilleries in Ireland. Sadly, though, when there is a boom there is generally a bust, and boy, did the Irish whiskey industry bust. From the mid nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century each knockback was followed by another. The Temperance movement, the Famine, Prohibition, the War of Independence, the Civil War and the Second World War all hammered their own nails into the coffin of the Irish whiskey industry.
By the 1960’s there were only 3 distilleries left in the Republic; Jameson, Powers and Cork Distilleries Company. Instead of fighting for what little market share was left they decided to save the industry and join together in one company and centralize all production in Midleton County Cork.
Irish whiskey is now going through its second boom and Jameson is once again at the forefront. In the 1960’s, nobody remembered what Irish whiskey was. Thanks to the hard work of Jameson, Ireland is one of the most popular regions for the production of whiskey. Thousands of people come from the four corners of the world every year to see the birthplace of Jameson Irish whiskey and that number is only set to grow. To me, that sounds like a good enough reason for a Jameson ginger and lime!
Words by Matty Healy. Matty has his own blog, Potstilled.com, for more whiskey history and information.