The Irish Scotsman

John Jameson

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I. A whiskey legend is born

On a bright Tuesday morning, on October 5th 1740, John Jameson was born. And though he will later grow to make one of the best Irish whiskeys in the world, he was nonetheless born a Scotsman, but as the saying goes, he became more Irish than the Irish themselves.
‘Sine Metu’ (meaning ‘Without Fear’ in latin) is the Jameson family motto, awarded for their bravery in battling pirates in the 1500s. This motto must have been the inspiration for young John’s move to Dublin to make his mark (and his whiskey).
Now, going to Dublin to start a whiskey distillery around 1780 was actually a bit like going to LA in the 1940’s to start a film studio. Ireland is reputed to be where whiskey was invented and whiskey from Dublin was regarded as the finest in the world. Then along came John Jameson, a complete outsider, but with one set ambition: get the best equipment possible, use the best methods and make the best whiskey in the world. Period.
And all this he did, Sine Metu.

II. Only the finest will do

So in 1780, John Jameson established his whiskey distillery in Dublin and set out to achieve his ambition. For a start he insisted on the finest ingredients (a tradition that naturally continues to the present day). He personally selected the barley and casks and wasn’t afraid to pay top dollar for the very best. Whilst this endeared him to his suppliers, it didn’t make him that popular amongst other less fastidious producers.
At this time most whiskeys were distilled twice, like it is in Scotland. No harm in that, if you’re happy with a double distilled whiskey. John Jameson wasn’t. He went that extra step and insisted on triple distillation, as he found that it made his whiskey twice as smooth. So why not four times or even five? Wouldn’t the whiskey get smoother still? Don’t think John didn’t try it. He’d try anything in the quest for perfection. But it turned out triple distillation couldn’t be improved on.

III. Not Just a Single Distillery

As John Jameson was pretty single-minded about quality, going for a Single Distillery process seems the obvious choice. So to make sure quality was optimal, everything from the selection of grain and cask, to triple distillation and maturation, took place in the same distillery.
It was a great thing to be working in the Old Jameson Distillery in the early 19th century. You got the best wages and working conditions, and you also got to drink with the boss. John Jameson was happy to share his time, his profits and his whiskey with every single worker.
After all, happy workers make the best whiskey. And workers mattered to John Jameson. He even shared his label with them. To this day, alongside the signature of the great man himself, you’ll see two barrel men on the label of each bottle of Jameson whiskey.

IV. Mission accomplished

How did Jameson know his whiskey was good? He ran market research in local pubs and taverns. The Brazen Head, Ireland’s oldest pub being one of the more well known locations. He offered the regulars a glass of his new triple-distilled whiskey. Not surprisingly, they loved it, And in typical Irish style, they shortened it to a ‘Jemmie’.
By 1810, John’s son, John II, had expanded the distillery to be one of the largest distilling companies in Ireland. In the late 1800s his son, John III expanded the business globally to make it one of the largest whiskeys in the world.
As you may have guessed Glorious John Jameson is no longer with us, having passed away in 1823 at the grand old age of 83. Quite an achievement for the early 19th century. But achievement is something John Jameson knew about. That’s why all these years later, John Jameson’s triple distilled whiskey, bearing his signature and seal, is still the world’ number 1 Irish whiskey.

3 links to go further

Jameson Irish Whiskey, on Wikipedia
Jameson Irish Whiskey, on Wikipedia

Jameson is a single-distillery Irish whiskey. Unlike other blends where several whiskeys are combined together to reduce costs, the Jameson distilling tradition has always insisted upon producing every component of its whiskey "from grain to glass".

Jameson, on Alternative Whiskey Academy
Jameson, on Alternative Whiskey Academy

When John Jameson opened his distillery in Dublin in 1780 he was carrying on a tradition of whiskey making which had its origins in Ireland over a thousand years ago. Today Jameson Irish Whiskey is world famous for its distinctive flavour and smooth caracteristics.

Pictures of the Jameson Heritage Center
Pictures of the Jameson Heritage Center

At the Jameson Heritage Center in Midleton near Cork you can learn everything there is to know about Irish whiskey. And there is quite a lot to learn. The name is an English version of the Gaelic word for water of life, so it is obvious whiskey originated from Ireland.


Story : Eric Drier
Art Direction : Pauline Schleimer
Animation : Jérôme Gonçalvès
Sound design : Greg Corsaro
Narration : Antony Hickling

Jameson 18-year old

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