The Irish Whiskey Academy

Irish Whiskey Academy

I hold my hands up when ever I conduct or host a tasting, masterclass or seminar and exclaim with the sentence “I confess, I don’t know everything about today’s subject”. Whether that is to be the history of a cocktail, the production of tequila or marketing of a beer, I always have to do my homework, and even then I may still have to refer to my notes to be able to deliver a confident speech or presentation. In my line of work, every day involves some kind of pitch. Even when I was bartending, you have to be confident in selling your products no matter what they are, and that’s exactly what I try to aim towards today. Whether my audience is to be a group of bartenders experiencing pisco for the first time, or thirty wine experts learning about the marketing a product in the modern-day, you have to be prepared for any outcome.

I attend many tastings and masterclasses to learn and experience a wide variety, which hopefully comes across within each article you read on this site. Inevitably I only know and therefore present to you what I take in, with official facts and stories entwined, but the chance to truly understand a category or indeed a specific brand can be rare. I’ve been very lucky since Drinks Enthusiast’s inception in that I have been able to appreciate first hand a variety of brands including Benedictine, Sloane’s, Sibling Distillery, Warner EdwardsAuchentoshan and most recently Grey Goose. All these trips have been an opportunity presented to me and in some cases would be hard for a regular customer to access. One experience is far from this statement, and to the UK, is presented right on the doorstep.

David McCabe of the Irish Whiskey Academy
David McCabe of the Irish Whiskey Academy

Last week, Irish Distillers of Pernod Ricard invited me to explore their relatively new concept within the Old Midleton Distillery, just outside of Cork. Since February 2013, The Irish Whiskey Academy has been offering an insight into the process of grain to bottle, and explain everything in between through modern and traditional techniques. The academy is taught through a classroom of sorts, within the renovated mill manager’s house at the boundary between the old and new Midleton distilleries. Here begins your journey into one of four packages that the academy offer, all presented by the incredibly knowledgeable David McCabe. For myself and the rest of the whiskey enthusiasts who had joined me from across the UK, Ireland and Netherlands, we experienced the ‘Enthusiast’ package (appropriately named I know!) which meant a two day look at everything the academy can offer.

The arrival at the Old Midleton Distillery offers an enticing view that easily transports you back to the 1800’s and sets the tone for the styles of buildings you will explore. In no particular order of itinerary, a tour of the old buildings dives into the workings of the 1800’s and early 1900’s, with the impressive Warehouse A1, one of the first warehouses that matured Cork Distillery whiskey, a must see. Interactive scenes gives you the best insight into the life of a distillery worker with even the likes of the customs office and waterwheel available to explore.

Malted Barley
Malted Barley

The main part of the academy though brings you to a comfortable lecture hall styled room. With movable blackboards offering clear diagrams, David McCabe explains everything from the raw materials used within the distillery, how each material is cultivated, brewed and fermented including the upgrade to modern techniques over the decades and the two main distillation methods used; pot and continuous distillation. Hands on approaches are also used, with the ability to see, smell and taste malted and unmalted barley straight from the fields, to the experiment of distilling water and alcohol within the classroom itself. An explanation into the differences between the variety of expressions created at the new distillery is also offered, so that you are fully aware of how each is created and ultimately shows a different flavour profile.

Staves are also handed out for a better understanding of the maturation techniques that the Irish Distillers use, as well as a look into their use of American and sherry oak barrels and how they came to be an integral part of the brands they create. This becomes even clearer with a demonstration within the cooperage itself, hosted by Master Cooper Ger Buckley. Here, Ger explains his role within the company and the art of creating a barrel through the tools used by previous generations. The insight into the woods used and the methods to repair casks that will ultimately hold whiskey for a number of years really gives an indication of how important the role of a Master Cooper can be.

Warehouse 42
Warehouse 42

This knowledge will also impart your beliefs and flavours into the blending exercise where you are able to blend your very own whiskey for you to take home. Not many places who can give you that kind of opportunity.

Of course, no academy course would be complete without a lesson in the art of truly appreciating the finished product. Held in the lounge area of the academy, itself adorned with old advertising posters, vintage photos and a wall of bottling’s from the Irish Distillers over the years, you can taste the likes of the Jameson range, Paddy’s, Powers, Midleton, Redbreast and both Green and Yellow Spot. To compliment, lunch at the Malt House, Jameson’s own restaurant within the Old Distillery, is a must.

Tasting the range within the Irish Whiskey Academy
Tasting the range within the Irish Whiskey Academy

Although I could write about everything I have learnt from my own two day trip, I feel that It would be more effective to explain within each of the features I have written, so please take a look at my articles of the Irish Distillers portfolio over the coming weeks for a more in-depth look at how each expression is created. In summarising this feature though,
I can’t stress enough that although the academy offers quite literally everything you need to know regarding not just Irish Distillers, but Irish whiskey in general, it’s not just for bartenders or expert whiskey lovers. I can safely say that all grades of knowledge will come away with an idea of what whiskey is all about. The four packages have been created to cater, and whichever you ultimately go for, you will go away with so much more than when you entered.

Get yourself signed up, enjoy yourself and try some fantastic whiskies. The Irish Whiskey Academy should be a high priority for anyone who has even a slight interest in Irish whiskey.

For more information on The Irish Whiskey Academy, please visit their website.

For more photos from my trip, please visit my Facebook page.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



Jameson Old Distillery

Jameson is a brand that you see everywhere. Most pubs, bars and restaurants stock the brand, or at least one of the expressions, and is more than usually the first name to be mentioned when talking about Irish whiskey. But it wasn’t all plain sailing.

Irish whiskey covered 80% of the world export market back until the 1900’s when an unfortunate twist of events occurred. The institution of the Irish Free State in the early 20th century caused a fatal trade war with Great Britain, closing down the Irish Distillers’ main market, and then the US Prohibition declaration in 1920 served a nail in the coffin. With no way to export their local trade, the majority of the Irish distilleries closed or merged together, leaving only three distilleries running compared to the abundance of Scottish venues. The New Middleton distillery houses Jameson, a brand that has been alive since 1780 and has fought its way through the Irish hardship and bad luck.

Created by Scotsman John Jameson and with is backing of the family motto ‘Sine Metu’ meaning ‘Without Fear’ (awarded for their bravery in battling pirates on the high seas back in the 1500s), he moved to Dublin in 1879, set up his Bow Street Distillery to make his mark on the whiskey world and created what he thought was the smoothest whiskey around due to using a triple-distilled method instead of the usual double-distilled adopted by the Scots, as well as using a traditional copper pot still.
The introduction of column stills by the Scottish blenders in the mid-19th-century enabled increased production that the Irish, who still using the copper pot stills, could not compete with. There was a legal enquiry in 1908 to deal with the trade definition of whiskey, which the Scottish producers won and blends became recognised in law as whiskey. The Irish in general, and Jameson in particular, continued with the traditional pot still production process for many years and to this day much of Jameson remains Pure Pot.

The production has now moved to the Midleton distillery and as of 1988 is owned by Pernod Ricard. The Bow Street site is currently a museum and visitors centre. Jameson is made following the original 1780 recipe that uses a mixture of malted and unmalted or “green” Irish barley, all sourced from within a fifty mile radius around the distillery in Cork. The barley is dried in a closed kiln fired by natural gas to preserve its flavour. It is then distilled three times in copper pot stills and matured in ex bourbon and sherry casks for at least seven years.

So how does Jameson fair? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes on my experiences so far –

Jameson Original – 40%

Matured for at least seven years. Soft hints of vanilla on the nose with a light, smooth aroma boding well for the long offering on the palate. Smoother offering of grain and honey with a slight dryness near the end.

Jameson Select Reserve – 43%

Produced using a small batch of grain collected once a week per year from a field that is never touched thereafter. Around 10 years matured. Slightly sharp nose at the beginning but softens out with a wisp of smoke. Sweet offering on the palate with very smooth texture of toffee and lingering smoke.

Jameson Gold Reserve – 40%

Matured in original fresh oak barrels, then ex bourbon barrels and finished in ex sherry casks. Rich malt on the nose with almond aromas dancing nicely. Very smooth when it hits the palate with flavours of honey and oak mixing well. A long finish of malt.

Jameson 18yr – 40%

Bold with lots of flavours of honey, cherry, caramel and dark fruits mixing well on the nose. They carry onto the palate and change slowly as you breath in. A lengthy finish which is incredibly smooth.

Jameson 2007 Rarest Vintage Reserve
Jameson 2007 Rarest Vintage Reserve

Jameson 2007 Rarest Vintage Reserve – 46%

Blended with some of the oldest and rarest whiskeys from Jameson’s maturing stock – one of which was a pot-still whiskey matured in a port pipe.
Light on the nose with a slight spice and hints of vanilla and butter. The palate lingers with fudge and buttery notes creating a long, slightly dry finish.

Yellow Spot 12yr – 46%

Very smooth on the nose with a rich malt aroma dominating, but notes of sweetness following. The palate experiences a slight spice that warmly tingles. Honey, chocolate and red fruit blend over the longevity.

Green Spot – 40%

A nose of damp raisin and hints of marzipan, with an ending of dry wood. A rich sharpness on the palate with a full bodied flavour of thick green fruit that produced a fresh, long finish.

Jameson Black Barrel
Jameson Black Barrel


The Whiskey Makers Series:

Jameson The Distiller’s Safe – 40%

The Distiller’s Safe celebrates the role of Jameson’s Head Distiller, Brian Nation, and is a true showcase of the original copper pot still distillate.
Barley notes on the nose, with sweetened green pepper and a floral edge.Lively on the palate, with cinnamon and nuts coming through. Heated, long finish with plenty of vibrant spice.

Jameson The Cooper’s Croze – 40%

Matured in virgin American oak barrels, seasoned bourbon barrels and Iberian sherry casks, and named after Jameson’s Head Cooper, Ger Buckley and his prized possession – a croze – passed down through his family. A tool used to make the groove where the head of the cask is positioned!
Subtle notes of ripe red fruits, with hints of the deep sherry coming through slowly. Light on the palate, with some vanilla and hazelnut present. A bolder finish.

Jameson The Blender’s Dog – 40%

The Blender’s Dog celebrates the role of Jameson Head Blender, Billy Leighton; a tribute to the fine art of blending.
Light, fresh fruit pulp, bringing pineapple and kiwi to the nose. Dry spices dominate the palate, releasing a rich butterscotch and charred cherry oak to the finish.

Heritage Whiskies:

Jameson Black Barrel Select Reserve – 40%

A good blend of soft caramel and toffee aromas on the nose, with both carrying on to the palate. The caramel becomes a little salted, with pepper flavours mixing with spice to create a lingering finish.

Jameson Crested – 40%

Launched globally in March 2016, is a triple-distilled Irish Whiskey that celebrates the first drops of whiskey to be bottled, sealed and labelled at the Bow Street Distillery in Dublin, marking the moment in time (1963) when Jameson took full control of the whiskey making process, from grain to glass. Jameson Crested brings together rich pot still Irish Whiskey and grain whiskey, matured in a high proportion of sherry casks, as well as bourbon barrels.
Sherry notes are visible on the nose, with it carrying on smoothly to the palate. Dry oak is present, with hints of spice, cocoa nib and red fruit.

Jameson Signature Reserve – 40%

Jameson Signature is a triple-distilled Irish Whiskey that bears the signature of John Jameson, a mark of quality that has appeared since the early days of the Bow Street Distillery, when all casks were signed off by John Jameson.
Subtle honey notes on the nose, with hints of leather, nuts and dried raisin. Heather dominates the palate to begin, but moves over to a honey coating, with plenty of dried red fruits and currants on the long finish.

The Deconstructed Series:

The Deconstructed Series is a range of super-premium Irish Whiskeys that explores the key flavour notes of the original Jameson Irish Whiskey.

Jameson Bold – 40%

Influenced by pot still whiskey. Rich, creamy notes on the nose with soft fruits. Sweet on the palate, with notes of baked apple pie and soft spices on the long, bold finish.

Jameson Lively – 40%

Influenced by grain whiskey. Floral citrus notes on the nose, followed by light, thin flavours of dry citrus, chilli and black pepper on the palate. Intense spiced finish.

Jameson Round – 40%

Influenced by the wood contribution. Soft red fruit on the nose, with hints of fudge coming though. An oily butter note on the palate, with vanilla and cherry spices to finish.

A fantastic range of one of Ireland’s most beloved brands. Something for everyone to enjoy once taken out of your drinks cabinet, and with the new Whiskey Master series, it’s time to geek out and try a couple of different expressions in a row!


Take a look at my trip to Dublin with Jameson over St Patrick’s Day here.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Yellow Spot Tasting Notes

Lately i’ve been lucky enough to experience the return of Yellow Spot Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey. Below is the press release, and underneath that i have added my tasting notes –

Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard has announced a return to the fold for the revered Yellow Spot Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey, which has been skilfully recreated by the dedicated team at Midleton Distillery in Cork . The re-launch underpins the company’s pledge to introduce new Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey expressions each year, as part of its continued commitment to reinvigorate the category.

Part of the ‘Spot’ range of Single Pot Still Whiskeys, Yellow Spot was originally produced, bottled and sold by Dublin-based wine merchants Mitchell & Son. Established in 1805, Mitchell & Son were ageing whiskeys bought from John Jameson’s Dublin distillery in their own casks up until 1968, when the practice of selling whiskey to bonders in cask ceased. From that date, Green Spot was bottled by Irish Distillers Ltd., and is now joined by Yellow Spot 12 Year Old.

The exceptional skill of the Midleton Masters, combined with Mitchell’s old notes on the Yellow Spot expression, has led to the recreation of this 12 Year Old whiskey. Rather than simply being a ‘finished’ whiskey, Yellow Spot is an expression that has been matured for a full 12-year period, in three oak cask types: American bourbon barrels, Spanish sherry butts and uniquely, Spanish Malaga casks. Bottled at 46% ABV and set to be produced annually in batches of just 500 cases, the first bottles will be available in key markets from late May 2012.

Anna Malmhake, Chairman & CEO of Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard, says: “Through the skill and craftsmanship of our Midleton Masters, we have been able to retrieve this stunning long-lost gem. We are delighted to welcome it back into the portfolio today and we’re confident that it will heighten the rekindled interest we see in Single Pot Still Whiskeys around the globe.”

Yellow Spot, 12yrs – 46%

Very smooth on the nose with a rich malt aroma doninating, but notes of sweetness following. The palate experiences a slight spice that warmly tingles. Honey, chocolate and red fruit blend over the longevity.

This is a welcome addition to the Irish market, and i’ve a genuine enthusiasm towards the next expression to be released. Don’t expect to see this in every bar, but if you do come across, give it a try!

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.