Although Bushmills will claim to be the oldest Irish whiskey, there can be little doubt that Jameson is the most famous and widespread.
Jameson today is distributed in 122 countries worldwide and accounts for the largest share of the global Irish whiskey market, which is estimated at more than 22 million bottles per year.
Jameson became part of the new Irish Distillers triumviratein 1966 when it joined forces with John Power & Son and the Cork Distillery Company. Bushmills joined Irish Distillers in 1972, giving the company a monopoly on the production of Irish whiskey which lasted until the founding of the Cooley distillery in the late 1980s. Today, Jameson is owned by the Pernod Ricard group which took over Irish Distillers in 1988. Bushmills was sold to Diageo in 2005.
Originally distilled at the famous Bow Street distillery in Dublin, since 1975 Jameson has been produced at Midleton,an enormous modern distillery in County Cork built by Irish Distillers to streamline the production of its many brands.This brought an end to nearly 200 years of Jameson production in Dublin, but the Old Jameson Distillery in Bow Street is now a visitor's centre. Tourists can also visit the Midleton distillery, which is home to many other brands beside Jameson, including Green Spot, Paddy, Power's, Redbreast and Tullamore Dew.
From the website:
The History of Jameson
John Jameson's Dublin Distillery was founded in 1780 and laid down a tradition for quality and success. His family motto and guiding philosophy was "Sine Metu", meaning "Without Fear", which appears today on every bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey.
He set new standards in whiskey distilling. He invested in the latest manufacturing processes. When he discovered that certain strains of barley made a superior whiskey, he persuaded local farmers to grow them by providing seed grain every spring. He also insisted that only the finest casks available were used for maturation.
By 1820, John Jameson & Son was the second largest distilling company in Ireland. News about the quality of the Jameson whiskeys travelled far and wide and demand was growing not just at home but abroad. The combination of fine whiskey ingredients and superior distilling processes was making quite a name for Jameson whiskeys worldwide.
In 1858, a blight destroyed France's vineyards and consequently supplies of brandy dried up. Traditional brandy drinkers switched to Irish whiskey and Jameson sales soared. By 1890, Ireland had about 90% of the global whisk(e)y export market and the Jameson distillery was making 10% of Ireland's annual whiskey output. After more than 100 years of growth and success, Jameson Whiskey was about to be dealt two cruel blows.
Before Prohibition in 1919, Jameson was a best selling whiskey in America. But after Prohibition, exports of Jameson to the USA ground to a halt. Up until 1922, Jameson was the most popular whiskey in the British Empire. But after Irish Independence, English tariff barriers priced it out of the market. Without overseas demand, all 400 Irish whiskey brands fell into decline. The future looked bleak for John Jameson & Son and the Irish distillery market.
By 1966, only four whiskey distilling companies were left in the Republic of Ireland. John Jameson & Sons was one of them. In a bold bid to keep the spirit of Irish whiskey alive, the four joined forces and formed Irish Distillers.
In 1975, Irish Distillers opened a new state of the art whiskey distillery in Midleton Co. Cork. Jameson Whiskey was then distilled outside of Dublin for the first time in 200 years.
Today, over 220 years after John Jameson opened his doors, Jameson Irish Whiskey is the fastest growing international whiskey in the world. To this day John Jameson's passion lives on in the exceptionally smooth Irish whiskeys that still bear his name.
The character of Jameson remains true to the pot still whiskey tradition laid down by John Jameson in the 18th century. The current Master Distiller, Barry Crocket continues this great distilling tradition by ensuring that John Jameson's high standards are upheld.
Character and Style of Jameson
- Dried Fruit