during my day in Cork, I took the opportunity to visit the J. Jameson & Son’s Old Midleton whiskey distillery. it was my first experience with using Bus Eireann for local connections, and what a good relationship we developed (why don’t we have public transportation that is this easy to use in the U.S.?). the facility that we toured was in use until 1975, and the distilling process has since moved to a larger one on the same site. whiskey in Ireland is made either here or at Bushmills in the North. that produced in Midleton is transported to the Dublin facility for bottling and packaging.
not knowing anything about the process, I found the tour at least informative, but I have since discovered that our ‘guide’ did little more than recite the information provided on the pamphlet. it felt like something aimed directly at tourists for whom English was not a first language (and there were quite a few on our tour).
the barley is dried out in a kiln using anthracite, which is a smokeless fuel that results in the distinctive taste of Irish whiskey. that made in Scotland uses peat to fuel the fire, which gives the drink a smokey taste. Irish whiskey is also distilled three times, in contrast to twice for Scotch whisky and once for bourbon. initially, to test the proof of whiskey after it was distilled it was set on fire. if it didn’t burn, the proof wasn’t high enough. if it exploded, it was too strong and given over to the workers at the distillery.
the top photo is of the masher, where the dried out barley is mixed with boiling water. during the process the starches in the grains are converted into fermentation sugars, resulting in a liquid known as “wort”, which is then sent on to “washbacks” for fermentation.
the bottom photo is the oldest building on the site, dating to 1794, when it was built as a woollen mill. it was used as a military barracks during the Napoelonic wards, and was turned into the distillery in 1825. the waterwheel at the side dates to 1852. it’s 22ft in diameter and made of cast iron. it also functioned until 1975.
at the end of the tour, i took the opportunity to compare bourbon, scotch, and whiskey, discovering that i don’t much care for any of them!