John Molloy with cask's of Jameson Whiskey

John Molloy with cask's of Jameson Whiskey

With St. Patrick’s Day nearing, John Molloy, relocated to Vancouver, is busily representing the Jameson Irish Whiskey on a cross Canada tour.  He was kind enough to give me an education on what the spirit was all about and what I’d expected to be a story like any other became memorably personal.  Molloy, who is one of 29 country-dedicated brand ambassadors, spoke candidly and passionately about Jameson and even made me consider it as an alternative.  It’s not just a stuffy drink for old men, it’s evolved and that’s a huge part of what Molloy is spreading the word about.  Molloy himself is quite young, something Jameson looks for in its brand ambassadors along with the requirement of being Irish.  He’s the first rep to be placed in Canada and Vancouver was the natural spot owning a quarter of Canadian whiskey sales.

Jameson is a proper Irish whiskey, with an “e” mind you, linking it to the Gaelic name Uisce Beatha.  There are four regions that produce this spirit – Ireland, Scotland, Canada, and the US but depending on where it’s from the name changes from whiskey to Scotch, Rye or Bourbon respectively.  What’s more is that they’re all different and knowing why helps you pick the right one.  They all use the same ingredients, the most important of which is barley and water.  But, in scotch the barley is dried with smoke and peat which leaves a heavy peaty finish in the drink itself.  Jameson uses natural gas so pure warm air does the work and results in a lighter finish.  That’s helped by the fact Jameson is the only spirit in its category that is triple distilled, the more times that happens the crisper and cleaner the taste.  For comparison, bourbon is usually once distilled, with rye and scotch being once or twice.  Molloy says “it’s the true Guinness of the spirits.”

Jim Morey, known as the “godfather of whiskey” agrees and has given it a 94/100.  Industry bar setting magazine Impact has called Jameson the Hot Brand of the Year for the last eight, consecutively and the company garners $2.7 million in annual profit, all from one distillery in Ireland.  The road was challenging though, let’s not forget prohibition and the fact that Jameson’s been around since 1780.  But, Jameson held on in a country that went from 2000 distilleries (on a land mass you can drive across in 2 and a half hours) to only 3 because of a 95% market loss for Irish whiskey from 1845 – 1933.

It would seem survival was directly correlated with quality in this case.  Not only is it light, crisp and clean, there also isn’t a bottle younger then 5 to 7 years old.  Important, because it’s legally sellable after only 3 years, but John Jameson himself said it was worth the wait.  The brand also offers a 12 or 18 year and a gold or vintage, blend’s of 18 and 12 and 24 and 18.

Also tied to quality is the source, which also hasn’t changed for Jameson since day one.  The barley has all come from the same farmers and fields from within 50 kilometres for the last three generations and a fresh water source runs right through the distillery.  That building also houses 32 warehouses where all the casks are held full of patient spirit.  Remember how long it has to age in those?  The equivalent of 6000 bottles gets lost ever day in what’s known as the angels share, or more scientifically – evaporation.

History alone didn’t make me consider the Jameson alternative, which Molloy says is consumed at a rate of 20 glasses per second worldwide.  But knowing the process and how to pick the right one helped.  It had history and critical acclaim but needed cool.  Where Canadian rye Crown Royal aligns with NASCAR, Jameson aligns with film and is a huge supporter of the Toronto International Film Fest and Tribecca with Cannes involvement pending.  Bono of U2 loves the stuff, so does Colin Farrell and Guy Ritchie’s film Rock’nRolla breaks out Jameson with the line “whiskey is the new vodka.”

So, never really liking Guinness, with my new found knowledge and appreciation for a whole new category of sprits I’ve decided to give Jameson its fair shake.  The same afternoon while picking up my usual for the weekend, I also picked up a small bottle of Jameson for $16.00, which is hanging out in my fridge waiting to be mixed with ginger ale, coke or cranberry juice to John Molloy’s suggestion for St. Patrick’s Day 2009.  We’ll see how it goes!