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When most people think of Irish whiskey, Jameson is the first that comes to mind. The original Jameson Distillery opened in Dublin in 1780. While production has since moved elsewhere in Ireland, the Jameson Distillery on Bow Street is now a historic site with tours & tastings, making it a popular destination for any whiskey drinker.
History of Dublin’s Jameson Distillery
Jameson began its life as Bow Street Distillery in 1780. In its 2nd generation, John Jameson II set about expanding operations. By the early 1800s, the family business was known as John Jameson & Son’s Bow Street Distillery, & Jameson had become the number-one whiskey in the world.
However, Jameson fell upon hard times in the 20th century. A series of events including trade wars following the Irish Wars of Independence, temperance movements, Prohibition in the United States, and the expansion of the Scottish whisky market shrank the market for Jameson & other Irish whiskies. In 1966, Jameson joined two other distilleries and formed the Irish Distillers Group in an effort to protect & revitalize Irish whiskey. This culminated with the old Dublin Jameson Distillery being shut down when production moved to New Midleton Distillery in County Cork in the 1970s. Today, Jameson sells 8 million cases of whiskey each year.
While it was sad for Dublin to no longer be the production city for Jameson, that hasn’t changed the city’s bond with the famous Irish whiskey. With the brand once again prominent throughout the world, Dublin’s old Jameson Distillery on Bow Street is now open for tours & tastings in a recently renovated facility.
Jameson Distillery Tour in Dublin
Although Jameson production has moved on, the original Jameson distillery in Dublin is now a museum & tasting room. The distillery is centrally located in Dublin, just off Smithfield Square. You can easily reach it on foot or the Red tram line. Just look for the Skyview Tower that overlooks Jameson. The tower is also open to the public, with some of the best views in Dublin.
The old Bow Street Jameson Distillery is tucked between the buildings near the tower. There’s an old copper still out front. While they no longer distill whiskey here, some maturation still happens on-site for special editions.
You can pre-purchase tickets for the Jameson tour & tasting, which is recommended, especially during busy times of the year. The tour lasts approximately 40 minutes. At the 2018 World Travel Awards, the Jameson Distillery tour in Dublin was named the “World’s Leading Distillery Tour.” Beyond the standard tour of the Jameson factory, there are also other whiskey & cocktail experiences available. The Jameson tour is also free with the Dublin Pass.
If you are unable to visit the old Jameson Distillery in Dublin, there is also now a virtual 360° tour that covers some of the Bow Street factory. You just need to supply your own Jameson.
The Jameson Distillery tour splits into two routes. They both cover all of the same things, but it’s a clever way of doubling the amount of tour capacity. I was thankfully able to select the route that did not have a stag do (bachelor party) also taking it.
The tour begins with the history of Jameson, much of which you can read above, but there are a few other interesting facts. The hot walls of the distillery radiated heat, which those who were down on their luck took advantage of by leaning against for warmth. Workers received their daily grog at the beginning and end of each day. Today, visitors get a ticket for a drink at the end of the tour.
After this initial history display, the next stop on the Jameson Distillery tour is a video theater.
As with any whiskey distillery tour, you’ll learn about how they make the whiskey. If you go on enough tours or know about the process, this is common knowledge. However, there were a few details that made Dublin’s Jameson whiskey tour a bit more interactive. First, there were perfume bottles with two different distilling types, allowing you to smell what each was like. You could also smell two of the different casks (American white oak & sherry-seasoned European white oak) used for maturation. Little twists like this help make a tour a bit more unique when you’ve done many similar tours before.
Jameson Distillery Tasting & Bar
The Jameson tour concludes in a special tasting room. Most whiskey tastings will include a flight of different bottles produced by that distillery. However, Jameson’s tasting room does things a bit differently.
The Jameson tasting consists of three whiskies – one Scottish, one American, and then Jameson Irish whiskey. While neither of the other whiskies is fancy, this tasting room format allows visitors to taste the variations between whiskies from different countries, rather than just between different varieties of Jameson. Those varieties are still available in the main bar should you want to experience more Jameson afterward. It’s an interesting way of approaching whiskey tasting.
After the tasting room, you then head back JJ’s Bar for your free drink. There are three options: Neat, on the rocks, or an Irish mule with ginger & lime. I opted for the latter since I love a good mule.
This massive bar area is open to the public without needing to take a ticketed Jameson tour. If you didn’t book tickets ahead & arrive and all of the tour spots are filled for the day or you have to wait a bit, you can still have some Jameson. There is also a souvenir shop, of course.
The Jameson Distillery tour & tasting in Dublin feels like more of a corporate experience than the other local distilleries, but it’s still a nice tour if you’re a fan of Jameson or Irish whiskey in general. While it might not be an active distillery, and it might lack the intimacy & passion of the newer distilleries that have recently opened in Dublin, it’s a still a popular tour. Book your tickets here!
If you’re looking for a place to crash after drinking whiskey in Dublin, check out these Dublin hotels.