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Jameson Whiskey

You might be shocked to learn that Ireland’s most famous whiskey brand was actually started by a Scotsman! John Jameson was born in Alloa before moving to Ireland and founding his distillery at Bow Street in Dublin 1780. He may well have been inspired by his wife Margaret Haig who was the daughter of pioneering Scotch whisky distiller John Haig whose brand is still going to these days.

The whiskey capital of the world
His son, the imaginatively-named John Jameson II, joined the business in 1805 where he would remain for over 40 years. Other sons Wiliam and James Jameson founded their distillery at Marrowbone Lane. Dublin was becoming the world capital of whiskey with the founding of other distilleries including George Roe and John Power. The ‘big four’ produced over 20 million litres of alcohol a year and employed over 1,000 people. In the late 19th century, Jameson of Bow Street began triple distilling its whiskey which became something of an Irish trademark.
John Jameson handed over the business to his son Reginald Filibuster Jameson in 1851. Only joking, he was called John Jameson III. Jameson and Irish whiskey in general thrived for most of the 19th century but change was a-coming in the 20th century when Ireland lost its global preeminence to Scotch. New-fangled ‘blended whiskies’ from Scotland were lighter and more user friendly than the meaty pot still whiskies produced by the Irish distillers. Scotch was also much better marketed. At the time Jameson did not bottle or market its whiskey to customers, it would be sold to whiskey bonders and merchants who would age and market it under their own brand names like Mitchell & Son of Dublin originators of Green Spot and Gilbeys with its Redbreast.

The fall and rise of Irish whiskey
In the 20th century a combination of the deprivations of World War One, the Irish War of Independence and the resulting civil war, a trade war with Britain, Prohibition in America which cut off Irish whiskeys biggest market, World War Two and other crises dealt a nearly mortal blow to Irish whiskey. After the War, while the British government encouraged Scotch whiskey exports to bring in much needed currency, the Irish government capped whiskey exports and Irish whiskey shrank to just the domestic market.
Distilleries began closing all over the country until by the 1960s only three were left: John Jameson & Son and John Power & Son in Dublin; and Cork Distilleries Company at Midleton. The owners, including the inevitable John Jameson met to discuss the future of Irish whiskey. After a couple of years of tense negotiations, the three agreed to merge in 1966 to form Irish Distillers. In 1976 production of all three moved to the new Midleton Distillery in Cork. Powers and Jameson closed their Dublin distilleries ending centuries of whiskey heritage in the capital.The Old Bow Street Distillery became a visitor centre.
Jameson had been a triple-distilled single pot still whiskey but in 1968 it was reformulated as a blend with grain whiskey. From the lows of the ‘60s, the consolidated industry began rebuilding its export markets. Jamesonwhiskey has been a huge success. It is now the fourth best-selling whiskey in the world and by far the largest Irish whiskey brand selling over 10 million cases per year with around of those sales coming from the US market.

Jameson Whisky Expansion
As well as the classic bottling, the Jameson range has expanded with age statement releases, Black Bottle, Cask Mates beer barrel-finished whiskeys and in 2023 it released its first single pot still since the 1960s.

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