A few weeks ago I got the opportunity to talk with Brian Nation, Master Distiller at Irish Distillers to both get to know him and also to chat about Irish whiskey. So here is an overview of the State of the Nation.
We were meeting over a bottle of water and a dram at the launch of the new bottle your own facility at the Old Jameson Distillery in Dublin.
Brian is a great guy, goes without saying as most people in the industry are, but having been promised ten minutes with Brian, I was both grateful and humbled that we got on so well that we ended up spending 45 minutes putting the world to rights, talking all things whiskey, packaging, branding, GreatDrams and the science behind crafting consumer experiences.
“Visitors look for something more than a tour now, we have spent time crafting an experience beyond the liquid that exudes super-premium, quality and is as immersive as we could get it” says Brian as we discuss the reason we were all there.
You can read more on the Bottle Your Own experience in my review here.
There’s a cheeky smile when Brian talks about the product and brand that he oversees, his red edged Oakley glasses give him a certain unassuming standout quality that you rarely see in Master Distillers. Only Gordon Motion of The Edrington Group comes across in a similar way in my experience.
And this is not by accident.
Brian and I discussed at length how “people are no longer looking to buy a bottle of whiskey, they are looking to buy into the craft, the story, they need to pass on something” and we agreed that it can only be communicated through the brand’s personality, brought to life through the lens of the key people behind the liquid.
“That’s what makes my world so exciting, it is about more than ‘just’ the liquid now, it is about so much more”.
This is also what drives the innovation behind the Irish Distillers’ brands of Jameson, Midleton and Red Breast amongst others. The official Jameson crest includes a latin term that translates to “without fear”.
The NAS revolution that they are riding with certain Jameson releases especially, is a testament to the incredible skill and knowhow of Brian and his team.
Brian explained how he saw his tenure as Master Distiller is simply rationalised as having been “passed the baton for me to hold on to for a short time and then pass on to the next guardian”.
I was encouraged by the fact that Brian is getting a new “play thing” in the shape of a new craft distillery to “compose new tunes from” at his base in Midleton.
I finished our conversation by excitedly summarising how Brian’s thoughts on all things from cask finishes to the marrying of different vintages to Irish oak casks and beyond, gave me the confidence that these guys are on the cusp of bringing Irish whiskey to the fore once more and giving Scotch a run for its money, and I cannot wait.