A curious email popped into my inbox just over a week ago titled ‘GreatDrams exclusive: embargoed until March 13th’. Ever the whiskey fan boy I opened it, subsequently clearing my schedule when I read that it included a trip to Dublin for the day to be there for the opening of the new bottle your own facility at the Old Jameson Distillery in Dublin.
The email read: “Irish Distillers are launching Jameson Bottle Your Own facilities at the Old Jameson Distillery, Dublin, by hand-filling a 70cl bottle of a new and rare Jameson Irish Whiskey.”
How could I ever refuse? I couldn’t.
“We wanted to take the super-premium experience beyond the liquid.” – Brian Nation
Having been to the Old Jameson Distillery once before, many years ago as a present from my big sister for my 18th birthday, I was long overdue a return.
The night before I suddenly realised that I would naturally want to take part and actually bottle my own Jameson whiskey during the event so had to take a suitcase with me for the five hours I was going to actually be in Dublin. The suitcase literally contained just my tweed jacket and two special bottle protectors, just in case I bought a second bottle whilst there, and a spare shirt. Nothing else. But it was needed to check in on the way home.
The day itself started brilliantly, up at 5am to do the bins, feed the cats, kiss my wife goodbye for the day just in time for my taxi to arrive to take me to the airport.
Having breezed through security, I headed for a fried breakfast at Heston Blumenthal’s new place at Heathrow Terminal 2 along with an obligatory glass of champagne and a three shot flat white to a) wake me up and b) start this momentous day as it should be. A short visit to the executive lounge prior to take off to grab a bottle of water and relax and it was off to Dublin.
On arrival I was greeted by the lovely Natasha who accompanied me to the launch, passing iconic areas of Dublin as we went, memories flooding back.
Once there you could see and feel the buzz brewing (or distilling?!).
I eagerly awaited my turn to bottle my own Old Jameson Distillery exclusive whiskey, taking photos, chatting to Master Distiller Brian Nation intermittently, and feeling a tad nervous.
That may sound weird but here’s the context; I ended up being just the 6th person to bottle their own whiskey at the Jameson distillery in Dublin. Only the IDL CEO, Master Distiller and a couple of C-level execs were ahead of me so this actually was quite momentous.
My bottle was filled perfectly, there actually is pretty much no way to get that wrong as the filling part is measured and precise, but then you enter your name, bottle number, cask number, date etc. on both the label and the logbook. Again this was entered absolutely fine.
Then the application of the label to the bottle.
Having applied a label with similar personalised detail to two gin bottles at the weekend I thought this would be a doddle but alas an air bubble scuppered my label and we had to start from scratch. I was hugely apologetic and thankful to Margaret, distillery host, who was on hand to apply the second attempt once I had written it. I then posed for a load of photos, below.
The essential details:
Small grain, limited to one batch per year (although the volume may increase with demand)
The grain content is around 6 years old
The pot still content is up to 10 years old
Having bottled my own whisk(e)y in various other distilleries over the years, Glenfiddich and Bruichladdich being notable examples, I was genuinely shocked at how brilliantly done this experience was.
Typically the cask is just sat there, you kneel down and get the pouring done then write the label etc. but this time there was actually theatre.
There was a photographer, you were given as much time as you needed (and I needed a lot considering I botched the first label) and you felt part of something historical and important to the brand due to how they had installed it and how they communicated the filling station. Not to mention it was at eye height so no kneeling for once!
It is a positive sign that Irish whiskey has really thought about itself and realised that visitor centres and any whiskey-based experience actually needs to be an experience, not a walk through of hypotheticals, that they have put the customer first and, in Brian’s words when we spoke: “made the Jameson tour more than a tour, people can feel a part of what we do here and have their place in our history”.
And they can. By entering their details in the logbook as I did, I can take my wife, kids, grandkids back at some unspecified time in the future to show them that I bottled the sixth bottle at the Old Jameson Distillery bottle your own facility. Something tells me I actually will do that.
The bottle itself is great, and the outer packaging exudes the super-premium status it not only aspires to but deserves, great typography, embossing, foiling and all in all really confident.
Most distillery and whiskey brand staff are passionate, some in more ways than others, but it was no shock to me that Brian was such a humble man, especially as a wry smile went up after I assumed he bottled the first of the Old Jameson Distillery bottle your own casks…
“NO! I got number two! I suppose it was only fair that our CEO got the first one…”
It was clear from speaking to Brian and various other senior IDL staff that they are really confident in this working out, and I would be inclined to agree with them.
At €100 per bottle you’ve bottled yourself this is not cheap but one guy had been effectively queueing since two days prior to launch and whilst I was there the queue to get involved never really dropped, a constant stream of probably around a hundred people through the day bottled their own Jameson at the Old Jameson Distillery.