An education: The Irish Whiskey Academy

Irish Whiskey Academy Exterior

A while ago now (useless blogger) I went to the Jameson Irish Whiskey Academy. In some ways, it’s quite difficult to describe the Irish Whiskey Academy in detail, as you would really have to go, to really get your head around it. Basically, it is a two day academy that educates you in the production of whiskey, from the grain, malting, mashing, fermentation, distillation, and maturation. Each part is covered to an impressive level of detail.

For the most part, the theory of mashing and fermentation hasn’t changed in a thousand years between brewers and distillers. We understand it more than the original brewers and distillers, but it hasn’t changed much. The main aim for distillers is to take barley, which contains the long chain starch and get it to break down in to shorter chain, fermentable sugars, ready to add yeast and turn in to alcohol. What I really noticed while listening to our training course, was the level of refinement the process had gone through. By using a special malt filter, by being able to mill very efficiently due to a high tech mash tun, they can get the maximum amount of yield from their barley, while being relatively energy efficient. Now, this might not be the most romantic of topics, but if you want your whiskey to succeed, you really want people at the distillery who care about the process, and really want to improve upon that process. It struck me that the improvements they were making, were all with the flavour they wanted being at the forefront of their thinking.

Above is the beer that is the precursor to Single Pot Still Whiskey. So what does it taste like?

Jameson Beer/Wash
Precursor to distillation
Barley, 12% Abv
Pressed yeast, 80 hour fermentation

Nose: Bizarrely very wheaty. Bananas, esters, barley sugar, pears. The banana note almost comes off as a yazoo note.

Palate: Apple, banana, malty notes and a citric note. The only thing it really lacked was a finish, which if they weren’t going to distill it, they would probably add some different malts and hops to give it a longer finish. But they don’t mind that, as they are mainly looking for a good alcohol strength, and a nice fruity taste.

Just as with fermentation, distillation of this type is hundreds of years old. It is the separation of different liquids by their volatility using temperature. Again, this is probably one of those moments where you are better going to the distillery, as my fumbled attempts at explaining Jameson’s distillation probably won’t do it justice. Suffice to say, these are some of the biggest copper stills in use in the world, and they produce fantastic, fruity, oily pure pot still whiskey.

We decided to do a little bit of tasting, while we did a little of our own distillation (you read right, our own distillation). Here’s what we tasted:

New Make Single Pot Still (84% Abv):  Rich and robust on the nose, with a pear note. After time, a bit more sweet barley and ginger cake.

13 Year Old Pot Still in Ex Bourbon Casks: Almond, marzipan, honey, lemony and sweet oak.

New Make Grain: Juniper and herby notes. Very hot, but pure and clean, with a sweetness on the nose.

5 Year Old Grain Whiskey in Ex Bourbon: Massive sweet oakiness and a cakey note.

13 Year Old Pot Still Sherry: Full, raisiny, juicy and plummy.

6 Year Old Pot Still Virgin Oak: I reckon one of my favourites. Honeycomb, almond, vanilla, creamy notes. Yummy.

I’ll leave it there for just now. Next I’ll look at a bit more beer & whisky matching, plus a bit of distilling.

Chris Hoban


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