If you’re following my spirited adventures on Instagram (@thewhiskylady, come join us!), you probably already know I recently spent a week on the wonderful Emerald Isle, a country (divided in two) that I actually didn’t know much (maybe spending too much time in Scotland 😉 #SorryNotSorry). Anyway, even though this trip wasn’t supposed to be whisky-related, I couldn’t resist visiting a few distilleries along the road, it’s also a pretty convenient way to spend a rainy day, and Ireland got plenty of those trust me !
We first stopped at the Bushmills Distillery in Northern Ireland but didn’t have time for a proper inside tour so we simply wandered around the buildings, which are really worth the stop alone, especially if you like typical oldie distillery style constructions, pagodas and all that. I personally do, a lot.
We then drove South along portions of the scenic Wild Atlantic Way (especially recommend The Ring of Kerry portion, but yet, you probably don’t need me for this kind of tourism advices, it’s already in all guides & travel blogs x)) and as we were passing by Cork on our way back to Dublin, we HAD TO pay a visit to the Jameson Distillery (producing much more than Jameson as you may know) in Midleton.
First thing that stroke me was the visual dichotomy between the old-looking stone-and-red-wood-doors building, pretty traditional, and behind it, two very modern structures, glass windows and all that. A bit of a “Canary Wharf meets traditional distillery” vibe, weird yet intriguing ! Unfortunately though, tours won’t get you in those modern buildings where the actual stills (column & pot stills) are spitting your famous Jameson !
No worries, you’ll still have plenty to see in the old building. As always, I won’t tell you everything here not to spoil your experience if you’re planning to visit the distillery (which I really encourage you to do of course) but here are a few highlights of my tour :
–> Method & Madness distillery : I must admit I really wanted to visit the experimental distillery within the old distillery walls, currently producing the Method & Madness range, which I particularly enjoy. The “microdistillery” (micro according to Jameson, but it would still looks pretty big from a more human perspective x)). Getting to hear the stories of their current head distiller and his coworker was a real highlight, you can feel the passion and dedication in bringing interesting spirits to the world and making room for innovation in the Irish Whiskey category which really resonated with my views ! Fun Fact : their gin still is the oldest in Ireland and it looks stunning ! Fun Fact #2 : this experimental distillery is located within a former “cask filling” building that hadn’t been used for more than 30 years ! Fun Fact #3 GRL PWR most of the Method & Madness team is made of women \o/
–> The biggest Pot Still in the world : It’s no breaking news to many of you but getting to stand beside the biggest pot still in the world is an experience by itself and it’s damn impressive !
–> Historical buildings : From former malting floors to the ancient Master Distiller house, the old mill, the old grain store and all, Midleton is steeped in history and has plenty of stories to tell !
–> Shop, bar & visitor centre : A real emphasis has been put on the visitor experience here at Midleton, their bar area and liquid museum is open to all and very interesting to look at (check the huuuge spirit safe in the entry hall, impressive stuff!), the shop is well stocked with all the brands produced at the distillery (Redbreast, Method & Madness, the Spots whiskeys, Powers, Midleton, Jameson), you can even fill your own bottle with a distillery exclusive and buy of sort of branded memorablia that you probably don’t need – but still really need!
My only regret (along with not getting to step inside the new buildings) is the small place allocated to the brands other than Jameson. I really wanted to complete my collection of whisky shirts and bar mats but could only find some Jameson-branded items while I would have much prefered a Method & Madness or Redbreast tee ! Jameson taking the spotlight is a general feeling all around, from the entrance with the big Jameson sign to the visitor centre (even when checking in on Instagram you have to select “Jameson experience”).
I do understand that Jameson is the most popular Irish whiskey in the world and probably deserve the spotlight and all this attention for maketing and tourism purposes, but I do believe the distillery could use the occasion of attracting people via the Jameson name to offer a more important place to their other products, which are more than worth it !
Other than that, it was a very enjoyable visit, a beautiful distillery with some unique features and I really encourage you to make the trip to Cork and check it out !