Living in Ireland, I learned they had quite the drinking culture. Okay well, I actually already knew that, but I didn’t realize how thoroughly engrained it is in their society. The weather is not often nice, and instead often cold and bitter. What better way to spend the day than in a nice warm pub, sipping a Guinness or Jameson and watching everyone outside bearing the bitter wind.
Give me a choice between beer and wine and I’ll most likely go for the beer (except if the wine is Champagne or Prosecco or similar). Give me a choice between any spirits and whiskey would probably be my last choice.
The problem with whiskey is it was already a little too heavy for me. I usually prefer my cocktails to be on the lighter and fruity side and the taste of whiskey was always too much in some way. It’s hard to describe this taste as a feeling, but kind of like syrup-y heavy vodka (whiskey lovers, please don’t resent me, just keep reading). There was a point in time when I enjoyed Jack Daniels Tennessee Fire Whiskey, similar to Fireball, but much much better (and without antifreeze). I enjoyed taking a shot and feeling on fire, full of energy. I liked the taste of cinnamon, but one might say that it was really masking the true flavors of the whisky.
Regardless, I was in Ireland and I had gotten personal recommendations to visit this museums, so I said “Why not, I could learn a thing or two about whiskey,” and off I went.
The museum has a base price tour which includes 3 tastings of whiskey at the end, but for 4 euros more you could do the “VIP” package and get a free shotglass-sized whisky glass and an extra tasting at the end of the tour. In my group, three-fourths of people upgraded to VIP and personally I think the pricing is just an aspect of marketing to make people feel like they are getting a better deal. My business mind aside, get the tour that you feel is most worth it to you. Anyways the tour. We talked about the history and watched a little video and learned about the beginning of the Irish whiskey making.
We went into several other rooms and talked about how whisky was made, the folklore behind some of the distilling, Irish vs. Scottish Vs. Kentucky whiskey, the famous brands of irish whiskey, etc. I won’t spoil the entire adventure, but it’s entertaining and overall fascinating.
The tasting was the final part of the tour. Each person stood in front of a flight deck of 3 glasses with whisky already poured inside and those with VIP were given an extra glass to try. The host explained each and every type of whiskey we tried. He explained how to taste it, what we might be tasting, and the proper way to drink whiskey. There were some pipettes and a water glass between every person in case you wanted to dilute your whiskey (I diluted some of them with a lot of water, the flavor was strong, but I just wasn’t going to waste perfectly good alcohol).
I learned that not all whiskeys are equal and that the bitter “syrup-y vodka” feeling I was getting was from low-quality grain whiskeys. You know the ones where you can taste the ethanol in them. Truth is, I don’t think I had tasty a good whiskey prior to this visit. Whisky snobs may say I still haven’t tried a good one, but hey, one step at a time, right? One of the whiskeys we tried had an almost Jolly Ranchers taste in it, something like green apple Jolly Ranchers. Another was very smooth and I could feel how the consistency was different from the low quality ones I had tried in the past.
I can say with full confidence that I recommend the Irish Whiskey Museum to all you travellers out there. Whether you are already a fan or not a fan yet, it’s a good experience and now you’ll be able to order a glass of neat Jameson and talk bullshit about all its flavors and humble beginnings and how you went to Ireland where the best whiskey is made. Cheers!
PS. I asked at the place whether whiskey is spelled with or without the “e” and he said it doesn’t really matter, except that the Scots spell it without the e due to translations. So yes, I purposely spelled whiskey sometimes with an “e” and sometimes without. Heh.
BONUS FUN FACTS: I learned that Jameson is actually owned by a French company, who marketing it worldwide as an Irish Whiskey due to its green bottle. Despite that, Jameson is still distilled the traditional Irish way and is still technically Irish.
Irish Whiskey can be slightly cheaper because they get all their whiskey barrels from American whiskey distillers, who are not allowed to reuse barrels due to a government agreement between the lumber and whiskey industries.