Casting my mind back to four days spent in Ireland in the run-up to St. Patrick’s Day is no easy feat, especially because Jameson’s hospitality was so on point. There were few moments left without a drink in hand and another was never far out of reach. Writing this in bed at 6:30pm two days after returning home is proof enough that the crew went in pretty hard and I barely kept up.
The best Jameson I tasted all weekend was without doubt straight from the barrel at 11 o’clock in the morning. Hair of the dog, cask strength, barreled 23 years ago and so smooth. Made in the year the internet was created and approximately 12 months after I first saw the light of day back in ‘91. A lot has happened since then but the whiskey has been quietly maturing, not moving for anyone or anything. In all truth, it got me wondering; why did I have such an urge to take a photo and share it with our 3k followers on Instagram in the hope of reaching the stardom that is 30 odd likes? Nothing about what I tasted had any hint of instant gratification or an empty thumbs up, it’s a slow process which requires skilled craftsmanship and perfection at every stage. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the good stuff takes time, despite how fast the world is moving around us.
And Jameson have really perfected their craft. The 5th generation Master Cooper, Ger Buckley, was the best example for me. He’s responsible for all the white oak barrels used in the distillery, inspecting and repairing every single one with true skill. He demonstrated his coopering techniques to us with his 100 year old tools, and must have had a few too many Jamesons later that night in the pub when he told me “it’s like the Angels passed their tools down to us, we are so blessed”. Angel tools come at a cost, however. Every year around 2% of everything that’s made at the distillery is lost to evaporation, better known as ‘The Angel’s share’. They get it at cask strength though, which is no doubt, the best. Alex and Gwil from BNTL know all about that.
The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring the old and new areas of the distillery. The part where the whiskey was once distilled the largest single pot still in the world, is now done in three massive pots presented in a far more imposing and mechanised setting. The warehouses were equally impressive and the smell upon entering is something else, stinging the nostrils like sex panther once did. Jameson kindly lined our stomachs for the remainder of the evenings events; a dinner at Sage where everything was sourced from within ten miles, followed by a local Irish band in a pub and more Jameson, ended in playing the piano in the hotel lobby at Castlemartyr Resort. I don’t play the piano but with enough whiskey it seems anyone can.
The next day Jameson wanted to show us the side of Dublin which nobody really sees on St. Patrick’s Day. Less green hats and more culture brought us to the oldest theatre in Dublin, two pop-up stores I’ve forgotten the names of, a bar, and someones flat for nibbles and sparkling water. That was weird, but in between these stops we got to walk Dublin, on what was a typically cloudy day. I had foolishly decided to shoot film because I couldn’t keep up with the dudes from Highsnobiety and Street Dreams Magazine with their two grand cameras and my lacking digital skill set. Still, I followed their lead, reveling in the chance to shoot some photos with Instagram famous photographers and burnt through three rolls in about 20 minutes, the result of which was a few grainy shots and 10 new followers on my personal insta. If like me you prefer to shoot film, don’t take ISO 200 to Dublin – you probably won’t get much sunshine but you probably will find yourself in a dimly lit underground bar or pub. That’s probably more craic to most people anyway, especially if it’s hosted by an Irishman making the first, best and definitely not the last Tipperary I’ll ever have.
A dizzying trip to Sophie’s restaurant on Harcourt Street, which provided a 360 degree view of the twinkling Dublin skyline from the fifth floor, accompanied by a 10 ounce ribeye and a fair few old fashioned’s was the perfect way to kick-off the final evening. And so, to the main event: ‘St. Patrick’s Live’ with Little Green Cars headlining the bill. I mostly wandered around a static crowd shooting photos of the band, trying to maintain an air of professionalism while stumbling into people. After achieving my 10th and final in-focus shot of the night, I headed up to the VIP lounge to grab what felt like my 50th Jameson and Ginger beer of the weekend.
Next up was the infamous Liquor Rooms. We probably had fun and thankfully, I didn’t see any of those stupid green hats the whole time I was inside. After burning through a twenty deck of Marlboro’s and some more sweet Jameson cocktails I was feeling suitably unstable to see what else the streets of Dublin would have to offer. Needless to say, despite making a lot of new friends it was an uneventful, cliched experience and I fully understand why the guys at Jameson made such an effort to cruise us around in our Benz minibus the whole weekend. Here’s what I scribbled down at 5:30am when I got back to my hotel: “So many drunk Irish dudes and girls, a river of piss and mountains of empty McDonald’s wrappers. Nobody knew the real reason they were there apart from drinking – basically the same as me”. This on the night before St. Patrick’s Day…
Four hours later the vintage phone in my room of the Fitzwilliam Hotel chimed so loud that I fell out of bed, fully clothed. No bother, I had 10 minutes before my ride to the airport left and I was already set to go.
I would like to thank Jameson again for their hospitality. They know how to run an all encompassing, free-flowing booze junket. I understand if they’re a little disappointed some of us deliberately sought out the Dublin scenes they wanted us to avoid. That being said, what stuck out for me was that the most powerful and lasting heritage comes with time, craft and experience. Jameson does that in every step of the process when creating their whiskeys and if you’re not willing to wait, it’s probably not worth it at all. Thanks must also go to: Matt and Hannah for looking after us all; Castlemartyr Resort in County Cork for the beautiful setting for the weekend; Paul Lamb (www.tripman.co.uk) for the camera strap; Jack at Peach Fuzz and the boys from BNTL for staying loose and to Steve Irby, Will Nichols and Pete Williams for letting me hang and shoot photos with them in Dublin.
I saw what Jameson wanted to show me and now have the most atrocious hangover to prove it.
Words & Images: Will Sleigh