In the premium liquor industry, Irish whiskey has made a monumental comeback and is overtaking Scotch whisky in terms of popularity. The world’s highest selling Irish whiskey brand is Jameson. Although an Irish brand, it was first created by a Scotsman, John Jameson, as well as relatives of his wife, a member of the famous Haig family. Jameson purchased the distillery in 1780 and started to produce top-notch liquor. Three main ingredients which he used to make this whisky were barley, pure Irish water, and maize. For a considerable period of time now, this brand has been enjoying the position of the market leader in whisky exports.
Going back in time
The distillery owned by the Jameson family was guided by the maxim ‘Sine Metu’ which means ‘without fear.’ Today, it continues to feature on Irish whiskey bottles. To ensure quality, Jameson used pure and soft water, high quality strains of barley and superior casks for whisky maturation. He believed that the whisky should mature in cool and damp cellars. Eventually, he built a warehouse which captured rainwater to recreate these conditions. Since 1970, the distillery has perfected the art of triple distillation. Jameson had been using the same kind of equipment and production methods from the beginning, but the product available today is more refined, sweeter and cleaner. For production of the liquor, bourbon and sherry barrels were from America and France respectively. They infused fruity and slightly wooden notes into the spirit which mesmerized a whisky enthusiast.
The differentiating factor
Legend has it that Irish whiskey played an instrumental role in the birth of American bourbon and whiskeys. The Jameson distillery has been around since 1780 and it is here that the Jameson Irish whiskey started. The unique factor which differentiated this whisky from the rest was the use of both malted and unmalted barley in a mash-pit. Use of unmalted barley is indeed a quintessential style in making the Irish whiskey. The locally harvested barley imparts unique flavour to the whisky and adds a smooth effect which leaves a pleasant aftertaste.
A temporary dip in sales
In 1805, Jameson was the world’s best-selling brand. However, in the 20th century, the sales were restricted by a series of historical events. This included the Irish Independence, World War I and Prohibition in US. In 1966, John Jameson decided to merge with John Powers and Cork Distillers to establish the Irish Distillers group. By 1976, Jameson’s old distillery was shut down and production shifted to a new distillery outside Cork. Since 1988, France-based Pernord Ricard owns the Irish Distillers.
In May 2012, Irish Distillers invested a 100 million Euros is its production facility in Cork. In addition to this, clever and innovative marketing strategies and strategic product placement decisions were undertaken. This contributed significantly to the increase in sales. Interestingly, the brand also found mention in Lady Gaga’s words who she described Jameson as her “long-time boyfriend”. This revealed that a section of Jameson drinkers would always remain loyal to the brand.
What the future looks like
There is large opportunity for Irish whiskey in the near future. According to Jameson’s head distiller, they are on the constant lookout for evolving consumer preferences. They invest time in understanding the customer’s taste profiles and their opinion on the brand. So innovation is always a top priority. Jameson is a part of the Irish Whiskey Association where the common objective of all the brands is to produce good quality whisky. In the future, the popular brand might consider new product development strategies which would encompass better wood management and use of different cask types. Although they are driven to push boundaries and think out of the box, the Jameson team will stay true to tradition, as the head distiller has stated.