Five minutes with Brian Nation

By Joelle Thomson

Interview with Brian Nation, Jameson Irish Whiskey's roving global ambassador, brought to you by MiNDFOOD.

Why did you choose whisky as a career?

My father worked for Irish Distillers Ltd. since 1957 so whisky has always played a big part in my family.

As a young kid I broke one of the legs on my bed. Rather than fix it, my father shoved a case of Jameson half bottles under and it fitted perfectly.

So I can definitely say I grew up with whisky. That case remained there for about ten years and every so often a bottle would disappear from it until eventually there were too few left to support the weight of the bed and it started to give way.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be an astronaut. I used to write to the NASA space agency on a regular basis looking for information on astronaut training and shuttle details.

Having grown up in County Cork, Ireland where Jameson is produced, I was very familiar with the distillery, where friends of the family worked, and I always imagined it would be an extremely interesting place to work.

What is the main difference between Irish whisky and other whiskies?

Irish whisky is distilled three times, Scotch twice and American generally once.

Irish whisky does not generally use smoke additive in the malting process whereas Scotch whisky does, to varying degrees, add smokiness.

How is it smoked?

Irish whisky, along with Scotch whisky is made using seasoned (pre-used) oak casks.

American whiskies use unseasoned or virgin oak, which imparts a strong wood flavour. Also, corn is a prime ingredient in American whisky, which adds sweetness.

What about Jameson Irish Whiskey?

It is a single distillery whisky. Most Scottish blends mix between 40 and 60 different whiskies from various locations and distilleries.

For this reason, the production of Jameson is limited by what the distillery can make. Jameson can’t just pick up the phone and order in containers of whisky from other sources to boost production.

Who are the biggest consumers of Irish whisky?

Americans, not only because the US is such a large country, but also because they love great whisky.

Jameson was excluded from the American market during prohibition and it took some time to recover afterwards.

Are there regional flavour differences in Irish whisky compared to Scottish whisky?

There are only three distilleries in Ireland remaining. There were over 2000 in the 1800s.

Production methods vary between the three distilleries are also influenced a little by the local environment.

Cork, Ireland’s most southerly county, has a warm climate ideal for maturation, as most of the oak’s impact comes during the warmer months when the wood opens up.


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