Drinks With…Brian Nation

Recently in Australia for Sydney BarShow Week, Jameson Distiller, Brian Nation took some time out extol his wisdom (and passion) for the heavenly Irish dram.

Blessed with a job that is probably the envy of any whisk(e)y lover, Brian splits his time between the distillery floor and travelling the globe where he educates people about Jameson Irish whiskey.

Thanks for your time downunder Brian – and if you’re looking to buy him a post-dinner drink make it a Jameson 18 year old. Neat.

Interesting facts about Jameson


“Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of long distance radio transmission, his mother was Annie Jameson, a grand-daughter of John Jameson. We also hold over 900,000 casks at the distillery which at the height of summer lose the equivalent of 10,000 to 15,000 bottles of Jameson per day through evaporation losses and we call this the ‘Angels’ Share’.”

First up; Is Irish whiskey a good introduction to the whisk(e)y category?

“Undoubtedly. The smooth and balanced taste (courtesy of triple distillation and the use of sherry casks) and the creamy mouthfeel from the use of unmalted barley makes Jameson a very easy-to-drink whiskey.”

What attracted you to whiskey distilling?

“What attracted me most was the people and craft of distilling. The people that pass on the craft and tradition from generation to generation is what makes the Jameson Distillery at Midleton a unique place to work. I’d graduated with a degree in chemical and process engineering and spent time working in an oil refinery and pharmaceutical plant before getting an interview at the Jameson Distillery – the rest is history.”

What’s it like working for the Jameson Distillery?

“On a number of levels it is a great place to work. The people are wonderful and the craft credentials that the distillery has makes me proud to be able to say that I work there. Seeing the worldwide success of the whiskies that we produce at the Jameson single distillery just tops off such a fantastic job.”

What are your top five tips for a budding whiskey enthusiast?

  • Keep an open mind about the array of whiskies available.
  • Try your whiskey straight first to appreciate the flavours.
  • Learn about the key characteristics of the whiskies you taste.
  • Experiment with different flavours to evaluate versatility and mixability
  • Enjoy whisk(e)y the way YOU like it.

Tell me about your role.

“My role as Jameson Distiller involves ensuring that the production process runs smoothly from the brewing to fermentation and distillation. This involves the day to day monitoring of the brewing / fermentation progress ensuring that the fermented wash and beer that we produce for distillation is to the correct specification. Then it’s onto the distillation where the quality of new make distillate from pot stills and grain columns is checked from a sensory point of view to ensure that we produce a consistent quality and flavour before it is sent off for maturation. Also, all mature whiskey is tasted daily before it goes for bottling to ensure that the quality and flavours are correct too.”

What is the most challenging Jameson whiskey to produce?

“All parts of the production process are monitored very carefully, from the quality of the barley and water, precise cutting strengths as the spirit comes off the pot stills to the best oak casks that we can obtain. If we ensure all aspects of the brewing, distillation and maturation stages of whiskey production are carefully controlled then we know that we will get the best whiskey coming out of cask after the many years of maturation.

The blender ensures that each batch of mature whiskey meets his strict quality expectations by sampling each barrel before a batch of whiskey is put together. So from the blender’s point of view the older Jameson premiums would present the biggest challenge simply to ensure consistency from batch to batch as there is less stock to work with.”

What qualities do you look for in each barrel of whiskey you produce?

“The blender will look for the taste and flavour that he will expect from a particular  style of whiskey coupled with the type of cask (American Barrel or Sherry butt) and also taking into account the age. He will expect a level of flavour intensity and balance. Any barrel that does not meet the quality criteria will be excluded from the batch, although most do due to the strict production management policy we implement along the way.”

What’s a misconception about Irish whiskey that you try to dispel?

“I suppose some people think it’s harsh while in fact the opposite is true. Irish Whiskey, particularly triple distilled Jameson, now has a reputation as being the smoothest whiskey available.”

How do Australians stack up as Irish whiskey drinkers compared around the globe?

“Relative to population, Australia is a strong market and getting stronger every year. There has always been a base of Jameson consumers here in Australia (due to the Irish connection) but the brand has expanded way beyond this now, with a growing following among the bartender fraternity – it’s the bartender’s drink of choice!”

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