Historic Dublin’s Jameson Distillery and Brazen Head Pub

The third entry in a series of installments from the travel diary of my journey through the Emerald Isle.

I was abruptly woken by what I can only describe as tiny dancers performing a lively Irish jig inside my head. Desperate to locate the incessantly shrill beeping these ruthless souls danced to, I sat up, though far too quickly, causing the previous night’s Guinness to slosh around in my head. Once the room stopped spinning I got up and located the clamorous culprit–our wretched alarm clock! “Thank God!” Joanna muttered when I finally turned it off. “We have to get up!” I exclaimed, “Our tour at the Old Jameson Distillery is in just over an hour.” She cursed at me, swore she would never drink again and announced that she was calling the distillery to have our tour moved to a later time. I found her the phone number for Jameson’s, and after she spoke to Niall, a kind and understanding employee, she had our tour changed to two o’clock. Positively elated, Joanna muttered something about waking her up at one and proceeded to bury her face in her pillow.

With the room quiet again, I thought back to the hazy details of the night before. Amongst the pubs we visited, the friends we made and the pints we consumed I vaguely recollected a late night stop at the Garda station to use the facilities and in true tourist fashion, somehow managing to take the wrong Nightlink bus home. No wonder my head was home to an entire Riverdance performance that morning! Why on earth we thought it was a good idea to schedule a tour at the Old Jameson Distillery the morning after our first night in Dublin was beyond me.

One o’clock came far too quickly and although we were positively ravenous, there was no time for food, so we grudgingly ate the granola bars it seemed we had been living off of for the past day. We hopped into a waiting taxi and sat back in relative silence as it wound through the streets of Dublin. A short fifteen minute drive later we arrived at the Old Jameson Distillery, set in the heart of historic Dublin. We paid the driver and made our way off of Bow Street and through the arched stone entryway that led to Jameson’s. A quick walk through the courtyard and we stepped into the visitor centre—housed within the original four walls where John Jameson founded his distillery back in 1780. With time to kill before our tour began we walked around and admired the building’s original brickwork, exposed wooden beams, dazzling chandeliers, picturesque bar and the glass floors which showcased the softly lit original stone tunnels and corridors of the Old Jameson

Distillery below.

The richly historical tour began with a short audio visual presentation which retraced the history of Irish whiskey and specifically that of the John Jameson Distillery. After the video we followed our guide from room to room, which was a small scale recreation of the old distillery. Each room gave us further insight into the fine art of whiskey making. All the way from malting, storing barley, mashing, fermentation, distilling and finally to maturation. The tour ended at the Jameson Reserve Bar where  we were presented with a complimentary glass of Jameson either served neat, or mixed with cranberry or ginger ale. I opted for the cranberry, but as whiskey is definitely not my drink of choice, I must admit that this was the only drink I failed to finish while in Ireland. A lucky few from our group were selected to partake in a tasting, where they compared Jameson Irish whiskey, Scotch and Bourbon whiskies. Our guide explained the difference between the Irish whiskey and the rest was that it is distilled three times, while the Scotch is distilled twice and the American whiskey only once. After the tour we stopped in at the gift shop where Joanna purchased a bottle of the 12 year old Jameson Distillery Reserve, exclusive to the Old Jameson Distillery.

With our stomachs grumbling we were finally off to find something to eat. Following a colourful tourist map of the city we picked up at Jameson’s, we walked down Bow Street to the Arran Quay, then crossed the Father Mathew Bridge and sashayed into The Brazen Head Pub. The Brazen Head, which was established in 1198, is officially known as being Ireland’s oldest pub. Many literary fans will recognize The Brazen Head from its appearance in Ulysses, James Joyce’s Modernist novel chronicling the life of fictional character Leopold Bloom. As we walked through the cobblestoned courtyard and into the cozy pub, we were greeted by the ghosts of centuries past. The timeworn walls, which were covered inch by inch with an eclectic array of colourful memorabilia, whispered of the years of stories told; the warming hearth sang of the trad sessions of yore; and the antique bar proudly flaunted each pint of Guinness pulled, every glass of Jameson spilled, each resoundingly hearty laugh shared and every bitter tear shed.

The charm of the low ceilings, old stone fireplace and the bars hodgepodge of quirky knickknacks, colourful pictures, flashy signs, and bordering collage of international currencies exuded the atmosphere of a truly authentic Irish pub. We placed our lunch order with the barman and, intrigued by a coffin set in the back room, found a table nearby. Apparently not the only ones to get a kick out of the coffin, a couple of English lads on a business trip asked us to take a picture with them in front of it and then insisted on buying us the day’s first pints of Guinness.  Shortly after, our lunch was served and we all but devoured our orders of steak and chips. Although we would have loved to linger over our pints in the homely pub, our morning’s late start refused us this indulgence. So off we went, two Canadian girls, to the streets of Dublin with our vibrant city map in hand and our next Irish adventure waiting to be had.

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