History in the Making

History Bite: Jameson’s Whiskey Washbacks

If I learned nothing else from living in Dublin for a year, it is that the Jameson’s Bow St. Distillery Tour is far superior to the Guinness Distillery tour. (I learned a lot more than that, I would like to think I learned something in my Masters…) Everyone will tell you to go to Guinness because it is a “must-see” but ignore them: you will learn a lot more about the distilling process at Jameson’s, the drink is better at the end, and you are getting your money’s worth. The Guinness tour is self-guided but the Jameson tour is led by a guide, and all three guides I’ve had have been hilarious and knowledgeable! And one of my favourite things to see at the Jameson’s Whiskey tour is the washbacks…

Washbacks at Jameson's Bow St Distillery Tour

Quick info on whiskey distilling- you mash unmalted and malted barley together, and then add hot water, which turns to wort. Wort is poured into a washback where it ferments into alcohol! So, where does it get interesting? The washbacks used by Jameson’s were so large that they could hold 230,000 litres. I don’t know about you, but that is a LOT of whiskey. The alcohol sits for three days before moving to the next step in the distilling process.

A replica washback at the Jameson's Bow St whiskey distillery

Because the washbacks were so immense, apprentices had to be tied on harnesses to be lowered down into the washback so that they could be scrubbed clean. And because of the alcohol, the candles that the apprentices carried with them to see what they were scrubbing could cause some fire related “issues”. Here we all think that whiskey is all good fun, but some poor 16 year might have started a fire for that whiskey! (The washback you see above is a much smaller replica, and even that looks fairly large to me…)

I know that the blogger thing to do would be “rosé all day” but I’m firmly in Camp Whiskey! And being able to see one of my favourite whiskeys distilled has been one of my favourite experiences to date.

Do you know how your favourite drink is made??

The Historian
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