Sine Metu – no fear and the slide of history

By Morgan Gunnels

MIDLETON, Ireland – Jameson Whiskey may be known for its smooth flavor, but its history has been one bumpy ride.

John Jameson founded the company in Dublin in 1780 with great success. According to, Irish whiskey led the world’s spirits trade until the early 1900s when political unrest brought production nearly to a halt. The Jameson distillery was overtaken by volunteer troops during the 1916 Easter Rising when men used the building as a makeshift barricade to protect them from The British Army. Andrew Jameson, grandson of John and managing director, wasn’t able to return until a week later to recover the business. Although times had been tough, Jameson found inspiration in his family motto sine metu, meaning without fear. The motto is printed on every bottle of Jameson to serve as a reminder.

Jameson uses water from the Dungourney River, which flows through the distillery, housed in Midleton since 1975, and a combination of malted and unmalted barley, sourced from farms within 100 miles of Midleton. Maize, the third Jameson ingredient, can’t be grown locally because it is a sun-loving crop, so it comes from farms in southern France.

The former site of the Jameson distillery that now serves as a museum (1)

Jameson visitor’s center in Midleton. Photo by Morgan Gunnels

The company uses a triple distillation process to make their whiskey smoother. After distillation, the whiskey ages in oak casks imported from the U.S. and Spain. ­­While the whiskey matures, about two percent—the “angel’s share” according to the brewers—is lost to evaporation. Though the length of the aging process can vary, in order to be legally identified as Irish whiskey, the spirit must spend at least three years maturing on the island of Ireland.


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Filed under MU School of Journalism, Science ad Agricultual Journalism

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