The debate on who invented whiskey/whisky, between the Scottish and the Irish, has raged for years, including spelling. You have Irish whiskey and Scottish whisky. Most use the Scottish spelling and the greater attention has been on them but Irish whiskey also has a place. South Africa is a top market for Jameson, in particular Jameson Special Reserve. I would, however, contend that, with the rest of the world also producing great whiskey/whisky, the taste of the liquid, and your palate, are more important.
Trained as an engineer, Brian Nation is Master Distiller at the Jameson Midleton Distillery having joined the Distillery operating in his own field. Former Master Distiller Barry Crockett saw his potential and mentored Brian for 10 years to take over from him when he retired – I was lucky enough to visit the James Midleton Distillery in Cork when the baton was being passed. Having been more of a Scottish and Japanese whiskey person, being exposed to a wider selection of Irish whiskey, I can comfortably say that there are a few that have piqued my taste buds and found their way into my humble collection.
Brian Nation was recently in Johannesburg to do the media rounds as well as to host a dinner at the Saxon Hotel. At the dinner, he took us through the various single pot still Irish whiskey including the Midleton Barry Crocket Heritage (which was my favourite), Redbreast and Green Spot, each paired with exquisite dishes from the Saxon chef.
I had the opportunity to chat to Brian Nation about his journey, what his job entails as Master Distiller, and his vision for the Distillery over the years. Interestingly, while Master Distillers have traditionally been in the role for decades, Nation has a slightly different view, taking into consideration how the industry has evolved over the years. Barry Crockett was Master Distiller for 47 years having taken over from his father, who was Master Distiller at what is now the Old Midleton Distillery.
Take a listen to my chat with Brian.