The Journey from Field to Whiskey Tumbler
What is Whiskey Made From?
We love whiskey: The taste, the smell, the sound when you pour it into a glass. If you’re here, chances are you love whiskey too. Anyone with an appreciation for whiskey knows that a little magic goes into making it, but what else is involved?
Let’s look at the ingredients and processes that make our Jameson Irish Whiskey a world favorite.
What Is Whiskey?
To understand the process, it’s important to understand what whiskey is. Whiskey is a liquor made from fermented grains. It’s usually aged in wood barrels (also called casks). Whiskey must be 40% ABV (80 proof) or higher.
There are quite a few types of whiskey, including but not limited to:
• Irish whiskey
• Scotch whisky
• Japanese whisky
• Canadian whisky
• Rye whiskey
The Basic Ingredients of Whiskey
There are many different types of whiskey, and the ingredients and process can differ somewhat depending on the type and brand. We’re going to look at how whiskey is made in general, focusing on our process for Jameson Irish Whiskey.
All whiskeys are made from a single type of grain or a mixture of grains. The grains can include barley, corn, rye, or wheat. They’re ground up and cooked with hot water to form a “mash.” The “mash bill” is the specific combination of grains used in this first phase.
The type of whiskey you make depends on what grain you use. Single malt whiskey is made from malted barley. (Malted barley is barley that has been soaked in water and allowed to germinate, preparing its starches to become fermentable sugars.) Single grain whiskey is made from any grain (or grains) other than malted barley. The word “single” means whiskey production takes place in a single distillery.
Jameson Irish Whiskey is a blended whiskey – a whisky made by combining malt and grain whiskey. It’s made from single pot still whiskey and single grain whiskey. Single pot still whiskey is made from malted and unmalted barley.
Other types of blended whiskey include blended malt whiskey, which is made by combining different types of single malt whiskeys. Blended grain whiskey combines different types of single grain whiskeys.
Whiskey grains growing in a field
Water is essential in the whiskey-making process, and you need plenty of it. Large amounts of water are combined with the grain mixture to make the mash or “wort.”
At our Midleton distillery, we source our water from the Dungourney River that flows through the grounds.
Adding yeast activates the fermentation process and starts converting sugar to alcohol. The mixture of mash and yeast is called the “wash” or “distiller’s beer.”
Next, the wash or distiller’s beer is distilled two or three times in either column or pot stills.
The distillation process increases the amount of alcohol in the liquid. The wash is heated in the still, and the alcohol separates by evaporating off the liquid below. (Alcohol evaporates at a lower temperature than water.) The still gathers the alcohol vapors and cools them, condensing them back into a liquid. With each distillation, impurities are removed and the alcohol becomes more concentrated.
Jameson is triple-distilled – that means it’s distilled three times. We use both pot still and column still distillation.
A pot still whiskey is produced in batches, whereas a column still allows for a continuous process. Why use both? A pot still allows the spirit to develop more character, while a column still is more efficient. Either method will yield a top-quality spirit in the right hands.
Once the whiskey is distilled, all it needs is…
Midleton Distillery in County Cork
The next step is maturation.
Almost all whiskeys spend time in wooden barrels developing flavor and color. The type of barrel will vary depending on the whiskey. Our barrels were used for aging bourbon and sherry, which adds flavor and aroma. We use two main types:
- Seasoned white American oak bourbon barrels, which add sweetness, vanilla, and toasted oak notes.
- Spanish oak sherry-seasoned casks, which add notes of vanilla, honey, dried fruit, and cinnamon.
Once the whiskey has aged for at least three years, it’s ready to be bottled.
Ageing Jameson Irish Whiskey oak barrels
What Is Irish Whiskey Made From?
What does it take to be an Irish whiskey? Irish whiskey must be made from a grain distilled in Ireland. Irish whisky can be made from any type of grain, distillation method, and wood.
How Is Irish Whiskey Made?
Irish whiskey is usually triple-distilled. Historically, this was necessary because of the size of Irish distilleries and their stills. Producers needed to distill three times to reach the right strength (at least 80 proof).
Finally, as you might have guessed, Irish whiskey must be aged for at least three years in Ireland.
That’s it! Once you do all this, you’ve got yourself Irish whiskey.
Barley seeds used to make Jameson Irish Whiskey
What Is Jameson Whiskey Made From?
To recap, here’s how we create the flavors and smoothness we’re known for worldwide. Jameson is:
- Made from malted and unmalted barley, water, and yeast
- A blend of traditional pot still and single grain Irish whiskeys.
- Aged in ex-bourbon and Spanish oak sherry-seasoned casks.
- Triple-distilled on-site at our distillery in Midleton, County Cork.
To discover more about our unique process, read about how Jameson Irish Whiskey is made.
Jameson Irish Whiskey barrel being sealed to begin the aging process
And there you have it: the ins and outs of what whiskey is made from. Jameson has a whole family of differently-aged and blended whiskey to try in our Jameson Irish Whiskey Collection.