When 28 countries came together in Ireland for the Jameson Barrelmen’s Homecoming it created something special – a community. And the days they spent together, as part of From Farm To Glass, were a spectacular celebration of learning, sharing and forging friendships.
First of all though let’s take a look at that name. What actually are Jameson Barrelmen? We asked Jameson Master Distiller, Brian Nation. “In the early days of Jameson one of the toughest jobs was that of the barrelmen, these were the people who literally had to move the huge barrels of whiskey around. It was tremendously hard work and everyone had massive respect for the barrelmen. Today every person, man or woman, who does something to drive the success of our business is considered to be one of the barrelmen. We are all barrelmen.”
Essentially it’s all about being part of a select community and a key part of it are the bartenders around the world who through their skills demonstrate the versatility of the liquid. Which brings us to the Homecoming itself. Pauline De Pins, Senior Brand Manager at Jameson, explains.
“This gathering goes back nearly 10 years but it was very different then, in fact it was known as the Bartenders’ Ball. The name changed to the Jameson Barrelmen’s Homecoming, which was about a much deeper experience. This emphasis on the experience was extremely important to me and something I have really wanted to develop since I joined a year ago. There were already workshops and collaborations for the bartenders, but I wanted to really bring everything together under one theme. That was how we arrived at From Farm To Glass. We’ve always had a close relationship with the rich food culture in Ireland and we wanted to develop this partnership in other ways through From Farm To Glass. Everyone has been working with the idea of From Farm To Glass. And by bringing everyone to the home of Jameson this year we are able to create a community of sharing. And, of course, there’s still the Mix Master Cocktail Competition.”
Day 1: history, dinner and tip top guest cocktails
Along with the bartenders and other members of the global Jameson community we found ourselves at the Jameson Distillery Bow Street. This was where John Jameson started producing his whiskey back in 1780. Production is now in Midleton, but the Jameson Distillery Bow Street is integral to Jameson as its spiritual home, welcoming visitors from all over the world to share the whiskey’s extraordinary history. It’s a clever combination of video and interactive experience presented by a personal guide who shares the fascinating story from its essential triple distillation to the global community it’s created.
After dinner in the prestigious venue it was time for some cocktails. Not just any old cocktails mind. For the forthcoming Mix Master Cocktail Challenge, three top bartenders were in town to act as judges; Angel Ji (Three Piece Shaker), Will Meredith (Lyaness) and last year’s winner Andre Duncan. Who better then than the esteemed trio, along with MC Oisín Davis (Great Irish Beverages), to create the drinks.
Day 2: four workshops and a speed round
Refreshed and raring to go this was the day where From Farm To Glass really kicked in. Through four workshops we really started to appreciate what the theme could offer today’s bartenders.
In the heart of Dublin, at Belvedere College, Simon O’Donnell, is inspiring his students with the possibilities of urban farming. Invited into the labs and lecture rooms of the college Simon explained to us the concept with infectious enthusiasm. In short, the way it works is this. A selection of fish are kept in tanks. As their water is automatically filtered out it takes with it natural wastage. This becomes a form of manure which is deposited in a frame of vertical soil free structures, where it is introduced to a selection of seeds. In no time at all a mass of herbs, fruits and salad leaves begin to sprout. Meanwhile the freshly cleansed water is pumped back into the fish tanks keeping the occupants healthy. Ideas like this, Simon explained, can be reproduced in scaled down versions for bars to produce ingredients which would be both exceptionally fresh and tasty, as well as making a substantial reduction in carbon footprints.
Rethinking ingredients in the bar was at the heart of the workshop from Andrew Dickey of Irish Distillers, Pernod Ricard. Through the clever use of a flavour wheel he challenged the bartenders to get super creative with a range of ingredients which share dominant aroma compounds with the whiskey. Strawberry, parmesan, champagne, mussels, vinegar and sherry were amongst the 21 possibilities. Using these as starting points the opportunities for ingredients or pairing were endless. It was a masterclass in how ingenuity can produce outstanding drinks and be a fantastic use of resources.
Glassware creation was brought into the equation by Design Partners, the team behind the distinctive new three sided Jameson glassware range (three to represent the whiskey’s all-important triple distillation). By using a range of brainstorming techniques they demonstrated how it’s possible to bring together different types of experiences with ideas for new cocktail recipes and in the process create entirely new drinking vessels. We rolled our sleeves up and got involved. Our team’s Surfer Punch Bowl might not be going into production any time soon, but working on it for 30 minutes gave us valuable insight into the creative process and how it can be taken into bars for new kinds of cocktail experiences.
Rounding up the day was DJ Aidan William Kelly. One of the most respected DJs on the Dublin scene he explained how he mixes tracks from his encyclopedic music memory to create unique and memorable moments for people. “Mixing music and mixing cocktails are very similar. We’re all trying to make a special moment. Ask yourself, how can you make the moments in your bars more memorable through the power of music?”
With the workshops for the day concluded it was time to move into the evening and the first round of the Mix Master Cocktail Competition. And what a way to start – a speed round. Our bartenders were given a list of ten classic Irish cocktails and challenged to serve up as many of them as possible in just ten minutes. It was tough but then it had to be, this round alone would see the list of competitors reduced from 28 down to just 15. It was fast, furious and fun.
Day 3: the home of Jameson
Starting bright and early it was time to decamp to Midleton, Co. Cork. This is where Jameson Irish Whiskey has been lovingly produced since 1975.
Going behind the scenes we witnessed the skill and scale of the Jameson Whiskey making process. Skills like the craft of the 5th generation Master Cooper, Ger Buckley, who demonstrated the centuries old skill of creating a barrel. As for scale, we’re talking the largest pot stills in the world.
As well as experiencing the intricacies of producing Jameson our distillery tour also took us into one of the many vast and aromatic warehouses for a barrel strength tasting. There’s a micro distillery too. It’s here that ideas for new expressions can be explored. Rounding up the tour we had a chance to try our hand at creating our very own whiskey in the blending lab.
We also caught up with Brian Nation and Billy Leighton, who explained the respective skills of the Master Distiller and the Master Blender.
“Having my technical background as a chemical engineer is important to my role as Master Distiller but it’s also about a sensory ability,” explained Brian. “It’s about being able to understand the intricacies of what goes on in the distillery that is so important. It’s different to any other business because of the craft element. There are so many things you can’t learn at college, instead these are the things which I learnt from my mentor, the previous Master Distiller. He explained that my job is about passing on the baton of craft and tradition to the next generation, hopefully a little better in the process.”
For Master Blender, Billy Leighton, it was the defining characteristics of Jameson that were so important. “The pot still is key to the main flavour, such as the spiciness, but it’s also gives it texture and mouthfeel. Jameson is approachable so it can stand on its own but being approachable also makes it very mixable which is why bartenders like to use it in cocktails. It has the whiskey base but there’s a lot more going on and I really like to see bartenders picking out individual characteristics in the whiskey and exaggerating them in a drink.”
Which brings us nicely back to the Mix Master Cocktail Competition. Round two was where the remaining bartenders served up the cocktails which they had created in their home countries to earn them their places in the global final. As well as a great drink they had to demonstrate how they had worked with their local community in its creation. After sharing these drinks and stories with the judges there would be just five bartenders going through to the last full day.
Day 4: inspiration on the farm
This was when From Farm To Glass really came together. Our bartenders had experienced some fantastically inspiring workshops and been invited into the unique world of Jameson Irish Whiskey. Now we were heading to a very special farm. Oisín Davis explains why.
“We’d been developing classics with a local twist and bartenders around the world were creating some amazing drinks. The local twists were often wines and beers which were great but we wanted the idea to evolve. We wanted bartenders to get more involved by engaging with local farmers and producers, appreciating what was around them and understanding what was in season, and in turn work with the sheer versatility of Jameson. This became the basis of From Farm To Glass. The results of this are in the drinks the finalists made inspired by their local communities. It’s also a key part of the competition final.”
Which is how we found ourselves arriving at Ballymaloe Cookery School Organic Farm and Gardens. It’s a magical and inspiring place and as its name suggests brings together an organic farm with a cookery school over some 100 beautiful acres. More than anything it’s a way of life. Family run, it inspires people to think differently about produce and how it’s used. It’s also deservedly famous across Ireland for championing Irish cuisine.
We were welcomed with a lovingly prepared lunch from the Ballymaloe Cookery School team – we’re talking the freshest flavours from ingredients produced using the very best farming practices. It was the tour of the farm though which was the real joy. By employing techniques such as no dig gardening (seeds in compost covered with reclaimed cardboard to protect them from weeds) the aim is that everything should be produced as naturally as possible. Not only is it an outstanding example of environmentally friendly farming, it also produces an abundance of flavour filled herbs, leaves, fruit and vegetables.
Importantly there was practical advice for the bartenders, showcased in the Urban Garden, a small space that represents a very modest inner city garden to showcase the possibilities of what we can all actually produce in the smallest of spaces.
It was a fantastic experience for all of our bartenders, but for the five finalists in the Mix Master Cocktail Competition there was a hands on experience awaiting. Each of them was given a private guided tour by one of the resident experts who explained what was in season and sharing the vast variety of the various flavours. The aim being that these bartenders would create a selection of cocktails utilising some of these as ingredients for the final round of the competition. A fitting way to bring the key elements of From Farm to Glass to the competition itself.
Mix Master Cocktail Competition – the final
Having made it through to the final round the five remaining bartenders now had to produce a menu of three new cocktails. And each would be assisted by two of the other visiting bartenders. The five finalists all delivered outstandingly not only with their cocktails but with their presentations. Each of them took the judges through their ideas before serving up the finished creations. Thanks to Ballymaloe there were all manner of fresh ingredients included; herbs aplenty, shrubs and syrups and some very elegant garnishes.
Yes the drinks were delicious but the judges were looking for a little something extra. And that’s exactly what Ania Kulak from Norway delivered.
“She was the complete package”, said Billy Leighton, Master Blender and one of the round’s judges. “She had tremendous knowledge of Jameson Irish Whiskey and was able to really bring out its character with the addition of the fresh ingredients she’d sourced from Ballymaloe. This made for some terrific uniquely Jameson cocktails. We also liked the way community was at the heart of her presentation – including inspiration from her home, collaborating with her fellow bartenders and the way she understood the unique history of Jameson.”
As for the prize this will see Ania creating something very special indeed. Over the coming year she’ll be supported with know how and financial backing from Jameson, to create something personal and practical with her home community on an impressive scale up to the value of 20,000 euros.
Day 5: friendships and farewells
With the conclusion of the competition the day before the Jameson Barrelmen’s Homecoming and From Farm To Glass had concluded with an evening of celebration, craftsmanship and, of course, outstanding Jameson cocktails.
Today though it was all early starts and planes to catch as our bartenders headed home. Handshakes and hugs, and a new global community of bartenders. Women and men alike they were now all true Jameson Barrelmen.
We will be bringing you more news on How To Grow Your Own Cocktail soon, as well as catching up with Ania to see how she’s getting on with her prize-winning project. Look out for details here on thecocktaillovers.com
Jameson Barrelmen’s Homecoming 2019 champion Ania Kulak’s winning cocktails
In the Green
60ml Jameson Black Barrel
15ml chocolate mint syrup
3 dashes homemade Jameson Black Barrel bitters (star anise, clove, and wormwood)
Garnish: chocolate mint leaf
Stir the Jameson Black Barrel, syrup and Jameson Black Barrel bitters over ice. Strain into a glass and garnish with the chocolate mint leaf.
High on Life
50ml Jameson IPA
30ml rhubarb juice
15ml pineapple weed syrup
2 dashes Jameson Wild Seaweed Bitters
Garnish: pineapple weed sprig
Shake the Jameson IPA, rhubarb juice, syrup and Jameson Wild Seaweed Bitters over ice. Strain into a glass and garnish with the pineapple weed sprig.
60ml Jameson Original
45ml strawberry syrup
10ml gooseberry syrup
Top: gooseberry foam
Garnish: forget-me-not flower
Shake the Jameson Original and both syrups over ice. Strain into a glass, top with the gooseberry foam and garnish with the forget-me-not flower.
The bartenders who are now Barrelmen
Sarah Proietti, Australia
Uanderson Vieira, Brazil
Mihail Tsvetanov, Bulgaria
You Yin (Irene) Liang, China
Nick Barletis, Cyprus
Michel Mÿller, Germany
Richard Kormos, Hungary
Daniel Cronin, Ireland
Or Bangara, Israel
Milo Occhipinti, Italy
Atsushi Nakamura, Japan
Vladimir Chikishev, Kazakhstan
Neringa Mork, Lithuania
Chung Choon Suen, Malaysia
Connor Young, Northern Ireland
Ania Kulak, Norway
Popa Silviu, Romania
Robert Stajanca, Slovakia
Daehyun Jeon, South Korea
Alejandro Olmo, Spain
Erik Nilsson, Sweden
Philipp Kreibich, Switzerland
Alex King, United Kingdom
Trey Ledbetter, USA
Souhail Rostainajad, Canada
Saddam Husain, UAE