I am often asked why Irish Distillers dedicates time and resources to thoroughly archiving our history. ‘Is it to recreate past recipes or revive previous brands perhaps?’ is a question frequently asked by people with an interest in our products and our distillery. Visitors to our Midleton Distillery, where the Irish Distillers Archive is based, are curious about our records and fascinated by our history in equal measure.
As for recreating past recipes, I tell visitors that in my experience repeating the past is not always the best way to build our heritage. We can never truly replicate the past; you could say that it has vanished. As Archivist at Irish Distillers, I’ve come to believe that our past serves us best as knowledge and inspiration, as opposed to a blueprint to replicate. It is the learnings from our past that will inform our future.
One thing we don’t lose sight of at Irish Distillers is our guiding principles. As Archivist, I ask myself what motivated our founding fathers, and to what standards they held themselves. When Irish Distillers was formed in 1966, an amalgamation of three historic firms John Jameson & Son, John Power & Son and the Cork Distilleries Company, it was the shared values of the three companies and their dedication to the highest standard of whiskey production that allowed the merger to take place smoothly.
Today, our past is on, and in, every bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey. Each bottle features an emblem known as the ‘Barrelman’ which was first produced almost 100 years ago and symbolises the passion and team effort that goes into making every bottle of whiskey. Each person’s contribution is highly valued, and each person is aware of and close to our heritage – and that ensures we never lose that value for the men and women who work together at Irish Distillers today to produce, market, and sell this iconic Irish brand.
In industry, as in history, there is always change and evolution. Our Dublin distilleries closed in the 1970’s as Dublin city centre no longer offered the luxury of space to function to the standard needed. Production moved then to Midleton, and it was ultimately a wonderful thing that it did! Today, when I see the barrelman on a bottle of Jameson, or the iconic diamond P on POWERS whiskey, I reflect on the past, but I know as a business we are confidently moving forward to the future.
The achievements of John Jameson and other key figures from our history inspire our people, encouraging us to test boundaries, innovate and challenge expectations. Being aware of our history informs our understanding of the motivations of the people who went before us; why they made the decisions they did, why the time and the historical context impacted what they were producing. That is why the Archive is crucial.