The Jameson Barrelmen's Homecoming
There is something particularly magical about Ireland & the Irish people, something you try to out your finger on when you meet them for a pint or laugh at their in-jokes you don't understand. It's only when you finally actually properly visit Ireland & find the Irish in their natural habitat that somewhere deep down inside you wish you were a little Irish too...
So thats what happened when over 102 bartenders from over 27 countries flew into Ireland for the annual Jameson Barrelmen's Homecoming. Just a friendly visit to the home of Jameson at the Midleton Distillery in Cork County, lots of knowledge bombs & a "little" competition to find the next mixmaster champion! Truth be told we really didn't know what to expect as we'd never worked with the whiskey before but oh were we in for a treat...
The first day was a tour of the beast that is the Midleton Distillery itself with all its historical buildings, warehouses, gran storage, malt houses & many pretty, pretty pot stills but you can read all about that here. This allowed all the contestants to start rubbing shoulders with each other, for old healthy rivalries(Ireland & England) to exchange chants & for old friends(all of the Scandinavian region) to exchange a couple of drops of Jameson.
We dined in the old warehouse on the grounds of the distillery itself, sat across long tables as one family where different cultures intertwined, toasts to one another called out proudly each trying to outshine the other. Those not competing tomorrow in the bartending competition were competing today in what is the battle of the most charismatic.
Although many fought hard into the night in order to avoid the following day it had to come one way or another for both contestant as well as the supporting team. Before the warriors of the day stepped onto the battlefield there were a team of experts on hand to educate all of us unruly lot. Inspired by the movement of foraging, urban-farming, localisation & going back to Mother Nature was fantastic workshop from Oisin Davis.
Himself & a local botanist was at hand to take us through some of the common flora growing in Ireland. There was lemon verbena, hybrids of mint & even purple basil as well as cocktails on hand with every plant to showcase their potential in mixed drinks. From discussion with regards to cultivation, upkeep & perfect growing conditions including storied history about every flower, leaf & root. It's actually quite inspiring considering how much time we spend online, in markets & speciality shops looking for the next "wow" ingredient or spice when such magnificent things can be easily grown in our gardens or windowsills.