Masters of Distilling: Brian Nation

Jameson Irish Whiskey has a new master distiller: Brian Nation. Find out more about the man in charge of producing the best-selling spirit.

Talk about pressure: When Barry Crockett, Jameson’s long-serving master distiller, decided to retire in 2013 after working at the distillery for 47 years, Brian Nation was chosen to be his successor.

Recently, we got to meet Nation over drinks, and we’re confident that the whiskey brand is in good hands. (He did serve as Crockett’s second-in-command for the last 10 years, after all.) So you get to know the new man in charge of producing the best-selling spirit, as well as complex Green Spot and Redbreast, and a few other brands, we convinced him to answer 10 questions. Sláinte!

What’s the craziest Irish whiskey cocktail you’ve ever had?

“Not so much a cocktail but on my recent visit to New York, I tried a ‘Banana Jamo’ shot. Basically, it is made by soaking ripe bananas in Jameson and allowing the flavors to infuse into the Jameson. I was pleasantly surprised—it worked!”

Do Irish and Scottish distillers hate each other?

“Absolutely not. I think that there is a great camaraderie among distillers across the globe, and the proof of this is any time you have a gathering of distillers at an event. The craic is mighty!”

What’s the best bar/pub food?

“For me you can’t beat good beer-battered fish and chips!”

How do you like to drink Irish whiskey?

“It all depends upon the location/occasion. For instance, if I am out socializing with my friends, I like nothing better than to enjoy a Jameson, ice and soda with a wedge of lime or a Jameson, ice and ginger [ale] with a wedge of lime. I also enjoy a Jameson Black Barrel over ice (2 to 3 cubes). If I want to treat myself, I would then have one of our single pot still Irish whiskies, preferably Powers John’s Lane, Redbreast or Green Spot.

Do you like Pickle Backs? And are you insulted that many people use Jameson for them?

“I have tried them…I am certainly not insulted that Jameson is used for them. In fact, I think I am quite the opposite as I feel it showcases the versatility of Jameson and its ability to work with different flavors.”

What’s your favorite whiskey to drink that you don’t distill?

“I am sometimes partial to a Glenlivet 12-Year-Old.”

What’s your favorite bar in the world?

“That is a tough one! I’ve been to many wonderful bars over the years. (The names of some I can’t remember!) I visited some great bars while in New York, like The Dead Rabbit and Leave Rochelle Out of It. My favorite bar though would probably be my local bar near where I live called Johnny’s!”

What bottle is off limits in your liquor cabinet? And what occasion are you saving it for?

“My only bottle of Jameson Rarest Vintage…my eldest daughter’s 21st—she’s only seven now, so it’s a long wait!

What are some trends we’ll be seeing in Irish whiskey in coming years?

“With the growth of the Irish whiskey category, we are seeing a number of new distilleries and craft distilleries beginning to open up around Ireland. This is both great and exciting for the Irish whiskey category. We at Irish Distillers [Jameson’s parent company] are intent on growing the range of single pot still Irish whiskies available, so have committed to releasing an additional two expressions of single pot still Irish whiskey each year for the next 10 years. That is an additional 20 releases!

If you weren’t a distiller, what would you be doing?

“I am a qualified chemical and process engineer, so I would probably be working in a pharmaceutical plant!”

Did this article make you thirsty for Irish whiskey? Check out our story about the 5 Biggest Irish Whiskey Myths.