International Women’s Day (@womensday), this Sunday, March 8th. is a “global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.”
So to help celebrate I was honoured recently to sit down and have a chat with Carol Quinn – Archivist For Irish Distillers – and general trailblazer in the Drinks industry!
These are the questions I asked Carol:-
Does your archive throw up any interesting things about Ireland’s history in parallel with your history?
The distillery is very much part of Ireland’s life and society and changes in the country are reflected in the distillery.
Two particular times spring to mind:-
1. 1916 – Dublin
The Easter Risings saw hand to hand fighting on the streets of Dublin and Jameson distillery being situated on a major route was witness to all this.
As was the norm then, no-one got paid if you didn’t work. One consequence was that even though there was grain in the distillery to feed the horses, they were starving as no-one was there. Fortunately, the workers asked and were allowed in to feed them.
2. World War 2
Called ‘The Emergency’ in Ireland as the country was neutral but this didn’t mean that the effects of war were not felt.
There were No imports or exports so food was scarce, expensive and money was short, again, because no-one got paid if you didn’t work.
Powers Distillery in Dublin had a soil roof to control humidity so it was utilised by planting crops on the roof to produce food which was then used to help feed the population.
Similarly, in Cork a large ornamental garden was ploughed up for food.
If you could choose only one, what would your favourite item in the archive be?
Well that can change on a daily basis! But one of them is the Pocket notebook belonging to John Jameson II – the founders son.
It contains Recipes for whiskey which he would have distilled himself with details of daily mash fills.
But the book was in a poor condition so was sent for conservation.
It was while this work was being carried out that trapped grains were discovered in the notebook binding which gave us a real connection to the history of the distillery and felt like a tangible connection to the family tree of their whiskies.
We don’t try and recreate the past with these documents. Instead they serve to provide inspiration for possible products in the future. And may do so yet again!
Is there something you wish you had in your archives?
A person, any person, though not anyone who was famous!
Ideally someone from the 1880’s which was the peak of whiskey production in Ireland.
It would be great to find out what it was like, the atmosphere.
We have a wealth of written records but no personal histories.
So, for the benefit of future archivists, Carol has started an oral history programme to capture the memories, impressions and personal perspectives of former workers.
How do you think future archivists will look back on today’s whiskey business?
I feel were entering a second golden age for Irish Whiskey.
I think they would be astonished at the speed of change that’s taking place in the Industry at this time including new entities, new distilleries and increased choice for consumers.
And I don’t see why Irish Whiskey can’t overtake Scotch Whisky!
There are now 30 distilleries in Ireland (compared to the 1970’s when there were just 2 – Midleton & Bushmills.)
Things started to change in 1966 when Jameson, Powers and Cork distillers combined to form Irish distillers because they decided they never wanted to give up Irish Whiskey as it symbolises everything thats good about Ireland and it’s culture.
It is indeed exciting times!
Of course my last question had to be …
What is your favourite Whiskey?
It’s Powers Gold Label with soda water.
On the recent product re-design for the Powers range I was involved with going through the history of powers and the distinctive diamond symbol jumped out at us.
The symbol was so iconic that in correspondance they didn’t even say Powers – they just used the diamond symbol!
Many thanks to Carol for taking the time!
What is International Women’s Day?
International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
No one government, NGO, charity, corporation, academic institution, women’s network or media hub is solely responsible for International Women’s Day. Many organizations declare an annual IWD theme that supports their specific agenda or cause, and some of these are adopted more widely with relevance than others. International Women’s Day is a collective day of global celebration and a call for gender parity.
International Women’s Day is all about unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy and action – whatever that looks like globally at a local level. But one thing is for sure, International Women’s Day has been occurring for well over a century – and continue’s to grow from strength to strength. Learn about the values that guide IWD’s ethos.
Jameson Whiskey is available to buy from these Merchants:-
Powers Whiskey is available to buy from these Merchants:-