TUESDAY 2 MAY 2017 11:48 AM


The new brand experience at the Jameson Distillery Bow St. uses immersive storytelling and interactive videos to depict the past and set the tone for the future of the brand. Brittany Golob reports from Dublin

The new Jameson Bow St. Experience first assaults the sense of smell. The warm, spicy scent of Jameson whiskey greets visitors at the doors of the Jameson Distillery Bow St. Then sight, as 200 year-old timber beams appear overhead; then, eventually visitors get to taste whiskey, scotch and bourbon in a tutored session.

However, the core of the experience is audiovisual and a key aspect of the tour relies on video. Visitors are shepherded into a darkened, circular room by a tour guide and arrayed around a round table upon which a video projection is primed. The film begins with the words ‘Sine Metu’ – meaning ‘without fear’ – and the Jameson family crest.

Unlike many branded experiences or visitors’ centres, the Jameson distillery experience is guided by a brand ambassador from start to finish. Thus the film, which plays out on the flat surface of a table strewn with parchment and leather-bound books, is narrated by the guide in person.

It’s all part of the new approach to brand experience Jameson has developed for its Bow Street distillery. “A lot of brands would probably give their right arm to have the history and the story and the heritage that we have,” says project director of Jameson Brand Homes for Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard John Carroll. “It was imperative that we brought that to life through immersive storytelling.”

The intimate screening room achieves that by bringing people literally closer together and to the story itself as it plays out below their eyes. “To be able to bring the story to life through video and multimedia is hugely powerful,” Carroll says. “We wanted to completely immerse people into that little window in our history for 10 to 12 minutes when you’re in that room within our story.”

The first element of that immersion is the circular room itself. The stone walls date to 1780 and the founding of the distillery. “We’re telling and sharing and showing our story literally within the walls of the original fabric,” says Carroll. That shape echoes the staircase visitors first walk up in the Bow Street distillery which is placed within the charred brick walls of the original barley malting kiln. Throughout the film, lighting complements the scenes on display and help set and change the mood as events change.

But film was also used to relaunch the Bow St. Experience. Jameson released a time lapse video of the production process behind the scenes. It focuses on the work put in by the team designing and building the new distillery. This is in keeping with Jameson’s long- standing care for its employees and the craft that goes into every aspect of the Jameson brand. The so-called barrelmen that adorn the bottom of every bottle are recognised throughout the new experience, as well. The time lapse situates the Bow Street distillery within the Smithfield neighbourhood and explores the history and heritage of the location and the distillery itself. It shows in detail the renovation of JJ’s bar, the hub of the distillery, with its centuries-old timber feature dating back to the foundation of Jameson.

The history of the Jameson is closely tied to that of Dublin. Smithfield Market – which dates back to the 17th century – is the focal point for the area and hosts a livestock and farmer’s market to this day. In historic Dublin, the city petered out into farmland just past Smithfield Market. The Bow Street distillery is nestled into one of the narrow alleyways surrounding the open market square. Just a few blocks from the River Liffey, it has access to the rest of Ireland and to the world’s shipping routes by water. During the Easter Rising, the distillery, and much of the surrounding area was overtaken by Irish Volunteers, forcing the business to close for about two weeks. Jameson paid its workers in full regardless.

Since 1996 though, the area has been the focus of a regeneration project. Problems including vacancy and disuse of buildings, a poor population with high rates of unemployment and little investment plagued Smithfield. Since, the old market square has become the focus of civic life once again and now features new restaurants and cafes, office spaces and leisure areas. The vibrant area was called, “A little Williamsburg by the Liffey,” by the Guardian in January 2016. Despite this rejuvenation, the area has retained its character and has a decidedly village feel, according to the Guardian.
Echoing this history, the Jameson Distillery Bow St. first opened its doors in 1780, but after a move to Middleton, County Cork in 1963 expanded Jameson’s capacity, the site’s doors were closed. In 1997 however, it was reopened as a brand home and began welcoming visitors to the tune of 400,000 per annum. Though the experience was well attended, it was a bit static, says Carroll. Most of the space was dedicated to a physical explanation of the distilling process, a storyline which offered little more for educated whiskey drinkers. The distillery underwent a refurb in 2007 but by 2016, it was time for a change.

Gone, now, are the mannequins and stuffed cats of the old experience; their disappearance has made way for a more interactive, immersive story. The films used by the new distillery document some of these sweeping historic changes and their impact on the Jameson family and its business. In the experience, after the initial screening, visitors can choose an additional object from the five hanging around the projector – four books and a teakettle – all of which, when placed on the video screen-cum-table seamlessly begin another film delving deeper into the Jameson story.

One of these vignettes discusses a diary that was found during the renovation of the distillery that contained John Jameson II’s own whiskey recipes. The once-lost recipes are now available once more to current head distiller, Brian Nation. “Experimentation and innovation shine through the archives,” says archivist Carol Quinn of the unique discovery.

The time lapse introduction to the new experience documents a historic change to the site and builds on the value Jameson places on its craft and those who work to bring the brand to life. He or she then leads the group into the next room, a renovated feast of Irish oak and low lighting that complement a hands-on experience detailing the distilling process. But, it’s all complemented by a 3D map projection that enhances the storytelling and the visual experience.

While the stories themselves are engaging, the atmosphere is important in terms of rounding out the experience. Carroll says, “It would’ve been very easy for us to just go in there, give everybody audio guides and hit play on a video. It was never a consideration for us when we were looking at this. We wanted the brand ambassador and the multimedia to work together, hand in glove, to deliver that seamless experience.

The films work in tandem with the rest of the experience to immerse visitors into the world of Jameson. But they are only just a single element of a vast brand experience project conducted at the Jameson Distillery Bow St. “From the outset, having that personal touch, that verbal spoken storytelling capability was first and foremost for us. Any technology or technological touchpoints that you see should just support what our brand ambassador is delivering in terms of our story,” Carroll adds.

The rest of the Jameson story is told through a tutored whiskey tasting and the two other experiences that allow visitors to blend their own whiskey or shake their own cocktails. The style and tone of the films is echoed throughout the distillery and similar imagery reappears on the historical timeline wall and in wayfinding icons.

Though the distillery reopened on 1 March, early feedback has been positive in regards to the new experience and to the presence of a live storyteller. At Bow Street, film documents the history of the brand, but the next chapter of the Jameson story is only now beginning to be written.



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