Jameson Whiskey is the best selling Irish whiskey in the world, and the brand has been in that position since about 1805, according to Frommer’s 500 Places for Food & Wine Lovers.
The company has a long history of print advertising, but it was only in 2009 that Jameson first started advertising on television.
Click here to learn the truth behind 9 John Jameson myths >>
TBWA New York, Jameson’s ad agency, developed a campaign called “Tall Tales” that put the founder of the company right at the centre of it all. Every bottle of whiskey has the Jameson family motto “Sine Metu” on it. The phrase means “Without Fear”, and has served as inspiration for Jameson’s heroic actions in Jameson’s TV campaign, which includes “The Lost Barrel”, “The Great Fire”, “Hurricane”, and “The Hawk of Achill.”
The John Jameson of these commercials is a man who will go to great lengths for his whiskey and is much loved by the people of Dublin. TBWA has taken some liberties with Jameson’s life, mixing truth with a little bit of fiction.
“We always tell our clients we’re much more interested in truth than in accuracy,” said David Altschul, an expert in brand storytelling, in a New York Times article. And it seems “there’s something in the notion of Irish whiskey” that supports this campaign.
He didn't look too much like the guy in the commercials.
Every bottle of whiskey has the Jameson family motto, 'Sine Metu,' on it. The phrase means 'Without Fear', which fits well with Jameson's heroic actions in Jameson's TV campaign, which includes 'The Lost Barrel', 'The Great Fire', 'Hurricane', and 'The Hawk of Achill.'
In 'The Lost Barrel', John Jameson dives into the sea after a barrel of whiskey is tossed from his ship, where he is confronted by a giant octopus. Some how he defeats the creature and shows up at his own funeral.
But he did travel around the world on a boat selling Jameson whiskey (the brand was sold internationally starting in the early 1800s).
The Jameson website also makes reference to an incident when Jameson went to extreme lengths to reclaim a barrel, although no specifics are provided.
The Jamesons received their family crest -- which features a ship -- as an award for battling pirates in the 1500s, according to the Jameson website.
'The Great Fire' tells the tale of how John Jameson saved his precious whiskey from The Great Dublin Fire of 1789. Showing how much he prized his product, he breaks a damn and floods the city to save it.
While Dublin has suffered its fair share of devastating fires, none of them happened in 1789. There was, however, a fire at a whiskey distillery belonging to Lawrence Malone in 1875, long after Jameson had died.
In something almost out of a Jameson commercial, here is how the Illustrated London News described the event:
Crowds of people assembled, and took off their hats and boots to collect the whisky, which ran in streams along the streets. Four persons have died in the hospital from the effects of drinking the whisky, which was burning hot as it flowed. Two corn-porters, named Healy and M'Nulty, were found in a lane off Cork-street, lying insensible, with their boots off, which they had evidently used to collect the liquor.
'Hurricane' is set during the Great Storm of 1780 and displays the lengths Dubliners will go to for the Jameson whiskey.
That's not to say that Ireland doesn't get hit with hurricanes, the most famous of which happened shortly after Jameson's death in 1823.
On January 5, 1839, Night of the Big Wind was the most severe windstorm to hit Ireland in recent centuries, killing between 250 and 300 people. As Irish folklore had said that Judgement Day would occur at a date close soon after the storm, many believed that it was signaling the end of the world.
In this ad, John Jameson rescues a barrel of whiskey, the mason's daughter, and a whole town from the Hawk of Achill.
The Hawk of Achill is actually a part of Celtic folklore.
The hawk lives on an island (Achill) and is thought to be one of the oldest creatures in the world. It was supposed to have lived for thousands of years, and could remember the remote past.
In the commercial, Jameson rescues the daughter of a mason. An older woman with a similar look appears in 'The Lost Barrel.' We can infer that this is meant to be Jameson's wife.
But according to marriage records found by Jameson descendants, Jameson's wife--Margaret Haig Jameson--was the daughter of a tobacconist. She was also a sister of the Haig brothers, who owned a the Haig distilleries, and relation of the Steins who also owned distilleries in Dublin.
And it wasn't just because he made triple-distilled whiskey. According to the brand, the distiller would go to the same lengths for his staff as he would for his precious whiskey.
Jameson's distillery paid well, had good working conditions, and had a boss who could throw a great party. It is said that he got his nickname -- Glorious John -- from the glorious parties he used to have.
Jameson was born in Scotland - Alloa to be exact - on October 5, 1740 and was a lawyer there until he moved to Dublin in 1780. Maybe that's why he never talks in the ads. Wouldn't want to give it away with his Scottish brogue.
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