Punishment Book at Jameson Distillery – Midleton, Ireland - Gastro Obscura
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Midleton, Ireland

Punishment Book at Jameson Distillery

The whiskey producer's archives includes a historical list of infractions committed by and associated penalties exacted upon employees.  

At the Jameson Irish whiskey distillery in Midleton, Ireland, archivist Carol Quinn shows visitors the “Punishment Book,” a listing of employee infractions (such as smoking) and associated penalties (usually withdrawal of the daily liquor ration). In times past, employees at Jameson’s Distillery were given a shot of whiskey when they came to work and a shot of whiskey before they left. Breaking company policies meant losing those morning and afternoon alcohol allotments.

“During the era of the Punishment Book,” Quinn explains, “most adults smoked, and of course that was dangerous where you had so much raw whiskey maturing in oak barrels, all very flammable! Management had to be very vigilant about illicit smoking, though drinking on the job comes in a close second. But the most dangerous offense was stealing whiskey and removing it from the premises. In that instance, you aren’t just cheating the distillery, you’re cheating the Inland Revenue too, a much more serious thing, as they had the power to shut down operations if they thought whiskey was being removed without duty being paid. The main punishment was to stop your ‘grog,’ the two free glasses of Jameson each employee was entitled to every day, for a period of days or, in the worst case, a fortnight.”

In many ways, cutting off whiskey rations was a much kinder punishment than, say, docking an employee’s pay. “This is at a time when most women did not work outside the home,” Quinn explains. “The husband or father was the main breadwinner, and families depended on his wage. Cutting pay didn’t just affect the employee, it levied a punishment on the family. Stopping a person’s individual ration of free whiskey was a much more effective deterrent.”

The distribution of morning and afternoon slugs of product was also practiced at other distilleries and breweries. Such liquid perks no doubt kept employees in tune with the fruits of their labor and perhaps further motivated them to cheerfully put in a good day’s work.

Know Before You Go

Contact the distillery for tour times and related details.

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