10,000 Hours

IMG_3822I went along this week to a day long event in London called “DrinkPreneur.” The day was a showcase of sorts for those with new products in market and those like me, who have yet to release product. There were panels throughout the day and then all the brands with product got to get up and do a 2 minute elevator pitch which was then critiqued by a panel of industry experts and investors.

I met the inspiring young women from LOVO who are in their early twenties and brought their (honestly delicious) sparkling coconut/vodka drink to market within 4 months of coming up with the idea…With no background in the drinks industry they just went for it Gung Ho and managed to launch the product successfully and have garnered a great social media following. They made lots of mistakes along the way and are even going into a Re-Pack for their next bottling round, but they don’t seem phased by any of it.

There was a phenomenal presentation by Bill Anderson who runs First Beverage Group, which is an investment fund focused on the drinks industry. Along with some good advice about what investors look for in a plan, he also gave the qualities of what he considers  makes a great”Drinkpreneur.”

  1. A Risk Taker
  2. A Creative Designer
  3. A Lover of Liquid
  4. An Anti-Corporate Impresario

This insight from an experienced investor in the space along with my meeting with the LOVO girls, really got me thinking. I’ve done my 10,000 hours of working in the drinks industry for big corporations. I know my industry, the pitfalls, the dangers and the way things are normally done and maybe that is not 100% the advantage I thought it was. The LOVO girls had a vision and they went and made it happen, in some ways they didin’t know enough to be scared of what might go wrong and for that reason they just went for it.

I’ve taken my first risk by quitting my corporate career to build this business, because I love it and I believe in it, but its not enough. Those 10,000 hours taught me how things SHOULD be done within a corporate framework, but in this new world that’s not going to be good enough. I’m going to have to quell those alarm bells that go off in my head every time I have a mad idea, believe in what I’m doing and forget much of what I’ve learned. To that end….I’ve been having some great ideas recently about collaborations which I’ve decided I’m going to act on this very week.

Sand, Sea and Searching for Barrels


Peniche on the West Coast of Portugal

Starting a business is, well, a lonely business.  I don’t miss working for huge corporations, but when I did, I was much better at ‘Switching Off’. Now that I work for myself there is no-one else to rely on, the future of this company depends on me, so every moment spent not working is guilt ridden. So, when old Diageo Buddies of mine got married last week in Portugal I decided to combine a little work and leisure travel, its known as “Bleisure” travel. I met  an old friend of mine on the East Coast of Portugal for a spot of surfing intermingled with some cask searching. In the morning we surfed, and in the quintaafternoon we hopped in the car to visit wineries and old distilleries to make connections and find some used barrels. One of the most captivating places we went to was ‘Quinta do Sanguinhal’ in Bombarral. This winery/distillery has been run by the same family for four generations. They have a phenomenal old distillery on one of their sites, once used to make brandy for the Port industry. The impressive column still built in the late 1800’s was in use right up until the 1980’s when it was replaced by more modern equipment, its a craft distillers dream, all steampunk and ingenious. The place has a great connection with county Clare where we are based. Apparently one of the owners of  Irelands largest wholesaler, based in Co. Clare, had a house nearby. He fell in love with their wine and decided to import it, as a result Ireland was one of the winery’s biggest markets for quite some time. More than anything though, I loved their approach to winemaking and their focus on family. My aim in this venture is to make great whiskey and secure a future for the family farm. I would love to imagine that someday my great granddaughter will be giving tours and telling tales of how we started the business. As wonderful as it was listening to the story of the winery and tasting the wines this was a “Bleisure” trip. I was sure to get a  good understanding of their cooperage and their barrel usage. They use mostly high quality new French Oak to age their red and fortified wines and the Portuguese grape varietals are really interesting, there are no Merlot’s or Cabernet Sauvignons here. This leads to some unique characteristics in their first and second fill barrels, which could be interesting for us. All in all a heck of a trip and between all the surfing and wine tasting, I didn’t feel guilty for one second…

We’re doing a KickStarter video with COWS!

Highlights from the KickStarter video Shoot

Highlights from the KickStarter video Shoot

If anything good came out of the global financial crisis it was the concept of the Sharing economy, the idea that goods and services can be traded or funded between peers without the intervention of big banks or corporations. Ultimately this evolved into businesses like AirBNB and crowdfunding portals kickstarter and GoFundMe. Now don’t get me wrong. I am all for the free market, and its my opinion that the Sharing Economy is an evolution of the free market rather than an answer to it. So, as we are in start-up mode I decided to turn to KickStarter in order to give our little Whiskey Company a leg up in getting our whiskey into the barrel.  I have sourced some fantastic first and second fill barrels from various distilleries and wineries, now I just need to buy them and get them to Ireland.  I called on an old buddy of mine to help out.

The Wild Atlantic Way and a Peatbog

The Wild Atlantic Way and a Peatbog

We spent the last two days driving around in my beat-up car capturing on film the things that make this little place so special. We got a lot of stunning coastal shots. We are only a mile from the coast here on the farm and you can breathe in the sea air. I’m hoping that fact will add something special to our whiskey in barrel but only time will tell. We took in a local Gaelic Football match and of course a local pub for good measure. Now the editing begins, we plan to go live in October so we have a little time. Its a challenge to get your story across in 3 minutes but a good challenge, it focuses the mind and forces me to be really succinct about what I’m doing here. I hope the passion comes across, watch this space.