I’m Applying for a Bog License From 1840 Why? No #CraftDrinksBill Yet

Peat cutting

Me in the Bog in the 1800’s

Last week we got our Bonder’s license, the first on the Island in about 50 years. We have reopened the once prevalent bonding trade here in Ireland, great stuff.  In the throes of that I actually didn’t notice the Craft Drinks Bill until I read this post from Peter Mulryan at Blackwater Distillery. This is a bill that would allow small drinks companies like mine to sell to tourists who visit our facility, amongst other things. I climbed on the band wagon, and started shouting and lobbying. Here is why.

I am (very depressingly)  really familiar with a piece of Irish Legislation which was written in the 1840’s The Intoxicating Liquor Act. It is an act that has been half arsed amended a few times. This was written kind of just before THE FAMINE and before the Irish Whiskey Industry began its cataclysmic decline. It still rules how all of us new entrants into the resurgent Irish Whiskey category do business today and it is woefully out of date.

This is why it still has a provision in there for a BOG LICENSE.  This is a license to sell Liquor at retail IN A BOG. The cost of a bog license is 500 euros as opposed to 57,000 or 80,000 euros when compared to a publicans or an off-license.  The latter two are normally what you are required to get should you wish tourists to taste or buy your whiskey on your premises. As you can imagine, the former is appealing to me.

I am opening to tourists on a small scale next Summer and I want to be able to actually GIVE THEM A TASTE OR SELL THEM A BOTTLE after they have toured our whiskey maturation facility, heard all about our story and plans and spent a good hour here. it is my intention to only take small groups of 12 or so at a time. It would take me 5 or 10 summer seasons to recoup 57,000-80,000 euros. County Clare tourism is totally seasonal and lasts for 3 months a year. Not good business sense to throw working capital away like that on a license and not something I intend to waste a lot of time trying to convince my investors about….

So, I am applying for a bog license which is still a valid piece of licensing here in Ireland. I started the process a few weeks ago before the Craft Drinks Bill came into being. We have a bog on site, I figure I will just put my retail outlet down there and sell directly to my visitors from there.


What is a bog license??? Well, I have enquired and none have been issued in living memory but I know this much, it dates from pre-famine days when this country had a much larger population. Certainly here in County Clare, when turf cutting season came around everyone decamped to the bog pretty regularly in the summer to cut and tend to turf (peat if you are American) Turf is used as fuel to this day here. Even in my own youth I spent many the day in the Bog.  People would usually go to the bog when main work was done and in the summer months it is light here late into the evening like until 11pm, so the pubs would be empty. So, local publicans would sometimes set up in the bog to ensure everyone was well libated and the brought the mountain to Mohammod so to speak.

A Bog license is still a totally valid license, it is on the Revenue Commission Website and I intend to pursue it ALL THE WAY TO THE END. Or perhaps, just perhaps….the Craft Drinks Bill could actually be pushed through the Dail and amend this particular law from the 1840’s allowing small businesses like mine to sell alcohol to enthusiastic whiskey lovers who take the time and effort to visit us during their vacation to Ireland. I have now been to see my local TD Pat Breen and made clear I would like the bill to be passed as it would create jobs here in County Clare on my family farm and on the three other craft distilleries and breweries planned or in operation in the county.

If the Government opposes the bill, I will drive on with acquiring the bog license because after all its still 1840 in some quarters right????? Please join me in Lobbying your local TD or mine . We need this BIll.

And Just Like That! We Are Bonding Whiskey



Delivery Ma’am

A few years ago I was sitting on the 20th floor of an office building in Singapore. I’d just got off 36 hour flight after a 3 week business trip. I’d been busting my backside on my global drinks career for almost 20 years. I was exhausted and trying to concentrate in disbelief on the bollocking someone was trying to give me over an issue which was purely political. My entire job they were explaining was not about actually doing my job, but ensuring I was being seen to do it in a particular way that made everyone around me look a certain way.  I looked out the window at the Singapore skyline and decided that I’d had enough. I took a few days off, went to a desert Island in South East Asia and as I sat on the beach I wrote a business plan for an Irish Whiskey Company, like literally on the beach with my laptop on my knees and the occasional fruity drink and cold beer thrown in. I left that company within 4 months of writing that plan.

That was then and this is now.  I’m sitting here in a converted cowshed on our family farm on the West Coast of Ireland. This morning I accepted a small delivery of mature Irish Whiskey into our licensed bonded purpose built whiskey Rackhouse. In so doing, I became the first licensed whiskey company in County Clare since the late 1840’s . I also became the first old school Irish Whiskey Bonder on the Island in 50 years. I have resurrected the lost art of Whiskey Bonding just as I set out to do, I’m the first all over again but I won’t be the last this time round. This resurrected business model is one of many different models driving the Renaissance of Irish Whiskey. I am SO proud to be a part of that Renaissance and I hope to contribute to this wonderful spirits reputation and renown globally, but also to break a few rules, make some new ones and push the boat out on innovation whist striving to be the poster child for TRANSPARENCY in our growing industry.


The First Bonded Whiskey On The Island In over 50 Years

I am kind of having a bit of an OH SH!T  moment…Now the whiskey is here and our major delivery of new fill is arriving next week What Next? I spent two years trawling through licensing to get to this point and spent so long bogged down in it I thought I’d never see the end. Well I’m out the other side now. My focus needs to shift to building a team, servicing and opening our export markets, ensuring a qualitative portfolio line up and everything else that comes with creating a whiskey brand. God knows I’ve enjoyed the ride so far I thought today was the end of something but I quickly realised as I sat there alone in the rackhouse taking in the aroma of our barrels that is is only the beginning.      BRING  IT     ON.


A Note on Today’s Advertorial for Pernod Ricard in the Irish Independent



Irish whiskey circles are abuzz this morning with what I can only describe as OUTRAGE. Today a 31 page glossy magazine which billed itself as “The Magazine Celebrating the Renaissance of Irish Whiskey Around The World” was published in the Irish Independent Ireland’s leading daily paper. As someone who has worked on the multinational brand side I can 100% clarify for you that this is an advertorial. An advertorial  looks like independent content, its more engaging than a print ad and thus more believable to a consumer. It looks like journalism but is in fact advertising.

Legally, in my experience, you are supposed to indicate that it is an advertorial by saying so at the top of the page  so that consumers understand it is paid for content, not actual journalism. Today’s 31 page supplement has 28 in which Pernod Ricard brands are prominently profiled, mentioned  or featured.

True a small Pernod/ IDL logo is on the front but the magazine presents itself as an independent authoritative voice on the Renaissance of Irish Whiskey globally, it was heavily promoted on the media in the run up to publication. There were a total of 2 independent distilleries featured by way of ‘balance.’ TWO out of a potential 30 odd. Let me ask you is that fair coverage? Let me tell you, no it is not. The supplement does not reflect what is really going on in the Irish Whiskey industry. It does not reflect the innovation and craft led small businesses that are poised to fundamentally change and grow the Irish Whiskey industry in the future.

Here are the Headlines of the articles and an analysis of their content.  Where a Pernod brand is not named in the headline I’ve tried to find other non-Pernod brand. I have found 3 other brands in total mentioned in the 31 page ‘Magazine.’

EDITORS NOTE: Thanks IDL for ‘supporting’ lists 4 Pernod brands, does not directly indicate its paid for content.

POISED FOR GROWTH: Slane & Connaught Distillery (This is pretty much it….)







CREATIVE COCKTAIL- Only featuring Pernod Brands-2 Pages

RAISING THE BAR-19 Mentions of Pernod Ricard Brands 3 Mentions of Dingle Distillery-2 Pages

MATHES MADE IN HEAVEN (Jameson food pairing) 1 Page

CENTER OF ATTENTION: 6 Mentions of Pernod brands no other brands mentioned -1 Page

SPOILT FOR CHOICE- Features Billy Leighton Master Blender, 5 mentions of Pernod brands, no other brands mentioned-1 Page

STYLES OF IRISH WHISKEY: 6 Pernod Brands highlighted, no other brands.

FRONT COVER, INSIDE COVER, OUTSIDE BACK COVER, INSIDE BACK COVER. -Actual advertising for Pernod brands-no other brands advertised, which is surprising for a ‘supplement.’

Let’s remember that most consumers are not aware that Pernod control all the above brands, they are just independent brands in the eyes of most consumers so most people will read this as a balanced view of the state of the Irish Whiskey Industry. What I don’t like about this,  and I am starting to find sinister, is that it seems that Pernod is increasingly trying to control the narrative around Irish Whiskey and seem to be leaning towards Pot Still as their future focus, convincing consumers its the only style that really matters…..

I’ve lodged a complaint with the Irish Press Council and I understand that pressure is being put on the IWA to respond. Let’s see if they do….. In summary, NOT COOL The Irish Independent, NOT COOL.

This renaissance is all of ours, not just the former monopolists.

Jack of All Trades

This week we have a guest blog from my alter ego Debbie Downer. Take it away Debbie:


Thats Me Up There Doing a Little Wiring

The clocks have just gone back here on the West Coast of Ireland and the dreaded long wintery malaise which will last until what feels to be next June has arrived. It’s been a slog the last few weeks if I am honest, being a solo entrepreneur has its upside but Christ sometimes I wish I could palm a few things off to someone else. I mean what if you had a pressing concrete emergency? Would you know who to call in a pinch? I would. Do you know what a 3 X 2.5 SWA clean line circuit is?  How about a poly-poly multicore line and the difference between a 1.5 and 5 cap? No?  Well I do, at least I do now because I must, there is nobody else here to ask. I am on first name terms with the guys at the hardware store. I am honestly heading there after I write this because I know they close at 5pm.

I am very into the whole technical bit and I need to be, as it is our intention to build a distillery in the future. At the moment though I feel stuck in logistic land when I’d rather be out there in customer acquisition & whiskey blending land. I have to remind myself constantly that everything that I’m doing is getting to that point. I can’t legally get any whiskey on site until all this stuff is finished, its just that I thought it would all be finished months ago.  I’m going as fast as I can but I don’t feel that its fast enough.  My productivity level has dropped and I need to address that by motivating myself with some fun stuff.

The upside of being a solo entrepreneur is that I get to make all the calls about how I spend my time. So, I’m off to London tomorrow to meet with our packaging guys and talk POS and Brand World stuff with a view to prepping for some customer meetings in the U. S. I’ll be back here next week though for the final push regarding those 5 Cap Poly-Poly Multicores.