The Mature Whiskey Supply Conundrum

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If only that was pumping 10 Year Old Malt Not New Fill….

This week is manic here at Chapel Gate Towers. Our first annual AGM is happening and I have Investors coming in from the U.S.A. and London. I’m off to GND for a chinwag with Allan A. about Pot Still no less on Thursday and on Friday I have Minister Pat Breen coming on site for a little reception for our casks along hopefully with various nice people from state bodies like Enterprise Ireland, the Local Enterprise Board and Leader. I have received no funding from any of these bodies yet. Now that we are a going concern with Whiskey in the rackhouse and a first release almost finalised I hope that will change.  We also got approved for the Bord Bia Marketing Graduate scheme. This means I’m recruiting for a Brand Ambassador for our introduction to the USA later in the year. During all of that I’m prepping endless Powerpoint presentations for our investors..

Again and again I come up against a single issue not only in our business plan but in all the research and predictions for our industry by fancy analysts. That is very specifically; the lack of supply of mature whiskey on the wholesale market. All arrows point to the fact that this lack is going to stymie growth of the ‘craft’  or ‘Independent’ part of the category in the short to medium term.

This won’t matter to the new Eur 25 Million distilleries, of which there are a few and the multinationals. However, to the smaller peeps like me its a massive deal. Andre Levy talks about this a lot and so he should, he got caught as did many when Cooley was sold and Beam Suntory cut off everyone’s supply. Micheal Collins and Slane basically died as a result and were bought by multinationals. This weeks news from Bord Bia that “the category is expected to post double the current volume figure by 2020 compared to 2015 and volumes are expected to reach 24m cases by 2030 ” is tremendous, and if you have millions of casks in reserve. However if you are desperately trying to source a consistent supply until your own stock is mature in a decade it makes for some creative business planning.

I’m working on finalising our first blend at the moment and I found myself in a conversation this week which could have been the most important one I have had since I started the business.  It revolved around the idea that we could eeeek more out of our existing stock if we put in less of X and More of Y. I stopped the conversation because it would have produced a lesser quality blend as least in my mind. We can run the numbers all we want but we are still screwed, we don’t have enough stock no matter how we slice it and there is not much more out there. My stance is, we come out the gate with something great and hold our nerve. We will have no idea how good bad or indifferent we do sales wise until we hit the market so there is no point in cutting off our nose to spite our face for the accountants sake. We need to focus on creating a great whiskey that people will enjoy and that we can be proud of. This is an approach I need to explain to my investors and its going to be a crunchy conversation as its risky. Then there is the new fill supply, there are four distilleries producing whiskey in Ireland at the moment and only two producing for the wholesale market, this is not ideal either, it sucks in terms of procurement.

I don’t have the answer to this yet. I’m taking the Entrepreneur mindset on dealing with this, I cannot plan my way out of it so I just have to produce the best quality whiskey I can and hold my nerve.

Its f%^&king scary though……


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