New Indie Irish Spirits Producers You Should Know About

I wrote last week about the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers Convention, WSWA in Orlando. We won an award there, but we were not the only Irish producer to do so. There were quite a few of us there in force under the Bord Bia umbrella. Here is a shout-out to all the lovely Indie Spirit Producers I met that you need to know about.


Mor-GinMor Irish Gin: The guys at MOR are doing really well, they are millennials with design backgrounds,  cool haircuts and beards. All of which which is a pretty distinct advantage in today’s marketplace.  Really lovely guys, they kicked ass and won a DOUBLE GOLD medal for their gin and had lots of people seeking them out. The gin is great has a lovely pack and backstory They are based out of Tullamore. One to watch.

blog000Old Carrick Mill Distillery: It was my first time meeting Steven, who has a spectacular Monaghan accent. He is up and running and distilling in his Old Mill, so my hat goes off to him in a very big way, it is not easy to get to that point. He is a proper full on small batch producer with a 500 Liter still. His old mill sounds like a magical place. It is ancient, like Flight of the Earls ancient, the water wheel is still in there and he told me that recently he knocked a hole in the wall and discovered a malting floor he did not even know was there…..I mean COME ON!! That is amazing.  He has big tourism plans but like all of us he has to plug the funding gap, he will,  that Mill deserves to shine again. His gin is great and it also won a medal at WSWA, juniper forward and really well balanced with local botanicals.

blog88Black Twist: Conor from Black Twist as something special on his hands. If you are into coffee and/or travel quite a bit you’ll know all about Cold Brew coffee. It is basically the biggest beverage trend along with Kombucha in the U.S.A. Starbucks even serve it now, so that means its a big deal. Conor has created a cold brew coffee with a kick. Its a blend of delicious gourmet coffee with Irish whiskey. Let me make clear, it is not a liqueur in that its not at all sweet. The quality of the single origin coffee he uses is excellent, and its a really delicious drink. I’m a big fan of this concept, it ticks a lot of boxes for me. I’ll be serving this over ice to people who come to the house.

Irish Whiskey: There were five Irish Whiskies on the Bord Bia stand. I heard that West Cork and The Quiet Man were there, but I did not get to meet them. So here is who was on the stand.

RQeEsdEhClonakilty Distillery: Micheal from Clonakilty is a clever guy, he is building a great team around him and they are already building their distillery. When they are finished they will have an amazing visitor centre, distillery and a retail/restaurant/bar operation. Basically the full Monty. Their bottle is really nice, and had I seen it myself I would have picked it. Their branding is looking really great and the whiskey is tasting excellent too, I can vouch for that as the lads were very generous with it at the end of every day.

blog3Gortinore Distillery: In my opinion out of all of us Gortinore have the best ‘craft’ forward pack and concept. Planning is granted on their distillery in Kilmacthomas in another historic old mill. Their first release Natterjack is out soon, its named after a toad and proudly displays said toad on the label, its cool. Aidan went to the US to learn about distilling from some of the industries best and I have softspot for this brand, its innovative and different.

blog989.jpgIrish American: An old Diageo buddy of mine is working on this brand, they won a DOUBLE GOLD at the show which is great, so the whiskey has great accolades. They have been up and running for a few years now and are making great inroads in the U.S. market. I did int see much of these guys hence the short note.


The-Dubliner-WhiskeyDubliner Irish Whiskey; These guys are not actually indies they are owned by Quintessential Brands, but they were on the stand with us. They started off as Indie producers but were snapped up about a year ago and became the first Indie to exit the market. I figured I’d give them a shoutout, as they were lovely guys and we shared quite a bit of their whiskey together. Interestingly they have moved into flavoured whiskey which is a big category in the U.S.


Picture: Miki BarlokSt. Patricks Cyril Briscoe is one of the Irish Whiskey Industries hardest workers as far as I can ascertain. He is the master of Shannon Airport I think, as either he or one of his guys is there sampling every time I fly out of there. They were at WSWA with their full range and they are making good inroads internationally. They had a moonshine with them which I thought was cool. Also a key point of differentiation for them on their vodka and gin is that they are made out of Potato.

Irish Cream

blog5Irish Cream is a big deal in the U.S.A. Some of my fave people that I met at WSWA were Brian and Carla from An Sean Teach They made their way through the Super Valu Food Academy program, which has helped a lot of people get off their ground. They are kicking ass and taking names over in the South African market by the sounds of it, and are all round lovely people. They have a few additional products coming through I think and their Irish Cream is great.

blog7Kalak Vodka: This is one you need to go and purchase, it is a Single Malt vodka and has the most unique taste profile. Patrick is an industry veteran having spent years with Moet Hennessy, and it shows. This is a luxury vodka, it tastes like a luxury vodka and it looks like a luxury vodka. He also tasted me on his next upcoming release, which is secret, but I can tell you its going to blow peoples minds and perceptions of what a vodka should be.

All of these guys are heroes as far as I am concerned. Out of all of us only ONE mentioned above has had any backing from Enterprise Ireland. NOBODY has secured backing from Bord Failte. Anyone who is hoping to sell their own alcohol to consumers from their distillery is having to purchase a €90,000 publican/off license. Everyone is trying to figure out how to secure a bond with no help from anyone. We pay the same duty on our spirits that Pernod, Diageo and Beam global do, there is no relief for small producers. The craft drinks bill is crawling along with serious lobbying opposition from vested interest groups hampering its progress. I will bet you $50 it won’t get passed.

Yet there we all were, in spite of all those barriers to entry,  in Orlando, telling our stories and making it happen. Indie Spirit Producers deserve support and they deserve your dollars or euros, go and buy these products if you see them, they were all made with Heart by hardworking people who most likely don’t even have a salary.

Let me finally just reiterate what a great job Bord Bia are doing for Indie Irish Spirit producers. They provide free, a-political, support and advice for businesses like mine. Their Thinking House resource is invaluable and their forward looking commercially minded approach in supporting small beverage producers is exactly what we need. They totally get it, they realise what is really important to us at this stage of our development are distribution & commercial opportunities. The whiskey or spirits business lives and dies on distribution. Large multinationals don’t have to worry  about that. For us indie guys its the ONLY thing that matters. Bord Bia get that and they create opportunities for us with that in mind.

There was real power in all of us being on one Bord Bia stand, if anyone was looking for Irish Anything they just headed to us. I loved meeting everyone and we’ll be seeing each other a lot at trade shows and the like. There is a good sense of camaraderie and everyone seems to feel that Collaborative Competition is the way forward. We are quite simply put stronger together when it comes to stuff like this. The big Corporates can battle it out against each other, for the extra 50,000 cases we’ll be over here plugging away and making inroads together.

The future is bright and the future is Indie.



I’d Rather Be Someone’s Shot of Whiskey Than Everyone’s Cup of Tea



That Blonde Bitch Right there is Made Out of Titanium

Unless you are a subscriber to this blog, you won’t have seen my last post.  It was deleted about 30 minutes after I posted it.

It contained weeping and there was self pity on a grand scale, so after  going for a short walk I deleted it. I’d been very rattled by some unfounded gossipy Irish Whiskey Industry stuff that had been going around involving me. It sort of made clear what the perception of the Old Guard is of my openness and transparency and it didn’t paint a pretty picture. I got wind of it in a bit of a shocking way at a critical moment when I was prepping to present my brand to the whole conference I was attending. The Wine & Spirit Wholesaler Convention (WSWA) is basically one of the most important dates of the year in  the U.S.A. drinks industry. After three years of work and a competitive pitch process I had been selected to present my brand the next day as part of ‘Brand Battle’  in front of the entire conference in Orlando and a panel of  judges. A huge opportunity. The Gossipy email landed in my inbox when I was sitting in my Airbnb prepping my presentation, it floored me. It made me realise that  I operate with an authenticity that some people find impossible to take at face value, this includes quite a few insiders in the Irish Whiskey Industry.

I’ll delve into that on another blog post sometime when it’s less raw and I can contextualise it. Thanks to all of you who wrote me notes of encouragement, it meant a huge amount.

In spite of all that, I EFFING NAILED my presentation at Brand Battle. I had 5 minutes to speak, no props, no power point in front of the whole conference audience of a few hundred.  Then I had to take 10 minutes of Dragons Den/Shark Tank style questions from the 8 judges. I owned it and got some great feedback, the judges were the owners of some of the biggest wholesalers in the USA.

Voting was done by App in the audience and I think we lost out of first place by 5 or 10 points. But I was pretty frickin happy anyway.  We lost out to Bedlam Vodka who are an American Rice Vodka with an Irish Distilling Heritage backstory… A cool lifestyle brand with more volume potential than us, which I think swung it for them. We received 2nd place,  a lovely trophy and a cheque and some kick-ass feedback on our proposition.

Most importantly for my business there are lots of leads coming through now on distribution as a result. My route to market for the difficult U.S.A. is pretty much set what with this and the other work I’ve been doing around the conference.

I will be launching our first sourced blend THE GAEL in the USA by September this year, just as I always planned.

But even better on a personal level it reminded me that I can do this, no matter how much flack I have to take or avoid.  I am basically made of TITANIUM when it comes to my business, TITANIUM. I am making this business happen and I’m doing it whilst being true to myself, and whilst championing transparency within the category in a fair and non-biased fashion.  I don’t know any other way to do it, so I will continue to do it this way.

A lot of other cool stuff happened  at WSWA. In particular there was a Great Irish Indie Spirit Producer turnout. I’m going to write about that in my next post. All the guys who were  on the Bord Bia stand with me are busting their butts like I am to make their dreams a reality. There is a lovely sense of camaraderie growing among us Irish Independent Spirit Producers. Hmmmm there is a nice ring to that isn’t there? The I.I.S.P. For more fun stuff, you can see my interview on conference TV….at  the WSWA here.





Ireland’s Oldest Family Run Distillery?


Actual Photo of Ireland’s Oldest Family Run Distillery 

A big part of my job is understanding what is going on in the marketplace. That means spending a lot of time in alcohol shops and bars, not drinking or buying but talking and learning. Who is on the shelf? What the the price point? What does the salesman or bartender have to say about it. I’m in New York this week, an important market for me or anyone in Irish Whiskey. I popped into a high end shop as a consumer not a whiskey maker and asked about their Irish Whiskey selection. The owner of the shop  pointed me to a bottle pulled it off the shelf and explained enthusiastically that it is made by Ireland’s oldest family owned distillery. It wasn’t.

By my calculation, Ireland’s “Oldest Family Owned Distillery” is Teeling. They have been distilling since 2015, so they are 2 years old. This was NOT  a Teeling bottle, so he was technically wrong but also wrong in principal.

None of the family owned distilleries in Ireland have been distilling for more than 24 months. So claiming that any of them is THE OLDEST is redundant.

I pointed out that as far as I knew that particular distillery was less than a year old and yes it is a great whiskey (and it is) absolutely but the stock in the bottle was sourced. He was shocked, because he does not want to lie to his customers, he was not making this up, this is the Alternative Fact he had been fed by the distributor.  He ran over to his computer pulled up the brand information and there it was in black and white, a fable about an ancient family distillery written by the distributor to help sales.

The distributor rep that had sold him the bottle had given him a wonderful story, when he did not even need to. The bottle I was looking at is a great award winning whiskey and the producers behind it in Ireland are great people and DO NOT attempt to put themselves forward as ancient family distillers. I honestly don’t think they would like their brand being misrepresented in that way. I know I would be LIVID.

I called it out not because I want to disparage another brand, as I said its a great whiskey. But because I feel really protective of the Irish Whiskey Category. I could not help myself. Misinformation as we know in this day and age is dangerous when it proliferates. Fake news and stories made up won’t last forever. If a consumer is sold that bottle they will go home and GOOGLE the distillery and in 30 seconds realise they have been sold a lie. That will taint the category for them for a while or forever. They just blew $50 on a lie. Do you think after that google session the consumer is going back to that shop for another recommendation? Nope. So the category looses a consumer, the shop looses a customer and the distributor sells less of that product. Its a Loose Loose Loose.

The problem lies with the USA three tier system. You can’t sell direct to anyone here you have to go through layers of sales. So as an Irish supplier it is SOOOOO easy for your story to get enhanced, misunderstood or miscommunicated about as the layers of salespeople get further away from your brand. The guys pounding the streets may never even have tasted your whiskey and are being fed marketing materials which are not exactly the ones you have put out there yourself. Kind of like a Chinese Whispers situation.

The shop owner thanked me, he was a bit flustered about it, this was a High End wine and spirits shop who prides itself on educating customers, so he was not happy.   If I ever hear us described as Ireland’s Oldest Female Owned Whiskey Bonder  I will go postal. We started bonding on Dec. 1st 2016. I’m putting it here so people can google it.

If You Want to Start an Irish Whiskey Company, Read This.


Be Aware too You Will Have to Pose for Shots like this for the Media occasionally….I mean who ACTUALLY looks at whiskey like that? 

I’m in the USA this week and about 4 months out from the USA launch of our first sourced blend “The Gael.”  It has taken 3 years of work (not even building a distillery) to get to this point. I’m at the American Distilling Institute Conference this week which is, basically the best spirit producer trade show on the planet.  I got up this morning at 5.30AM EST to sort out some label printing issues going on back in sunny Ireland, then I took care of some invoicing and got ready to leave. At 7.30AM  I left my AirBNB and walked down Federal Hill here in lovely Baltimore to the Convention Centre and joined a “Nosing for Faults” 4 hour seminar. Before me lay 27 spirits, all with varying degrees of problems from how their grain was stored all the way up to issues in proofing and the corks on the bottle. We nosed and in some cases tasted all these an identified the offending compound and its cause.

I skipped lunch and hit the trade show floor to talk to various Cooperages, Bottling Line Suppliers, and my Cork Supplier. I had a meeting with our importer and a potential marketing and sales partner. I spent the rest of the day in seminars around the subject of Beverage law, Distributor contract negotiations and franchise states. At some point during the day I spoke to the Irish Times and at another I told my husband to cancel the weekend away he had booked for us because I can’t fit it into my schedule. I won’t be seeing him for about 5 weeks or so as I am away on #WhiskeyBusiness and he was not pleased.

Unfortunately, for both of us right now,  I cannot entertain anything anything that is not Whiskey related until such a time as we have whiskey in bottle and bottles on the shelf here in the USA in particular.  There is nothing else that matters for me right now and there just cannot be.  I have to get our introduction to market right.

The USA is the only market that really matters right now for the Irish Whiskey category and the sea changes that have happened here in recent years have made it even more difficult to play. Distributor consolidation has crashed headlong  into ‘craft’ producer proliferation  and acquiring shelf and back bar space is akin to going to war. Craft has no meaning here anymore. Remember that because that is whats going to happen everywhere else including Ireland quite soon. Rather ‘Independent’ or Local is where its at right now. There are 1200 distilleries here predicted to rise to 5000 within 3 years. Currently they have 2% market share which is predicted to rise to 70%!!! over the next 15-20 years time. That makes for one insanely fragmented and crowded market.

So what do I have that can make me stand out and win those spaces? I have great tasting and excellent quality liquid, I have a real and authentic story in J.J. Corry, I am the World’s only Irish Whiskey Bonder, I am going to put boots on the ground to sell and support. So What?  Everyone else has all that kind of stuff too and most of them are not ONE WOMAN running the show out of a converted cowshed in West Clare on the Wild Atlantic Way.  They have way deeper pockets.

Whiskey is a tough game, the time it takes to get product ready to go, the capital needed to get it to market and the laser focus you need to make it happen should not be underestimated. The depth of scientific knowledge needed to produce a great product is bananas. To be a real player, you have to slay in the USA and that is not easy, its an insane market. If you don’t know what a Franchise State is compared to a Control State you should not be in the game.

So, if you’d like to join the ever growing group of Irish Whiskey Makers hitting the market you’ll need to say a heartfelt Goodbye to your family and friends for a while, accept that your dreams will only be about whiskey production or commercial strategy from now on and understand that construction work on your production site will never, ever, ever end, even if you are only Bonding whiskey…

That said if you are thinking of getting into the game, CALL ME. I’m happy to share the trials and tribulations and give free advice to anyone who wants to make this wonderful leap into the unknown along with many of the rest of us.  There is a reason that us smaller Spirit producers do what we do. Do I want to spend my mornings sniffing tainted spirit Hell No. Do I need to do that to ensure I don’t produce a sub standard whiskey that I can be proud of Hell Yes.

If you love what you do, its not work and if you want to be a whiskey maker you must first and foremost love the idea and then the practice of being a whiskey maker.  If you want to be a Money Maker, look elsewhere…..I hear property is booming again these days…..