What @WhiskeyLiveDub Means to Me #WLD17


Our Masterclass A Bonder’s Blend Deconstructed

I am ultimately a positive person, I have a few causes related to Irish Whiskey which I get riled up about. But I would classify any ranting about them as an effort at positive disruption. Such is the rise of our category that behemoth ‘Whisky’ Magazine has launched their Icons of Whiskey Awards for the Irish Category specifically.  We were shortlisted as Brand Innovator of the Year for those awards, alongside, Hyde Whiskey, Pernod Ricard, Grants, Disaronno/Walsh and Teeling. It was great to make the shortlist but I knew from the get-go we did not have a hope in Hades of a gong. The Icon awards nominations are voted on by the Editorial Team at Whisky Magazine so getting to the shortlist is a good affirmation. The awards are then put to a public vote online.   I was very pleased to make the shortlist as it was some nice recognition but winning I knew was not possible. If you are an Irish Whiskey Company selling 500,000 or 3 million cases per Annum, securing a lot of votes is fairly systematic, you simply have your distributors, customers and social media vote for you globally. If you are an indie company with 500-10,000 cases per Annum you of course apply the same strategy but the odds are stacked against you.

I’m not complaining here, just observing that the way those awards are structured will ensure that it may be a while until an Indie breaks through in a category really. Such is life.  I went to the awards to say hello to everyone and it was a lovely little affair and a nice kick off to Whiskey Live. I was desperate to head to the AMAZING 16-61 bar after, but my husband joined me in Dublin and we had not seen each other in a week, so I was responsible and we had a lovely dinner together instead and I got a good night’s sleep.


Whiskey Talk

It was off to Dublin Castle Bright and Early for me to set up Stand 2 for Whiskey Live. I transported pretty much our entire back office wall to the show. I did not go bananas on a stand or merchandising. I just wanted to give people a low key feel for what we are up to and get Liquid on Lips as they say. In tow with me was Aibie my Mentoree from our See It Be It program. Aibie is now studying events management at University so this was some great experience for her and I love watching her grow professionally.

I have in reality nothing but good feelings about the state of the spirit (with the occasionally outrage)  just now and this is mostly because of my fellow Indies. There is a really great crew of us Indie Spirit Producers who are just now hitting the market. We have all been beavering away for 2 or 3 years getting product ready to go and we have just now all launched together. We understand each others issues and struggles in a way that nobody else does.

The IWA Mentorship program is a nice  initiative  but when you need a second-hand 4 Head F12 bottle  Filler that does 500 bottles a day I can assure you that program won’t help. When you are having a problem figuring out your EMCS on the Revenue system or need to understand how to acquire a bond or you need a affordable glass producer recommendation who you gonna call? Another Indie producer that’s who. These issues are not 50,000 feet issues they are day to day things that we deal with all the time. Many of us are still tiny organisations with 2 or three people and the struggle is real as they say, but the struggle is also a hell of a lot of fun.

I feel like we have the beginnings of a proper ‘Crew’ now, we’ll be seeing a lot of each other at trade events and the like and most importantly collaborating on various projects and sharing PRACTICAL information with each other.  There is a good atmosphere building and that was evident at WhiskeyLive. We flitted around to each others stands, tasted each others products and had the chat.

It was also great to meet so many people at the show who follow this blog and to finally share The Gael with them.  I can’t tell you all how much I appreciated your kind words of support and encouragement for what I’m trying to do here. My job is to make good whiskey and ultimately to contribute positively to the evolution of this category. It is whiskey fans who will judge whether or not I do this so I really appreciate that many of you stopped by to tell me that you do. I hosted a seminar at WhiskeyLive where we deconstructed the blend of the Gael and tasted its components and there were many familiar faces in attendance there too. We’ve only been live now for 2 months really but I feel the JJ CORRY family is expanding. The Gael is showing well and I’m really proud of our first expression. Thank you all for following my story so far. Along the way your words of encouragement have really helped me.

It is great that we have our very own Whiskey Live now, (Thanks Ally and the Team)  it is even better that the Indie Exhibitors will soon outnumber the Multinationals. Innovative and Independent market fragmentation is what is going to really push Irish Whiskey into the stratosphere in the long term. It will force and indeed already has forced multinationals to innovate. Method & Madness would never have happened if it was not for groundswell pressure from the Indie newcomers whether in the Irish Category or not. The Irish Indie Spirit scene has not yet fully come of age but by God is is exciting. There is quite the gang of characters involved and I expect great things. WhiskeyLive 2025 will be a Helluva show…….

NOT Caught in the Tartan Trap: Why Irish Whiskey is Poised To Fly Even Higher Than Scotch (IMHO)

Gold Medal Blended 60 or more

Still Buzzing Over This!

Alrighty folks!  There is a lot going on here at Chapel Gate Towers. Our first release The Gael is doing really well and getting great feedback since it won its Gold Medal in the Irish Whiskey Awards. We are smashing it now in Germany and we are gearing up for a very exciting U.S. launch. Blaise is over in the U.S.A. embedding with our importer orders are coming in and we are go-go-go for launch. I’m putting in planning for our Blending and bottling facility next week and working on some very, very exciting collaborations for 2018. We are firing on all cylinders now and are just out  of the gate and actually trading! Its been two long hard years and the crazy thing is that the work is only now beginning.

I did have some disturbing news recently due to a notification received a week or two ago. It has woken me pretty consistently now every night at 3AM and taken up a lot of my time mentally and practically. I’m hoping I can find a good solution for it, but I am really saddened by what it means in the context of our category and the burgeoning camaraderie within it. That is a post for another time or maybe never, I need to see if I can find a solution and make the issue right my end or fundamentally work toward changing it for the good of the category.


Sorry Can you Speak Up? I can’t hear you over the Tartan

It is that very category that I want to talk about. I realised something about it last weekend. I was with our German distributor at a Whiskey Festival in Bavaria. We were sampling The Gael to hard core whiskey fans, the kind of people who pay good money to go to a Whiskey festival for an entire day and just revel in the stories and the flavours. The kind of people it is a pleasure to meet, because they don’t pull punches, if your whiskey is bad or good they will tell you to your face. These kind of people are very important to me, they allow me to understand how we are doing in terms of our quality and that level of in-depth and highly educated consumer feedback is invaluable as we develop our product line.  Our German partner specialises exclusively in Irish Whiskey and some other Irish spirits. The festival, as many whiskey festivals are, was very heavily Scotch dominated. By that I mean there were probably close to 1500 Scotch variants on offer by the various vendors and distributors but there were only about 15-20 Irish.


There Can Be Only One

The entire event venue was covered in Tartan of various kinds, in addition to a bit of heather here and there. There were quite a few attendees sporting full Highland regalia, sporrans, Kilts, and those long white socks included. Some ladies were proudly wearing various clan tartans. Remember we were in Bavaria….It all felt very Braveheart both in terms of imagery and iconography and I suppose that is sort of the point for Scotch.

They cemented this sort of Highland oldie worldie imagery back in the 70’s and they have been pretty consistent with it since. They have organisations that celebrate it like the Keepers of the Quaich and I remember spending many a fun evening at the former Diageo owned Drummiur Castle, a mecca for whiskey lovers, where we all ate haggis and wore, you guessed it, tartan for dinner. It is powerful imagery for sure and it is single minded, but you know what? I am glad that we in the Irish Category are not tied to the Irish version of that. New  and old Scotch producers are trying to wrestle free from that platform, but their older skewing consumers are hanging on to it. I did not see anyone under 35 in a kilt at that whiskey weekend in Bavaria, but I did see a LOT of people under 35 exploring and enjoying whiskey on their own terms.


And I would Walk 500 Miles!!!

This is why I think as a re-awakening category we have an advantage over Scotch. We are not tied to Miserable Mother Ireland imagery when it comes to Whiskey and nor should we try to place ourselves there. Most of the new guard are forging their own paths in their own way focusing on provenance yes, because it matters, but doing it in a way that is not pastiche or, well, Diddildy I Di.. We are fortunate the Technical File has allowances for some kinds of innovative thinking, I’ve heard tell of IStills being used here for example, a pretty amazing piece of kit and very progressive in its thinking. It is more difficult in Scotland.  Innovation, beyond new cask finishes, is going to be a big part of Irish Whiskey as the category grows. Our positioning will evolve over time and I have every confidence it won’t for the most part manifest itself in leprechauns and lucky charms.


Oh Danny Boy, the Pipes, The Pipes

The Whiskey category has changed, its consumers have changed and here in Ireland we are re-emerging at just the right time to embrace that change and grow exponentially as a result. Its super exciting times in the Irish category and its future.  The internet and the availability and desire for instant product information allows consumers to be a part of the discussion around how our category is shaped. We should embrace that as a category its inevitable and its the right thing to do.

Scotch will probably spend the next few years trying to fight its way out of a tartan box and that means more market share for us to take.   We just need to be true to our modern selves and be reactive rather than dictative  to what this evolving market wants and we’ll be poised to do even better than predicted.

Onwards and upwards folks, onwards and upwards! Its such a privilege to be part of this category right now and so exciting to see it evolve. Great things are afoot and ahead.