News broke this week that Conor McGregor is stepping out of the octagon and into the world of Irish whiskey. He has arrived, armed with his new brand of blended whiskey ‘Proper No.12’.
McGregor’s entry into the world of whiskey shouldn’t come as too much of a shock to those eagle eyed among you, as he has been touting the plans for his own whiskey brand ever since his defeat to Floyd Mayweather. Unfortunately, for this MMA star, his initial ‘Notorious’ brand plans were scuppered by O’Hara’s brewing company, who already owned the ‘Notorious’ brand name for alcoholic beverages in Europe and the US. McGregor did take this matter to court but later revealed his Proper No.12 brand after his challenge was withdrawn from the courts.
So, with new brand name in hand, Proper No. 12 was launched yesterday in the U.S. and will soon become available in Ireland. The name is not to be confused with an age statement, it is actually a reference to Conor’s Dublin 12 upbringing in the Dublin suburb of Crumlin. It was here that McGregor learned to fight, and the name of the brand pays homage to his hometown. One thing that has struck a chord with many people around the world is McGregor’s love of his fans, and this tribute to his hometown of Crumlin will likely strike a chord with many.
So, what’s actually in the bottle, I hear you ask? Well, that very question has already caused some consternation throughout the whiskey community at large. Despite some social media fever that claims the contrary, McGregor hasn’t actually followed Bono into the distillery business, yet. In-fact what he has done is partnered with the folks at Proximo spirits, parent company of the Old Bushmills Distillery, to create a 40%ABV, chill filtered, 3-year-old blend of malt and grain whiskeys, that appears to be largely targeting the North American markets.
The project itself was overseen on the Proximo side by Distilling Manager, David Elder, who helped create “close to one hundred blends” to find the right combination for the brand. Despite the Bushmills sourcing, the ownership of the brand lies solely with McGregor’s alcoholic beverage company ‘Eire Born Spirits’, although you would be forgiven for being slightly confused as Proximo have been named as the global distribution partners for the brand.
As such, it will sit in their portfolio at a very reasonable price point of approximately RRP$29.99 in the United States and RRP€35 in the Republic of Ireland (although exact pricing is proving hard to discern). This see’s the brand lie between Bushmills white label and the Sexton, Bushmills’ new non-age statement malt whiskey offering, as well placing it in the same price category as the industry leaders Jameson.
In true Notorious style, the announcement couldn’t have been a quiet affair. In-fact, in a pre-release statement McGregor came out strong, challenging industry giants, Jameson, for their top spot. While this is the typical bravado that we have come to expect from this outspoken Dublin man, he is certainly entering the market the right way to take them on.
This entire enterprise has the hallmarks of a successful industry launch strategy. He has positioned his brand in the value segment of the market, where the majority of volume sales for Irish whiskey are made. He has targeted the Jameson & Bushmills blended whiskey price points, while leveraging his personal brand as the unique selling point and he has targeted the world’s largest market for Irish whiskey with his U.S. centric recipe suggestions. The brand is truly armed for a war of attrition against the big boys.
One thing that cannot be over looked is the fact that Conor must have a massive supply agreement with Proximo to tackle the North American market so aggressively. As many of us know, Irish whiskey is in high demand and to supply a fully on U.S. market launch in the value price point requires a large amount of liquid.
The U.S. continues to be the largest market for Irish whiskey globally, which takes the lion’s share of all Irish whiskey produced annually. Last year the market grew by approximately 13% to a value of over $900million USD. So, any company with this kind of whiskey prowess would be remis to ignore the U.S.
So, U.S. McGregor fans need not fret as the brand is rumoured to officially launch after McGregor’s next fight, on October 6th, against Khabib Nurmagomedov. Examining the brand’s website we see more hallmarks of a U.S. centric drinks strategy. Most brands these days will offer consumers a range of cocktail ideas with their products to try and spark some volume sales and increased enjoyment, although the cocktails on properwhiskey.com/ might somewhat alien to even the most experimental of Irish consumer. Pickle backs and whiskey rocks rule the day in the world of Proper No.12, and they are likely to go down a treat in strong Proximo markets.
Regardless of your personal opinions on the franchise that has become, in its own right, Notorious, there is one thing that should be made very clear, it looks like he means business. McGregor is one of the most famous humans on the face of the earth. He is intrinsically tied to Ireland in the eyes of all those pop culture savvy individuals in the world. Long gone are the days when travelling the world all you would be asked about was Roy Keane, now it truly is the era of the Irish, Conor McGregor.
So, whether you like it or not, he does have the potential to become the face of modern Irish whiskey. His immense social media presence dwarfs even the largest of competitors on the Irish market and he has the power to deliver his message directly to his target market with the click of an app. He has the persona, the reputation and the vehicles for delivery, through his social media and Proximo’s routes to market. This is most certainly one to look out for.
If nothing else, I am duly intrigued. Bushmills has the capability to make some absolutely stunning whiskey, and I have faith that under the guidance of David Elder, they have produced a very palatable whiskey for the target price point. The entire operation has the appearance of immense industry experience. Whether this is being driven from Eire Born Spirits or the Proximo team, someone out there knows what they’re doing. They’ve hit the volume price point, with a primary market centric portfolio of advertising and a discerning drinks strategy.
In my own opinion, what the bottle lacks in the usual suave that one would associate with McGregor, yet let’s also remember he hasn’t targeted the premium segment of the market either. Although, I’m sure will be made up by the coming releases in the new year. This is simply my own hypothesis, but I would put money on the enterprise expanding their product offering with some beautifully packaged, aged Bushmills malt to their portfolio after the initial launch of this brand has taken hold.
One detail I have noticed is in the digitally rendered product shots, the bottle has an embossment below the label that seems to read “Smooth is Fast”, this apparently has not made the final cut as this does not appear on the finished product. Perhaps, custom bottle moulds will be introduced with this embossment after a number of case sales have been actualised.
Of course, I have not tried this product yet, but I will report back when I do. If you have been fortunate enough to snag yourself a bottle, let us know what you think, in the comments section below or on social media, on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.
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I won’t be watching the upcoming Khabib fight.
But I will be taking a keen interest in the Proper No Twelve v Jameson whiskey sales battle.
I picked up a bottle last weekend, but I’ll save it for fight night; I guess I’ll see how it stacks up against Jameson (which is 1 of my top 3 value-priced Irish whiskeys). I’m not expecting much other than a drinkable and very reasonably priced whiskey (I paid less than $20USD + tax).
We’ll be interested to hear your thoughts
Walter do you know how can I get my hand on it? I live in Finland.
Sorry Siim; I just managed to find a bottle near me at one of the chain liquor stores (Total Wine in Scottsdale, AZ, USA). They’re scarce around here from what I’ve told, but I don’t know about your country.
This is what most celebrities do when they realize that they have become a bit irrelevant. However, he has done fairly well in the whiskey business if you look at his sales.