An old friend of mine, Sarah-Jane McClure, who has launched various drinks brands over the years recently introduced me to her business partner, Eunan Ryan.
Together they have launched one of the most exciting Irish whiskey releases of recent times; Jack Ryan whiskey, a new to market Irish single malt so I took time out to chat to Eunan and find out about his journey to launching his own whiskey brand.
How would you describe what you do?
Our core business is developing brands across many categories, not just malt whiskey. The reasoning behind what we wanted to do is to use the heritage of the Ryan family spanning the last century or so and create something special to celebrate and share that.
How did you get into creating your own whiskey?
My background was working in the Beggar’s Bush pub here in Dublin that the family owned then I went into branding and creating my own drinks brands.
Recently it struck me that Irish whiskey has been getting increasingly more appealing with lots of investment around the country and as we have history in this category it made sense to bring it to life.
My father and grandfather actually bottled their own whiskey years ago and we had a character in Jack Ryan that actually existed so there was a foundation to build upon, and a true Dublin story that would help bring the product to life.
Incredible, so how did you go about taking the brand and liquid to market?
The whiskey was always designed to be primarily for the American market as the name resonates as very Irish.
We have had an incredible reaction on both the packaging and the liquid in the States so are working with importers now to make it all work as well as a few places in the UK.
We are putting the plan together to take it to market with a target of 4,000 to 5,000 9 litre cases a years in sales.
We are also looking to GTR also in both Dublin and Heathrow. It is expensive and you need the volume of stock to be able to justify it with other retail opportunities.
You have to have deep pockets to get it right in this market and to create something.
What are the biggest challenges you’re facing at the minute in getting your message out?
At some stage we are going to have to work with someone who gets it and can make it work 5,000 away from our base in Dublin to build a network of contacts and have the meetings.
We have no guarantees on future stock after our initial half million so we have to plan to negotiate for future stock to ensure we make this work long term. On the hunt for casks at the minute to store and age for future releases.
Are there more products in the offing?
I was offered an eight year old and a blend but I declined the blend as there is no money in it. John Teeling told me over two decades ago that ‘this business can take me down’ as it is not like any other business; you need to do it right and spend to get the name out there.
It is going to be tough but we are doing what we want to do and have a plan in place to take us there.
Must be quite a nice feeling to create your own products?
I have been involved in building alcohol brands for years, when I saw our first alcopop on shelves in Sainsbury’s it was really emotional, it is part of you, it makes you feel pride.
Unlike Dingle or some of the others that are purely aimed tourists with a view to linking the liquid to the country, you can actually come down to the pub and not only drink the stuff but see and immerse yourself in the history.
I was told ‘you don’t know what you have here’ when looking at the bar as it is a real brand home already. When the brand gets very strong we could bring in additional products including a premium blend.
Aside from your own, what would be your top three whiskies? Does it differ by occasion?
I have to be honest here, I’m not a whiskey drinker! Similar to John Teeling who does not drink at all.
That being said, the original Redbreast product is fantastic. I have a sip of it every now and then. Maybe it is because of the story behind it and how he acquired the palette of the stuff from the distillery when it closed down thirty years ago and has kept it ever since.
Find out more about the Jack Ryan whiskey here: Welcome to Ryan’s Beggars Bush – family run public house …
Also published on Medium.