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‘Global opportunity’ for Irish whiskey

‘Global opportunity’ for Irish whiskey

When his family firm was bought off in 2012, Stephen Teeling and his brother, Jack, arrange on their very own. Their determination has paid off, and Teeling Distillery has turn into some of the exciting gamers in Irish whiskey.

Stephen Teeling has whiskey in his blood. His father, John Teeling, a pioneer of the Irish whiskey revival, based Cooley Distillery in 1987 and later reopened the Kilbeggan website. “I spent a huge part of my childhood and formative years between both distilleries,” remembers the younger Teeling. “I was about eight years old when my dad set up Cooley and myself and my brother were two of the first people on the site – we trespassed, I guess.”

However the Teelings’ distilling lineage dates from 1782, when Walter Teeling opened a distillery on Marrowbone Lane in Dublin. Stephen Teeling and his older brother, Jack, re­established the Irish capital’s reference to Irish whiskey with the opening of Teeling Whiskey Distillery in 2015. Earlier than this, he minimize his tooth within the household enterprise.

“I worked with Cooley on the brands from a young age through work experience and such. I even remember when I was travelling I would pull bottles forward if I saw them in duty free and things like that.” While Stephen had “always been interested in business”, he initially dismissed the thought of joining the household firm. “As with many people who have grown up in a family where business came first and foremost, and had a father who cast quite a long shadow, I had the idea I would never work in the family business when I got older.”

Stephen went on to review enterprise and economics at Trinity School Dublin earlier than completing a grasp’s degree in worldwide business. He then joined a finance graduate scheme however after 18 months realised he “overestimated how good life is in bigger companies” and joined his father and brother at Cooley. Jack acted as the distillery’s managing director, while Stephen, together with his expertise in worldwide enterprise, turned business supervisor.


Then in 2012 got here Beam’s acquisition of Cooley, the consequences of which have been felt all through the Irish whiskey business. “Myself and Jack never really thought Cooley was going to be sold – we were just getting started, and we were just starting to take control of things.” Nevertheless, whereas Cooley was a majority­-owned family firm, it wanted to satiate around 200 shareholders who have been wanting for cash in the course of the financial downturn, and John Teeling made good on his promise of pursuing an exit if the correct supply was made.

For the Teeling brothers, the deal gave them the “kick up the arse” they needed to set off on their own. “We didn’t want to exit stage left,” says Stephen. “We thought the opportunity in Irish whiskey was only going to get better; we saw the opportunity as being then and now, and the idea of walking away just wasn’t an option for us.”

After seeing the revival of distilling in London and the business’s more basic “reversion to urban locations” the pair sought to deliver the artwork of whiskey­-making back to Dublin after a 125­-year hiatus. That they had plenty of expertise to rely on – good and dangerous. “At Cooley I saw some of the positives and negatives of being out there in the trenches trying to challenge a big multinational like Pernod, or compete with the older Irish whiskey brands,” says Stephen. “Some of the things that failed us with our brands at Cooley stood for a very hard lesson, but a lesson all the same, to not make the same mistakes at Teeling, and avoid some of the challenges in terms of connecting with consumers.”

Jack and Stephen’s vision for Teeling Whiskey Distillery was unique from the outset, with a “more premium, urban and modern approach” at its core. “We had a blank slate, an opportunity to take a different approach with Teeling,” says Stephen.

Teeling Distillery: Certainly one of Dublin’s prime visitor points of interest

“Fundamentally, Cooley was from a different generation of people who produce Irish whiskey, and a different generation who drank Irish whiskey. We wanted to be a newer generation making different styles of Irish whiskey that we felt were missing in the category.”

As such, Teeling Whiskey Distillery focuses on the “segmentation” within Irish whiskey, producing progressive cask-­completed blends, in addition to single pot still, single malt and single grain whiskey, and is even experimenting with rye and peated malt. Critically, the model “does not compete on price”, as Stephen explains: “I don’t think a low­-cost Jameson is the future for any new entrant.”

Following the launch of Irish whiskey bottling firm the Teeling Whiskey Company in 2012, the distillery itself opened in 2015, and has develop into certainly one of Dublin’s prime visitor points of interest having welcomed 350,000 individuals by means of its doors. Managing director Jack and gross sales and advertising director Stephen founded the distillery independently of their father, who provides them with grain liquid via his Nice Northern Distillery in Dundalk. Cooley’s former innovations manager, Alex Chasko, was employee primary at Teeling, which is now operated by a workforce of 95 individuals.

In accordance with Stephen, he and Jack have an “interesting dynamic” in their working relationship, and “try to be each other’s yin and yang”. He believes their partnership has “gotten better over the years” and is grounded in trust. “The main thing comes down to understanding that no matter what’s going on you would never do anything to the detriment of the business,” he explains. “I’ve heard from a variety of sources that in bigger companies people are very good at managing their own careers, rather than doing the right things for the brands. For something like this to work you had to do all the right things – including experiencing all the pain at the start. There were no short cuts. There was a lot of sacrifices, and there still is. Those are the pros and cons of a family­-run business – you have to take a longer­-term view.”


This dedication is clearly paying off, and Teeling is on monitor to register sales of 900,000 bottles globally in 2018, which is not any mean feat for a model that steadfastly performs in the premium-­plus area. There at the moment are 10,000 barrels of Teeling whiskey crammed from Dublin – an indicator, says Stephen, of just how critical they’re concerning the future.

Final yr saw the launch of Teeling’s first Dublin­-distilled business whiskey, a single pot nonetheless expression. The whiskey is produced from a recipe of 50% unmalted barley and 50% malted barley, and is matured in a mixture of virgin oak, ex­-Bourbon and ex-­wine casks. “You feel a bit laid bare because it’s your first whiskey,” claims Stephen. “It’s great, just very nerve-wracking.” The launch was limited to 6,000 bottles, and the primary batch was made out there solely in Ireland.

Teeling has the capacity to produce up to 1.4m litres of pure alcohol

Teeling has the capacity to supply as much as 1.4m litres of pure alcohol

Teeling auctioned off the primary 100 bottles, with bottle number one fetching £10,000 (US$12,992), setting a new world document for the costliest whisk(e)y from a new distillery. Meanwhile, the ultimate Revival bottling, finished in a mixture of Cognac and brandy barrels, launched in April. Wanting again, Stephen says his workforce has “used the past 12 months to celebrate what we have done over the past three years”.

Last yr additionally marked 12 months since Bacardi’s minority acquisition of Teeling Whiskey Firm, representing the US drinks big’s first foray into Irish whiskey. Bacardi’s household­-run board stated they have been “big believers” in Stephen and Jack, who continue to run the enterprise independently and autonomously.

Based on Stephen, the deal enabled Teeling to take strides within the competitive and sophisticated US market, whose three­-tier distribution system might be the undoing of fledgling manufacturers. The group was finding problem in “getting a seat at the table with distributors” via its earlier associate, Infinium Spirits.

“The US is the biggest market for Irish whiskey and in three to four years, 50% of all Irish whiskey will be sold there,” says Stephen. “California as a state adds more cases than the whole of Ireland. It’s growing, led by big multinationals, but it’s crying out for segmentation. We felt that if we didn’t act, someone else was going to take the premium or super-­premium slot in the US.”

Stephen and Jack have been impressed by Bacardi’s “long-­term view” and its “work with other smaller brands”, reminiscent of Angel’s Envy Bourbon and Leblon cachaça, which Teeling joined in Bacardi’s US-­centred Incubation Brands unit. Crucially, Teeling Whiskey is now capable of benefit from Bacardi’s national distribution settlement with Southern Glazer’s. “Our strategic thought process was: Bacardi is important to Southern Glazer’s, we will hopefully be important to them, ipso facto we won’t get washed away. We had done too much to let the US opportunity go.”

Teeling additionally just lately moved distributors within the UK, joining the staff at Maverick Drinks. And the agency isn’t able to slow down yet – Teeling is producing 750,000 litres of pure alcohol, but has the capacity to distil 1.three­1.four million if it chooses to fireside up two further fermenters which might be already in place on the website.

“We definitely have no shortage of ambition because, honestly, I still feel the opportunity for Irish whiskey is there, and it’s a global opportunity,” enthuses Stephen. “You can’t go half in on a whiskey thing.”

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