So what have April showers and Irish Gin got in common? Well it’s been a busy month here at Blackwater Towers. We’re in the closing stages of the AIB StartUp Academy, which involves weekly trips to Dublin, day long sessions at The Irish Times and lots of homework. At the end of it all, on 28th April in The Sugar Club and in front of a panel of judges (and an audience of 200), we get to pitch for a prize worth €200,000.

Your truly after sticking my finger to my face at the AIB StartUp Academy
Your truly after sticking my finger to my face at the AIB StartUp Academy

At the same time we are progressing with our new Irish gin offering. It’s been in development since the autumn and after a rocky start it is finally coming together.

And there is a connection between the two. If I had to sum up what I have learnt at the AIB StartUp Academy in one sentence it would be this: In any start up, the last thing you should think about is your start up. The first thing you should think about is you customer. If you have the latter, the former will take care of itself.

Dwan’s Thurles 1998 – 2003

Distilling isn’t a great example, so let’s look at brewing. In the 1990’s the first in this generation of micro-beers hit our glasses. A few survive, but others say like Dwan’s in Thurles didn’t. It’s not that their beer wasn’t good (it was), they were simply ahead of the curve. There just wasn’t a thirst for non-industrial beer in rural Ireland. Likewise if I had succeeded in setting up a micro-distillery when I first enquired back in 2000, I am confident it would have folded. Because I would have been focused on the distillery and not the end consumer. And were there educated gin drinkers in Ireland fifteen or twenty years ago? Ask John Teeling, his Dublin Dry Gin and its blue (as opposed to Cork red) label didn’t last long.

So in planning our new Irish gin did we look at what Irish consumers want? Yes we did.

Is there a market for a new Irish gin? We’re pretty certain there is.

And how does the new Irish gin taste? I haven’t a clue. I’ve got a head cold. So much for April Showers.