In the world of Irish spirits, who would win a fight to the death; brands or liquid? In other words, right now in Ireland, which is more important, what is on the bottle or what is in the bottle?
It’s a question that’s been turning like a squeaky wheel in the wind for a while now, but during the week during a Bord Bia event at the Irish Embassy in London it fell into sharp focus. Across from us, company 1: a strong Irish brand with good liquid, they have a distillery and are one of the more exciting companies in the dull world of Irish distilling.
Near us company 2: their pop up banner promised a very similar offering to company 1.
But scratch the surface…
A man walked up to company 2. ‘Are you a distillery, or do you just bottle or what?’
A good strong scratch like that deserves a good strong answer, which he of course didn’t get.
‘We do a bit of everything,’ squeaked the woman in fright. The rest of the conversation was lost in the hubbub but probably involved the woman doing linguistic somersaults to avoid the obvious answer: there was no distillery and no, the liquid didn’t come from the place emblazoned on the bottle.
Next to company 2 was company 3. Different story, same BS. This time the brand had hitched its cart to someone too dead to sue. Across from them company 4, they were peddling another story that had as much to do with facts, as unicorns have to do with public transport policy.
So the question is this. As an industry what are we saying to the world?
1. Our spirits in Ireland are awesome, you just have to try them!
2. We’ll invent what ever shit we can get away with, stick it on a bottle and hope you are dumb enough not to ask awkward questions.
This might appear to be a flippant blog, but it’s anything but. Third party distilling is and can be an important part of brand building, however deliberately misleading people is not. Building a viable industry is about building trust and we mistake provenance and bull shit at our peril.