Conor McGregor has influenced the Octagon, won innumerable world title belts and even decided to step into the boxing ring with Floyd Mayweather during his fighting career. Now, the Dublin-born fighter’s sights are set on another industry: whiskey. McGregor launched his own whiskey brand, Proper No. Twelve Irish Whiskey, in 2018.
Proper No. Twelve’s Triple Distilled Irish Whiskey is a super-smooth blend of golden grain and single malt with intimations of vanilla, honey, and toasted wood.
People in the spirits industry will almost always tell you some variation of the adage, “A rising tide lifts all boats.”
For example, if one Irish whiskey becomes popular, that success theoretically shines a light on a growing but underappreciated drinks category and may raise the level (and sales) of other Irish whiskeys in liquor store brand names.
So here are a few things to rejoice about: According to The Drinks Business and citing Nielsen data, Proper No. Twelve is on track to be the second biggest Irish whiskey in the United States by 2022.
Having mixed martial arts superstar Conor McGregor as the face of that label has undoubtedly increased Proper’s and possibly Irish whiskey’s presence in the mainstream.
How did you decide how much one whiskey might taste and what it would cost?
The whiskey has been aged for four years, and my primary objective was not to create a tasteless grain-only product. The malt whiskey adds flavor and richness to the grain, and I believe it gives people a smooth taste. Once we had our blend down pat, the most crucial thing for me was to make sure we valued it correctly. I didn’t want it to be so expensive that my fans and so many others couldn’t afford to drink on a routine basis.
What sparked your interest in designing the bottle?To begin, our Proper No. Twelve bottles are green. It’s Irish, and that’s who I am and what I seek. Others advised me that my first product should be in a black or clear bottle, but I didn’t want to let others influence my vision for our first product. The bottle is etched with the phrase “SMOOTH IS FAST”; many people are familiar with this as part of the Marine Corps’ motto, which is also etched on my body, the quote “Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast.” I intend to do the same in my whiskey biz as I do in my fight game.
Did you know?
Another feature on the rear of Proper No. Twelve Irish Whiskey bottles is homage to first responders. These are real-life heroes. These are the people that put their lives in danger every day for the sake of others. I wanted to honor these men and women. So they have decided that for every case we sell in a particular division, the company would donate $5 to that district, up to $1 million each year to begin.
What about picking a name?I was also very concerned about the name. Many people wonder where the name inspiration came from: The word “proper” means “correct,” or “the way it should be.” The words “No. Twelve” are a tribute to my native place of D12 (Dublin 12). It’s an authentic Irish whiskey, and 12 represent my hometown. It has real significance, and I tried to show proper respect to my people in Ireland as well as those around the world.
When did you first get the idea to start Proper No. Twelve?
My manager and partner, Audie Attar, and I are constantly approached for traditional endorsement deals. Several Irish whiskey producers approached us, and it was not something we wanted to consider. It would be easy money, and I told Audie a few years ago, “Let’s do our own Irish whiskey.” We spent a considerable amount of time trying to educate ourselves about the spirits industry and collaborating with the elite of the elite to carry out the plan.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, and how have you applied it in your professional life?
Rocky Balboa [Sylvester Stallone] gave me the best advice I’ve ever received. In this world, we must all understand the following quote: “Let me tell you something you already know.” The world isn’t all rainbows and sunshine. It’s a nasty place, and no matter how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there forever if you let it. Nobody, not you, not me, are going to be hit as hard as life. However, it is not about how hard you hit. It’s all about how hard you can be hit while still moving forward. How much can you take and still keep moving forward? That’s how championships are won. “
Is there anything on the horizon for Proper No. Twelve that you’re looking forward to sharing?
You can count on there being more! We must stay focused on the task at hand, which is distribution and demonstrating to people how magical our Proper No. Twelve liquid is, especially at this price. We will blend and age more in the future without a doubt. It is easy to become distracted, but I will not allow it.
The nose of the whiskey is light and vibrant, with hints of sweet grain and honey. More of the sweet honeyed grain emerges upon entry. The appearance of a lot of young grain whiskey in the composite gives it a slightly “green” quality. In the mid-palate, pine nuts and a hint of oak spice stand out alongside light fruit. You can taste and explore more whiskey if you know how to taste spice flavors in whiskey. There’s a bumpy alcohol quality here that begins to overpower the whole tasting experience and lasts through the brief finish.
Woof! Correct No. Twelve isn’t something that I’d choose to drink neat again. There is no complication here. On a basic level, it’s not enjoyable. The ethanol notes on the palate detract from the sweet young-ish profile. Is it good enough for a cocktail? More testing is on the way. I hope Mr. McGregor and his squad can tweak their blend to use more malt and less youthful grain, even if it means raising the price. People are willing to pay a little bit more for higher-quality whiskey. As of now, I cannot recommend this one.