If there’s one thing journalists like, it’s free booze.
So, when a bottle of Conor McGregor’s new whiskey, Proper No. Twelve, was sent to Business Insider’s London bureau, it made its way through each desk quicker than currency and cigarettes get passed around prison blocks.
But any excitement that we could drink on the clock faded when we realised one not-so sobering thing — this was not good whiskey.
Fintech guru Oscar Williams-Grut said: “It smelled like ethanol, and tasted only marginally better. A small initial sip was deceptively OK, but subsequent snifters were like vanilla flavouring trying to cover up rubbing alcohol.”
This is an assessment as short and as savage as the left hook McGregor famously used to knock Jose Aldo out cold with at UFC 194 in December 2015.
But the finance desk did not hold back, the brutes. Markets expert Will Martin followed up with this: “It tasted like bad whiskey watered down with cheap vanilla extract.” He added: “I am happy to be quoted on that.”
McGregor apparently used the world’s oldest licensed whiskey distillery in Ireland and worked with master distiller David Elder, formerly of Guinness, to create a “unique” spirit “from the waters of Saint Columb’s Rill that flow through the alkaline-saturating limestone and basalt on their way to sphagnum peat lands.”
This helps it acquire “the flavour that has been prized for centuries.”
That’s what the company says, at least.
Almost 100 blends were developed before the final blend became Proper No. Twelve, a triple distilled whiskey that is a “properly balanced blend of the finest golden grain and single malt” aged in oak barrels and retails at $29.99 per bottle.
But none of this washed with BI. News editor and military blogging maestro Alex Lockie said: “I’ve drank a lot of bad whiskies in my day. This was one of them.”
Video producer Leon Siciliano said: “I don’t really like any whiskey and McGregor’s safely fits into that.”
But what happens if you dilute the bad whiskey taste with your favourite mixer?
“Admittedly I’m not much of a whiskey drinker, but I struggled to get through my glass,” BI’s resident food taster Harry Kersch said. “I’ve had smoother whiskeys in the past, so I wouldn’t recommend anybody drink this neat, but it would probably be fine with a mixer.”
One colleague, who should probably remain anonymous, said it got him a bit “f—– up” — but he did not stop at one drink.
I, also, did not stop at one. In the interest of a thorough review, I tried it neat (not again), with ginger beer (decent, but more for the fiery soda snap of the ginger beer than anything else), and with Irn-Bru — don’t ask me why. One thing I noticed was it made my lips go a bit numb and I felt like I could probably take a good punch, or a kick. So I decided it would be for the best if I went home.
The branding is just as disappointing
Yes, the quality of the whiskey may be poor, but the thing I was most disappointed with was the actual branding.
This is Conor McGregor, a former two-weight champion in UFC and in Cage Warriors.
This is a guy who earns a living by taking his foot and using it as a weapon to kick people in the chin with. Repeatedly. Until they’ve fallen in a heap to the canvas.
This is a guy who has an image of a crown-wearing gorilla eating a heart tattooed across what is probably 80% of his chest.
And this is a guy who once wore a custom suit that had the words “f— off” written down the pinstripes.
This was surely a chance to have some out-there branding that was distinctive from everything else in the supermarket, which is perhaps what sets the Sailor Jerry style out from a lot of the $30 rum pack — but McGregor, and Proper No. Twelve, failed to take advantage of that.
The green bottle and boring label are certainly not memorable — and neither are the contents.