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SLIABH LIAG DISTILLERS

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It’s an ill wind – Pandemic pt 1

As with just about every distiller in the country we were off to Prowein in Dusseldorf with a full set of meetings arranged and a few catch ups with industry buddies but it is all off. Everything cancelled. The pandemic impact is getting very real and the levels of uncertainty are going through the roof.

These trade fairs are in many ways the life blood of a start-up, yes there’s all the formal meetings hard won and organised. You get to pitch to discuss, to refine your story- understand what’s landing, where the opportunities lie, and you get to speed date distributors.

What I love and is much more organic and opportunist though is the stolen moments, quick coffees, shared cabs and “come here James you should meet….” and an off the cuff discussion that leads to a new market. It was all cancelled over-night. Opportunity lost or may be not….

Dave Wood (now stuck in Canada) had slotted us in for a coffee and an exploratory conversation with Henry Preiss a legend of the USA imports business. He has built a business sold it and now going again creating a craft portfolio of independent distillers.

Henry is stuck in Dublin; having flown over early from San Diego he can’t get to Prowein nor can he get home quickly. We get on a call to arrange to meet up…”but Dublin is a long way” said Henry, “its only 4 and a quarter hours” we said……”I’ll be in Belfast at the end of the week”, ”that’s cool that’s an hour closer, we will see you on Thursday evening”.

Moi and I drove to Down and hooked up with Henry at 8:00pm he had eaten so it is just a coffee but there was an obvious connection – I think this has the makings of something good.

Moi is so animated. We are driving home at about 11 at night and energised by the evening with Henry. If we can agree the USA it would be such a coup and this could be a game changer. We are animated and laughing, and giddy about the glamorous irony of picking up fish and chips in Ballynahinch and eating in a layby on the road home. Let’s get Dave tomorrow, we need to back the brand, rotate aggressively, take the risk out for Henry…let’s do this.

Home by 2am – doesn’t seem so ill this wind.