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SLIABH LIAG DISTILLERS

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Momentum

Moments matter. I remember hearing Brian Noble the renowned rugby league coach talking about an individual being accountable and delivering “in the moment” and how this has a galvanising effect on the team that yields another moment and another and with each subsequent moment you start to recognise momentum.

It feels very like that for us right now. We have moved from isolated points of success to a series of successes and it feels like momentum.

6 months ago, we made a subtle change to our Silkie. You would need to be good to pick the difference, but it gives a more subtle and integrated finish which allied to its signature softness has got the whiskey to where we have wanted it to be. The competition judges agree, which is a super result.

Silkie won a gold at the Irish Whiskey Masters and a Double Gold at the China Wine and Spirit Awards. It is difficult to know what the right thing to do is. When every penny is a prisoner entering competitions sometimes feels like a luxury, but they all help in trade discussions and they generate their own publicity which gets your name out there.

Competitions are a funny thing really, there does seem to be a hell of a lot of them and sometimes it’s difficult to work out which one consumers or the trade are going to respect more. On the one hand you have a sceptical audience of bloggers and cognoscenti (who will buy the drinks, taste, appreciate and make up their own mind) and a shopping public who believe that small is good and want to play in the craft world but who may be confronted with bewildering choice. In categories with few reference points or conventional “rules” then medals reassure and endorse and help the shopper navigate their way across the shelf and off to the basket

A few years back when I was responsible for the Foster’s Brewing Operations in Fiji and Samoa I made regular trips to Fiji which captured my heart. Beautiful country, amazing people, it could hardly be called work. The first trip I undertook started with the meet the brewery team and we were sat down and met one of the chiefs. I was sat there as an “honorary chief” and the head of bottling gave a speech on my behalf in the vernacular, my speech was very good … though to this day I have no idea what he said, nor did I brief him! We finished with the Cava bowl and all went well.

The ceremony over we set off to meet the team at the rum distillery, though the effects of the Cava meant I slept all the way. Fiji has Bounty rum made from sugar cane on the island and is a sight to behold. Held together with bits of string and kindness it makes the most amazing rums and it was here that I met Liam Costelloe who ran the operation and who showed me how they blend rums together. They had some truly amazing liquids and I would dearly love to see them capture the world with their rum. What he also showed me was how he put some blends together knowing how they would perform in competition, he set out to win medals and did so with regularity.

Perhaps for An Dúlamán we should have adopted a similar approach, but Moira and I have rather made a rod for our own back with the complex process and flavour profile that ultimately we like. We had thought  that An Dúlamán would be a drink that would slow burn as people warmed to its unique flavour profile and challenging look and that we were unlikely to do well  in competitions because the Maritime element isn’t overwhelming and its definitely not profoundly seaweed (thank goodness) so we were really excited and somewhat surprised when we won a Double Gold at the China Wine and Spirit Awards. Happy days.