Gin has undeniably seen a resurgence in the last few years in the Irish spirits market. The latest to hit the shelves, Grace O’Malley Heather Infused Irish Gin, launched this summer.
Named after the 16th century Irish pirate queen, the brand has already launched a successful whiskey – Grace O’Malley Blended Irish Whiskey, with future plans to create a dark rum also. With the market already at peak gin, how does the brand aim to stand apart from others? We spoke to Stephen Cope, managing director and founder, about the ingredients, the flavour and how Grace O’Malley gin will lead the way.
“We originally wanted to use the yew tree but then found out it was poisonous,” joked Stephen when discussing the possible recipes for the gin. “Instead we decided to go with a blend of heather for a unique twist.”
Featuring a total of 14 botanicals, the gin is made with defining aromatics from the West of Ireland not only including heather, but also, wild thyme, red clover, blackthorn, fraughan and rock samphire.
The Grace O’Malley Whiskey brand is a collaborative venture between Co. Mayo businessman Stephen, who was previously a principle owner of with Lir Chocolates; Irish marketing expert Jeff Burns; and brand building entrepreneurs, Stefan Hansen and Hendrick Melle, based in Berlin.
Under the umbrella of Private Pier Industries, Hansen and Melle’s joint enterprise has a number of business interests including a fashion brand, a premium pet food, and music publishing and promotion businesses, and now a majority stake in Grace O’Malley Whiskey. With close ties to Ireland, Private Pier Industries has several branches and subsidiaries on the island.
Stephen is proud of the 15 staff that work across Ireland and Germany. “We got the best people possible in every area,” he said.
Responsible for the recipe and precise selection of botanicals in Grace O’Malley Heather Infused Irish Gin is world renowned spirits expert, cellar master & blender, Paul Caris. According to Paul: “Grace O’Malley Heather Infused Irish Gin is a true, traditional style gin made with modern distillation technology to deliver true taste intensity.”
“Grace O’Malley is actually the first brand to be named after a woman,” Stephen mentioned when considering what sets the brand apart from others. Celebrating female leadership through rebellious spirit, the brand honours the pirate, regarded as not just one of Ireland’s, but one of the world’s most inspirational and extraordinary female trailblazers.
Reception to the brand has been positive so far in the weeks since its launch and in fact “Has surpassed expectations”. As the whiskey has already become relatively established many bars are now, according to Stephen, “Taking whiskey and gin at the same time” from Grace O’Malley.
Gin sales have definitely increased, noted Stephen, with sales increasing even further during the recent spell of warm weather. Another factor in setting the brand apart is that the gin is 43% proof and easy for bars to work with, particularly with cocktails.
When asked about whether the market was already saturated, Stephen explained that the management of Hansen and Melle is pushing the brand towards ‘bigger plans’ despite the fact that ‘at the end of the day the market is crowded’. He pointed out that Ireland is a tiny country and that in order to succeed the gin needs to be exported, which is where Hansen and Melle’s expertise comes in. At the moment international buyers are very excited about Irish spirits and the world market is huge – so although the Irish market may be crowded, the world market presents many more opportunities.
The Grace O’Malley Crew Range includes Grace O’Malley Heather Infused Irish Gin retailing at €42.99 RRP, and Grace O’Malley Blended Irish Whiskey retailing at €39.99 RRP, with Grace O’Malley Golden Rum launching later this year.
Grace O’Malley whiskeys and spirits are available from The Celtic Whiskey Shop, L. Mulligan Grocer, Mitchells Wines & Spirits, The Irish Whiskey Museum, leading off licenses and bars nationwide and on www.graceomalleywhiskey.com.