Curracloe Beach in Co. Wexford has been the backdrop for many a scene on the big screen. Featuring in the award winning movie Brooklyn, it’s the place where Saoirse Ronan and her friends frolic. It’s also the beach where many of the D-Day scenes from the World War II epic Saving Private Ryan were filmed. And there’s no doubt, as you stroll across the long stretch of golden sand, listening to the waves rolling in and feeling the sea breeze in your hair, that inspiration is only an imagination away.
For the three guys behind Wexford made Poacher’s Well mixers now hitting the shelves, it was Curracloe Beach which inspired the decision to plunge in to the premium mixer market. There they were, out on a bracing walk, chit chatting about the Irish craft gin revolution, when it turned into a conversation about why no one was making premium Irish tonic to mix with the artisan crafted gins causing a stir. (Or maybe a shake, depending on how you like your gin cocktails!).
That was 2016. Brendan Colbert, co-founder of Poacher’s Well mixers, explains. “It was a bit of a brainwave moment. We were chatting about how the Irish craft gin market was coming on, you could see the first microsteps of an industry which has now exploded. We had seen all the commercially produced mixers and premium tonics from elsewhere in our pubs, and we just wondered why there was no truly Irish quality product to match these fantastic gins being made. So we decided we would do it ourselves.”
The ‘we’ includes Vaughn Yates, now Creative Director of the Poacher’s Well brand, Oisin Davis, Global Brand Ambassador, and Brendan, Co-Founder, whose family home is the Litterbeg Estate in Co. Wexford, the birthplace of the range and from where these mixers take their name. According to Litterbeg’s history, poachers have ‘pilfered and poached’ the rich pickings of this estate for centuries, so the trio thought it an apt name for the range.
In essence, this success story is the result of three innovative brains not just talking about doing something, but actually doing it. “We wanted to make something uniquely Irish. I’ve known Oisin for twenty years and Vaughn for the last few years. Both of them have been involved in the drinks industry for many years. Together, we were keen to create something that had Irish DNA through and through. That’s what makes us different to the bigger or more well known brands out there.”
Natural botanicals and herbs for Poacher’s Well Citrus or Classic Tonic Water all come from Ireland. “We grow fresh rosemary in our polytunnel on the farm at Litterbeg. We also get some rosemary and fresh thyme from Phillip Dunne of The Garden of Eden Farm in Co. Meath. Our new Wild Tonic includes fresh elderflower hand foraged from around Macreddin Village in Co. Wicklow. For our ginger ale, we source apples from an orchard in Wexford and from Highbank Organic Apple Farm in Co. Wicklow, owned by Rodd and Julie Calder-Potts. The water for all the mixers is Irish spring water. We wanted that unique Irish slant to our range. It’s what we do,” says Brendan.
The quinine used in Poacher’s Well tonic waters is a natural ingredient, rather than a manufactured version. “This gives a clean bitter finish which isn’t acerbic on the palate,” says Brendan.
Poacher’s Well Citrus Tonic, flavoured with orange and rosemary, was the first to be launched in 2016. A classic tonic flavoured with lemon and fresh Irish thyme soon followed. These two products, with their subtleties of flavour, are perfect to pair with the Irish craft gins now making their mark.
In February 2017, Poacher’s Well Ginger Ale, made with Irish apples, was born. A match for Irish whiskey of choice, it also goes incredibly well with Ballyvolane House Bertha’s Revenge Milk Gin, made in Co. Cork, according to Brendan!
Putting Poacher’s Well in Front
On the topic of distribution, Brendans says: “The response to the range was amazing, but as a new company we weren’t set up to get the product around the country. Our early adopters were in Dublin, including high end bars and Michelin star restaurants like Chapter One, who loved the product. We are also in Ox in Belfast. For retail, we now have our whole range in O’Brien’s Off Licences nationwide. We are currently in the process of addressing the issue of making our products more widely available. We are soon to be partnering with a big distributor, which will see our range hit pubs and shops nationwide within 4-6 weeks, hopefully. It’s all very exciting!”
If your appetite for an Irish craft gin and Poacher’s Well Tonic or a whiskey and Poacher’s Well Ginger Ale has been whetted, look out for the new additions of Wild Tonic with foraged elderberry and the very first Irish made cola, Irish Malt Cola, which Brendan says goes amazingly well with rum.
“One thing we have concentrated on with all our range is reducing sugar content. Commercial mixers can contain around 13.5g sugar, which kills the spirit and kills the drink. Our mixers have 6.9g sugar, much lower than our competitors. The new cola is made with Irish maltose, which gives the malty sweetness, so the sugar content is under 5g,” says Brendan.
Alongside developing the home market, the trio headed Stateside to take part in the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America, the biggest wine and spirit convention in the world, which took place in Las Vegas from 30th April to 4th May.
After that, a summer cocktail event in New Orleans is planned. Drinks markets in Australia and the UK are also being targeted. Bord Bia are helping with funding to access home and international markets. Brendan says: “We can’t thank Bord Bia enough. It’s a great agency. All women, all great go-getters. They have been absolutely fabulous, so supportive.”
The company also secured major funding as a business start-up from its Local Enterprise Office. At Poachers Well, three heads are definitely better than one at making a beach brainwave become a bold reality!