By Nicole Schubert | March 11, 2019 | People
Conor McGregor's newly launched spirits brand, Proper No. Twelve, is set to give New York fans something to fight over.
Crafted in the world’s oldest whiskey distillery, located in Ireland, Proper No. Twelve is complex, sophisticated, and blended with smooth hints of vanilla, honey, and toasted wood. And did we mention the born-and-bred Irishman has already sold more cases of his new whiskey than most spirits brands sell in one year?
We spoke with McGregor to hear more about his newly launched spirits brand, developing Proper No. Twelve in the oldest distillery in the world, his career as a professional MMA fighter, and how he plans to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this coming year.
You're most known as an MMA Champion and one of the world’s most iconic athletes, what appealed to you about entering the spirits industry?
CONOR MCGREGOR: The decision to make my own Irish whiskey was very natural. I’ve always loved Irish whiskey. My late grandfather played a huge role in my love for whiskey. It was with him I began to study and truly appreciate whiskey.
In the past I’ve been approached by several Irish whiskey brands asking me to endorse their products. Almost every liquor deal with celebrities are endorsements or the celebrity has a very small stake in the business, so they can say they are an owner. I have nothing against endorsement deals. However, something about simply endorsing an Irish whiskey didn’t feel right to me—I wanted to create my own, I wanted to do it my way and I wanted to do it right—from start to finish.
The decision to create Proper No. Twelve was mine and has been a real passion of mine. I am the founder, chairman and largest shareholder of the company and am involved in every aspect from production to sales and connecting with consumers especially on my social media directly. I run my Instagram and Twitter alone. I have no handlers or ghost writers. That would be disrespectful to my fans. I spent a great deal of time on the liquid and am very proud of my first expression. The other thing I love to do is connect with our customers. I have met many and several have become friends already. I didn’t expect to love that part of the business as much as I do now. I plan on being very loyal to the people who are loyal to me and support my brand. This is a rule I have lived by and always will.
Inspired by your Irish roots, you turned to the world’s oldest whiskey distillery, located in Ireland, to be the home for Proper No. Twelve. Tell me about this journey.
CM: The moment I decided I was going to do this, make my own Irish whiskey, I assembled the best team in the spirits industry. I think we expected it to be a little easier than it was. It turned into a long, complicated project, but I wasn’t going to rush the process. I know better than anybody that there is no substitute for hard work.
We then went to the oldest distillery on the isle of Ireland with a proven history of whiskey making and they agreed to help me and my team work on this special brand. I met my master distiller, previously of Guinness and together we went through painstaking measures to create the Proper No. Twelve blend.
We selected whiskey from hundreds of barrels to create a custom blend and we dedicated the time to develop a flavor profile that was tasty, smooth and approachable. I didn’t want this to be a grain-only blend. It needed to be more, and it is. Proper No. Twelve is a blend of grain and fine single malt that is great neat, on the rocks, as a shot or in a proper cocktail.
I heard that the name Proper No. Twelve was inspired by your hometown Crumlin, tell me about it helped you come up with the name.
CM: The name Proper No. Twelve pays homage to where I grew up a small suburb called Crumlin, Dublin 12. Crumlin is a place very dear to my heart. It’s where I learned how to fight, where I learned to do everything. Growing up in Crumlin taught me the values of loyalty and brotherhood—that "One For All" mentality. It made me who I am. So that’s where the name came from, it’s a proper Irish whiskey and 12 represents my hometown.
I love Ireland, its land and its people. I was born here, I will raise my children here, and I will die here. I wanted to make an Irish whiskey brand emblematic of our culture as a whole—something that would make my people proud.
From a plumber to the world’s most notorious UFC fighter, how did your journey into mixed martial arts first begin?
CM: I’ve always had a strong work ethic and a desire to learn. So, when I began boxing at age 12, I realized that I not only had a passion for boxing, but I had a real talent. I’ve always believed in myself, and I trained my ass off while I was working as a plumber. I made my first Amateur MMA appearance on February 17, 2007 at age 18 and my first professional MMA fight on March 9, 2008. From there, I decided to make MMA my profession and I’ve maintained that focus and drive since. I’ve never given up, never settled, never been complacent. I’ve stayed hungry to learn and I continue to strive to be better every day. I’ve had a lot of people doubt me and my ability. I don’t care what they think. I believe in myself and never waiver from that mentality. That’s how I got to where I am today.
Your winning streak begun after defeating Gary Morris by TKO in the second round. What was it like to defy all odds and make your UFC debut?
CM: It was absolutely incredible. I knew I was going to win that fight, but it was great to silence the haters—let them know I was here to stay.
Now, a master of whiskey, Proper No. Twelve not only outpaced supply last year, but sold more cases in less than one month than most whiskey brands sell in a full year. How do you plan to top it this year?
CM: Proper No. Twelve’s launch has been unprecedented. It is one of the most successful launches the spirits industry has ever seen. We sold six months worth of product in our first 10 days. @ProperWhiskey is the most followed wine or spirit brand on Instagram. Was I surprised? Of course not. I told everyone I was going to take the whiskey market by storm, and we did just that with more to come.
I am proud of what of what we have done at Proper Twelve. As for what’s to come, we will make millions of bottles just in our first year. We will be in multiple countries in our first year, which is something others said could not be done. We’re just getting started.
What Proper No. Twelve cocktail do you recommend New Yorkers indulge in this St. Patrick’s Day and how can they make it at home?
CM: One of my favorites is a Proper Irish Coffee, especially in those cold New York and Dublin months.