William Grant is doing a job on Tullamore Dew, the Irish whiskey brand it bought a couple of years ago from C&C, owners of the Magners cider brand.
Frankly, my perception of Tullamore Dew prior to its purchase, was of a rather souless, characterless, bland brand with no particular niche.
Last night I sat in an Irish pub in Islington, north London, listening to a Ceili band across a coffin in the middle of the bar. Prior to that John Quinn, the brand’s quintessentially Irish brand ambassador took us through what makes TD a special blend and worth considering with the ‘great-and-the-good’ of the whisk(e)y industry.
This is all part of William Grant & Sons strategy to give Tullamore Dew – sorry Tullamore DEW, after Daniel Edward Williams, a man likened to John Walker, John Jameson and Tommy Dewar as a pioneer of the whisky– a personality and character based on its heritage.
For those of us who have been around a while, ho-hum, presentations explaining distillation, the art of blending, the role of wood in making whisky can be hard going. But perseverance and concentration pays off as, if you have someone who knows what they are talking about, you can still learn things.
There were three things I learnt last night about Tullamore Dew. Firstly it is not only triple distilled, like most Irish whiskey but it is also triple blended: grain, malt and pot still. Secondly, the grandson Desmond Williams was the first to bring in a continuous or Coffey grain still after a fact-finding mission to the US revealed the Americans did not much take to the style of Irish pot stilled whiskey. Thirdly, in the 1950s or 60s, Power’s took over the brand and the reason Tullamore Dew is virtually unknown in its homeland is because TD was positioned as an export-only brand by the ‘Powers that be’ (sorry!). As Quinn pointed out this is significant problem for the brand in the Republic as no whiskey drinker there ever asks just for a whiskey. He, and it is invariably a man historicaly, always orders a brand.
I suppose there is a fourth thing I learnt at Filthy McNasty’s last night. That Tullamore Dew is in safe hands. But I already believed that. I think any experienced observer, hearing about Grant’s acquisition of Irish whiskey’s number two brand which boasts significant sales in both the US and central/eastern Europe, would have thought: “That’s a good deal”. The company that virtually invented the single malt whisky category with Glenfiddich, created the likes of Hendrick’s gin, Monkey Shoulder, Sailor Jerry and nurtured Balvenie, has an enviable track record in brand creation and development.
Irish whiskey, frankly, used to be a bit boring. But Pernod Ricard is investing heavily at its Middleton distillery (ironically which still makes Tullamore Dew until Wm Grant gets its a distillery up and running) because Jameson is going like a train. Seeing the success of Jameson, Beam bought Cooleys and William Grant is looking to build up and develop Tullamore Dew. Also, one must not forget Diageo is in the Irish backyard with Bushmills in the north.
So as the new look Tullmore Dew is introduced into the UK market, the strapline or theme is “Irish True” and the spirit, according to Quinn is “poetic rebelliousness”. Tullamore Dew starts to come into its own.