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An Interview With Jack Teeling

In a follow up to my recent article on the new Teeling Whiskey, I managed to nab a few minutes of Jack Teeling’s time where I put forward questions that had been bouncing around in my head about his flagship whiskey, some more details on their intended product range and the future of Teeling Whiskey Company itself. Jack was happy to oblige, so here goes…

The Design and Creation of Teeling’s Flagship Whiskey

WTF: Teeling Whiskey is positioned as a Small-Batch bottling, just how many casks were selected and how many bottles will you be releasing?
JT: For the first batch we were limited by the number of Rum barrels we had and the marrying process, so we have a relatively small number of bottles for the global market. As they are all in 70cl the first batch is mainly for the European Market. The next batch will hopefully be in 750ml for the US and potentially SA.

WTF: Who selected the casks / who is your master blender? Does Alex Chasko fill this role? Is he the Jack-of-all-trades at TWC?
JT: Both Alex and I are the people who choose the composition of the Cooley whiskey (i.e. the composition of age and styles of Grain/ Malt whiskey we could source from Cooley) that was then married in the rum casks. Alex’s role was Innovation Manager and Distillery Manager in Kilbeggan while at Cooley, but we jointly sign-off on any whiskey we use. I find two noses and palates are better than one and I will not bottle anything I don’t like myself.

Teeling Whiskey - A Premium Irish Blend

WTF: Are all the barrels sourced from Cooley at this stage?
JT: The aged stock has been sourced exclusively from Cooley up to this point but we are looking at all opportunities that are out there to secure stock until we have our own production assets up and running.

WTF: Who made the decision to go for a rum finish?
JT: This was one of my ideas but we decided on this direction after doing some tasting sessions with the Irish whiskey society in Ireland. The majority chose this as the best direction out of a range of 6 expressions we presented. I always thought the extra Moorish sweetness of the rum cask finish works perfectly with Irish whiskey.

WTF: How did you go about selecting ex-Flor de Cana barrels?
JT: We worked with Dr. James Swan who put us directly in touch with the Production Director in Flor De Cana who selected the casks on our behalf.

Teeling Whiskey - Lined Up and Ready

The Future Teeling Whiskey Product Range

WTF: Can you expand on how you will be growing your portfolio, starting with the Super Premium range of single malts? can you give an indication of age statements / styles / cask types
JT: We will be bottling our first release of a 21 Year Old Single Malt over the next month which has been given some extra maturation in Sauternes casks which will be followed by a 25 Year Old which has had some further maturation in White Burgundy and then a 30 Year Old. This will hopefully provide a range of aged Single Malts not currently available in the Irish category.

WTF: TWC Vintage Reserve – looks like you’re pushing hard to establish TWC as a premium whiskey label as soon as is possible. What does the pricing look like?
JT: Expensive as you can imagine the 21 Yr Old will be circa €200, 25 Yr Old €500 and 30 Yr Old €1,500.

WTF: Which of the 21/25/30yo is your favourite?
JT: They all have their unique taste profile with the mash bill of the 21 Yr Old containing some Peated Malt which gives it a very unique taste profile, but I’ve got to say I am a real fan of the tropical fruit punch flavours coming through in the 25 and 30 Yr Old.

WTF: And your Kinahans LL single malt – what flavour profile does this have, and what kind of age statement are we looking at?
JT: We are currently playing around with different ages, etc. before we finalise the composition of this brand but more than likely this will be a combination of 6 Yr Old, 11 Yr Old and 21 Yr Old Single Malt to hopefully create a full-flavoured but easy entry point for consumers looking to discover Irish Single Malts.

WTF: Are you going to do a Single Cask, Single Barrel offering for the die-hard whiskey geeks? If so, please elaborate
JT: We plan to and are currently looking at projects with several retailers in Ireland to start the ball rolling.

Stock Supplies and Target Markets

WTF: It looks like you’re ramping up seriously here – do you have enough stock on hand to cater for all this?
JT: We have enough stock for the next few years but the plan is to get back into production as soon as we can.

WTF: Whereabouts is the stock being warehoused at this time?
JT: We have our own bonded warehouse operation in County Louth in Ireland.

Jack Teeling, founder of the Teeling Whiskey Company WTF: Can you expand on your distribution plans? Both in Ireland/UK and furtherer abroad?
JT: We are aiming to work with as many as our old Cooley partners as possible. Beam have and are exiting a lot of our old distribution partners we set-up while running Cooley and we are trying to get back working with them if possible.

WTF: For example, I believe you’re in discussions with a South African distribution partner. Will this just be for the Teeling Whiskey expression, or for the entire range?
JT: The South African Irish whiskey category continues to grow and is a very interesting opportunity for us. We feel we have an offering that will hopefully help the market segment away from solely Jameson and provide consumers some unique and interesting expressions to help them discover everything Irish whiskey has to offer. However the SA market is a challenging market due to the strength of the large brands and their consumer marketing budgets coupled to the strength of the retailers but we are hopefully we can find the right partner to help us make our brands relevant to SA Irish whiskey consumers.

WTF: Which regions / markets are you going to be targeting?
JT: The US, Europe, Duty Free and Russia are probably our short term focus to bed down the right partners.

The Teeling Whiskey Distillery

WTF: What’s the latest developments regarding setting up a distillery in Dublin? Are you still scouting for locations?
JT: We have found a location and have a Heads of Agreement signed on this.

WTF: Applying for zoning/permissions?
JT: We are currently trying to get a planning application in to the Dublin City Council on the new distillery.

WTF: When do you break ground?
JT: Hopefully rather than break ground it will be plugging the distillery into the location we have found. The great unknown is how long it may take to get planning permission to allow us to do so.

Funding and Independence

WTF: What kind of capital investment is required, and who is backing the venture?
JT: Significant. And it is all Teeling family money that has been invested to date.

WTF: Obviously you’re in the business to make some money. According to your projections, how long until start turning a profit?
JT: As we are basically operating as an Independent bottler until we get back into production so it may be quicker than if we just went ahead with building a distillery without this. However it will still take some time so please ask me this question next year and I should have a clearer view!!

Teeling Whiskey Company Logo

WTF: How do you manage risks like your supply pipeline until such a time as you’re producing your own whiskeys?
JT: By over-investing in stock when it becomes available and having a new fill supply contract.

WTF: What safeguards do you have that your supplies won’t be cut-off by a spiteful supplier?
JT: Having a contract in place is the only way to safeguard against this.

WTF: Will the Teeling Whiskey Company always remain independent?
JT: You can never say never but our aim is to.

WTF: We’ve seen recently how Bruichladdich gave up their independence and cashed in, is that a possibility for TWC in the future?
JT: There is a reason we have put our name on the company and the brand as I see this as something our family can be in control of for the foreseeable future.

WTF: Will the company ever look to the public for funding?
JT: We will probably have to look for external financing at some stage but hopefully this can be secured with either like-minded investors or asset back financing if required.

There you have it, straight from Jack’s mouth. I’d like to thank Jack for his time and candid answers and wish him and the Teeling Whisky Company all the very best. Here’s to celebrating the opening of another Irish distillery in the not-too-distant future.

Slàinte!

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