Managing Director of the Year Awards 2022

25 | Managing Director of the Year Awards 2022 certainly be making more headlines in the future, so watch this space. Company: The Craft Irish Whiskey Co. Name: Bethan Lawrence Email: Web Address: Having a unique product means cultivating a unique brand to match it. When we look at The Craft Irish Whiskey Co., we see a company that has grown its own identity over the years, one which embraces quality above all else. This eye for excellence is due in no small part to Managing Director, Ian Duignan. In SME News’ Managing Director of the Year Awards 2022, Ian was rewarded for his tremendous efforts. We caught up with him to discover more. Irish whiskey was once the undisputed leader of the whisk(e)y industry, and The Craft Irish Whiskey Co.’s mission has always been to restore its position atop the global hierarchy. The company’s obsessive perfectionism drives them to expertly craft exquisite whiskeys and design accessories that create the optimum tasting experience for those rare single malts. With their whiskeys now served in Michelin-star restaurants globally, The Craft Irish Whiskey Co. is well on the way to rebuilding that worldwide reputation. The Craft Irish Whiskey Co. has reinvented the process of maturation, questioning the norms to craft whiskeys of distinction. This is down to the company and its founder, Jay Bradley’s incredible commitment to quality. As Ian explains, “We’re not constrained by cost-cutting or the strictures of mass-production so we’re able to focus on and strive for perfection as the ultimate goal in everything we do. That comes at a cost, but rather than producing whiskey in volume to maximise profit, we focus on the craft and the art of whiskey-making.” The secret is the use of the finest barrels, underfilled so that maturation begins immediately. Unlike other whiskey companies, they don’t rely on age statements. Instead, the whiskeys are tasted regularly and taken on a tailored journey through different barrels and locations. Weekly and daily tasting in the final months ensures the whiskey is caught at the moment of perfection. These techniques are more costly but create an award-winning, record-breaking product that has shaken up the whiskey industry and drawn worldwide acclaim. Ian comes from a long line of brand-focused and consumer-centric roles working with names such as Apple, Audi and Fulham Football Club. His consultancy skills have allowed him to assist others in the development of a brand, leveraging its power to have the largest possible Luxury Beverages MD of the Year 2022: Ian Duignan impact. “I believe everything is a partnership,” elaborates Ian, “whether that’s your PR agency, brand partners, affiliate partners, or sponsorship partners; the skill lies in knowing how to utilise other brands and build partnerships that help you achieve your goals.” Like all businesses during the pandemic, The Craft Irish Whiskey Co. has faced unique challenges. The company was actually meant to launch as the lockdown began in March 2020, with a business model designed to sell to On Trade venues such as upscale whiskey bars and Michelin-star establishments. “When those closed, we had to adapt and launch direct to the consumer,” Ian tells us. “This actually became an advantage as it allowed us to achieve what every luxury brand wishes to emulate - collector and investor status. We’re finding that people are already coming to us to buy our products to collect and keep and hold, and they’re already reselling them at auction for close to 50% more than the original purchase price.” Ian’s success comes from an attitude of ambition and having built a team that thrives on the dynamic, go-getting nature of a young company. As Ian says, “There is no playbook at The Craft Irish Whiskey Co. - everyone has to write it as they go. But that provides opportunity - our team can take on roles and responsibilities they wouldn’t have been able to in a larger company”. And it’s certainly working; Ian, Jay Bradley, and the team have revolutionised the world of whiskey, not only finding popularity, but breaking the record for the world’s most expensive whiskey and winning World’s Best Irish Single Malt at the World Whiskies Awards 2022 for their inaugural release, The Devil’s Keep. The team’s mission, to reinstate Irish Whiskey as a global leader, has been an enviable success and one that’s reimagined Irish whiskey’s potential as a luxury product. Building on the success the team has achieved is no mean feat, but with a number of projects in the pipeline we can say that they’ll Mar22656