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Proximo Boosts Presence In Irish Whiskey, Debuting Conor McGregor’s Proper No. Twelve Brand

September 17, 2018

Grupo Cuervo subsidiary Proximo Spirits is looking to raise its profile in Irish whiskey with the launch of Proper No. Twelve, a new brand owned by mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Conor McGregor.

Proper No. Twelve, produced at Cuervo’s Bushmills Distillery, is a 40% abv, blended Irish whiskey that retails at around $25 a bottle and is rolling out nationally. McGregor is the founder, chairman, and owner of the brand through his Éire Born Spirits company, and Proximo is handling global distribution. McGregor worked extensively with master distiller David Elder on the liquid, creating around 100 different blends before settling on the final version, which is aged for at least three years in Bourbon barrels.

Proximo Spirits acting CEO Michael Cheek, who replaced the recently departed Mark Teasdale, told SND the company has high hopes for the new brand, which is positioned between Bushmills ($23) and The Sexton ($28) in Proximo’s Irish whiskey portfolio. “I can’t get into what we think the sales figures will be, but I can tell you that the enthusiasm, first by our distributors, is very high,” Cheek said. “They’re extremely positive about this opportunity, and an impressive list of retailers has already bought in. We’re targeting the mainstream area of the market, where the bulk of the volume is being done on Irish whiskey. And we’re very confident that not only will this brand be very successful, but it will also accelerate the growth of the category.

“The leading brand in the category (Jameson) has done an outstanding job,” Cheek added. “But retailers are continuing to look for new entries, and this is an exciting one, with a strong point of differentiation coming from Conor McGregor.”

McGregor’s working name for the whiskey was Notorious, but the brand name eventually became Proper No. Twelve, referring to the MMA fighter’s home neighborhood of Crumlin, in the Dublin 12 district. $5 from every case sold will be donated to local first responder groups in the brand’s various markets, up to $1 million a year. McGregor is a major pay-per-view draw in the MMA arena, with his recent boxing match against Floyd Mayweather garnering 4.3 million pay-per-view buys in North America.

The launch of Proper No. Twelve provides another avenue for Proximo to pursue growth in Irish whiskey, as the Bushmills brand has lagged the thriving U.S. category. Acquired by Cuervo from Diageo in 2014, Bushmills reached a high of 230,000 cases in the U.S. in 2013, according to Impact Databank, but has since surrendered some of that volume, slipping 1.5% to 192,000 cases last year. Proximo recently extended the brand with a Red Bush expression, matured in first-fill Bourbon casks, and last fall it also launched Irish single malt label The Sexton, aged four years in Oloroso Sherry casks.

While the Bushmills brand itself has struggled to keep pace with the Irish whiskey market in the U.S., it has fared better globally, rising nearly 15% to 854,000 cases last year. Cuervo continues to invest in its Northern Ireland-based distillery, banking on the future of the category. David Peter Gosnell, Bushmills’ executive chairman, said in June that the company plans to lay out “heavyweight investment over the next five years to expand and upgrade The Old Bushmills Distillery.”—Daniel Marsteller

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