Celebrity endorsements are nothing new. Famous, pretty faces sell and brands know this, which is why they will often pay large sums of money to people, who can more than afford the product, for their help in the promotion of the said product. Cars, shampoo, dog biscuits – you name it, a celebrity will often endorse it.

Celebrity endorsements happen in the whisky world too. Mila Kunis with Jim Beam, Matthew McConaughey with Wild Turkey and of course David Beckham with the abomination that is Haig Club. These connections made to make the product even more desirable to us. If a celebrity likes Jim Beam it must be good, right?

Then there are those celebs who think, ‘stuff the endorsement, I want my own brand!’. We’ve had Ryan Reynolds with his Aviation gin (Alexandra’s all-time favourite gin), Channing Tatum with his Born & Bred vodka, Drake and Virginia Black American whiskey. The profits from such enterprises can be massive as shown by George Clooney and Randy Gerber when they sold their Casamigos tequila brand to Diageo for a cool $1 billion.

Stepping into the ‘own brand’ ring then is Ireland’s own Conor ‘The Notorious’ McGregor. After his defeat to Floyd Mayweather in 2017, our Conor announced to the world that he would be launching his own whiskey, stating, “I’m going to take over the Irish whiskey market.” Now that may have sounded a bit arrogant and cocky but McGregor has a habit of backing his words up with results, and you know what, he may well do it.

The thing is Conor has an instant fan base. His Instagram account has 26.1 million followers and combined with Facebook and Twitter you could probably add another 10 million to that. The official account for Proper No. Twelve whiskey had 100k followers after two posts, and as of today (23/09/18) is sitting at 219k followers after 4 posts. The photo I posted on my Instagram page after buying the stuff is by far the most liked and engaged-with post I’ve ever put up.

Regarding followers and engagement, he is leaving the other big Irish players in his dust. Consider the current no.1 selling Irish whiskey, Jameson. They have 96.5k followers on their global IG page and 114k followers on their US IG page. Tullamore DEW has 20.4k followers. Bushmills have 13.6k on their US IG page, their home-based pages are a lot, lot less. Even the biggest of IG influencers in the whisky world can’t compete with that following, Singlemaltdaily, for example, having 88.3k followers.

In short, Conor’s reach is HUGE! Even brands like Jack Daniels could only dream of having this level of following and engagement.

And judging by social media Proper No. Twelve has been quite literally flying off the shelves. So much so that UK supermarket giant Tesco has been limiting customers in Ireland to two bottles each because the demand is so high. I even got contacted by someone in Russia via IG to see if I would be able to ship a bottle to him. I honestly have never seen a frenzy like it.

Of course, whether I or other commentators give a glowing appraisal or a withering destruction of Proper No. Twelve one thing to me is already certain… this stuff will sell and sell and sell some more.

Like his bout with Mayweather, not everything has gone Conor’s way. When he announced his new whiskey it was to be branded ‘Notorious’. This plan was put to bed by Carlow Brewing Company who own the ‘Notorious’ trademark for alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks across Europe after launching their Notorious Red IPA in 2016. Hence we now have Proper No. Twelve as the brand name. Although this may infer the whiskey is 12 years old (it definitely isn’t) it actually refers to his home neighbourhood of Crumlin, Dublin 12.

Launched under his Eire Born Spirits company this is a sourced whiskey made with partner, Bushmills Distillery and is being distributed by Proximo Spirits globally. I’ve seen some talk online that there is no Bushmills spirit in this blend but I find that very hard to believe. I can’t imagine Bushmills/Proximo allowing McGregor to feature shots of Bushmills washbacks, stills and warehouses on the Proper No. Twelve website if there wasn’t any Bushmills spirit in the drink.

Now the fact that this is a sourced whiskey is of interest because our Conor featured a picture on his personal IG account about working in |his” distillery. Guess what? This type of misleading marketing worked, people bought into the fact that he has his own distillery as can be seen here. Personally, I found this a little hard to watch, not because of the material or as a reflection of the content creators, but because they had been suckered in by a false claim from Conor McGregor that he has a distillery. It just shows you the power of social media. It also firms up my belief that advertising such as this needs to be curtailed. If you don’t own a distillery you should not be allowed to blatantly say you do or even insinuate that you do because people actually buy into such claims.

On Malt presentation from an aesthetic standpoint rarely gets commented on but I felt in the case of Proper No. Twelve that I should. For a man that likes his bling and showmanship, the presentation of Proper No. Twelve is very dull to say the least. I showed the bottle to my brother in law and the first thing he noticed was that the labels weren’t stuck on right, there were air pockets under them so that the labels actually crackle and pop when you hold the bottle. The glass used in the bottle is a really weird opaque green that actually looks plastic (it reminds me of a Lilt bottle) and to top things off the bottle is 75cl even though you get 70cl so it looks underfilled. The whole thing just looks and feels… well, shoddy and rushed! The fact that Proper No. Twelve is a sponsor of his upcoming UFC bout with Khabib Nurmagomedov and will actually feature on the canvas suggests that indeed it was rushed out to maximise marketing potential – Mcgregor even managed to sneak a bottle into the UFC 229 press conference!

On a positive note and something Conor should be applauded for is that $5 from every case will be donated to first responder organisations and charities up to a maximum of $1 million annually.

So what do we have inside the shoddily presented glass vessel? A NAS blend sourced in all likelihood from Bushmills for the malt and Midleton for the grain. It’s bottled at 40% and cost me £29.95 from Fairleys Wines in Coleraine.

Proper No. Twelve – review

Colour: Fake tan blend

On the nose: It’s pretty harsh and astringent – alcohol and young grain spirit are the first things to assault your nostrils. Pear drops, green apples, floral notes with copious amounts of nail varnish remover. Eventually, some caramel appears.

In the mouth: Young, grain heavy spirit – a very light mouthfeel, it’s light to the point of being non-existent. There is some vanilla, a little honey, toasted oak and some spice heat. It takes a while but some cocoa powder can be found. The finish is of alcohol rub heat… very little lasting or memorable flavour.

Conclusions

When he announced his whiskey McGregor stated that he was coming in strong, with passion and with purpose. It’s a shame that his blender didn’t get the memo. Here we are again with another overpriced, dull, one dimensional and bland blend to add to the growing pantheon of dull Irish blends. No doubt with his sizeable following, Conor will sell loads of this juice although I’m not sure if he will get many repeat buyers. Unfortunately, I’m now left with a £30 hole in my wallet and about 660ml of whiskey that needs a new home, quite possibly the toilet but I haven’t decided yet.

Score: 2/10

CategoriesIrish
Phil
Phil

Hailing from the north coast of Ireland, my love of whisk(e)y started at an early age. As a baby, my mother would occasionally dip the nipples of my feeding bottle into whisky to get me to feed (not a joke!) and so a seed was planted. I started CauseWayCoast Whiskey Reviews in December 2016 after peer pressure from friends who frequently tell me that I am ‘fairly opinionated’ about whisky... amongst other things.

  1. Lloyd says:

    Tried it, and like most reviewers found it to be middle of the road blend. Not exceptional, but not bad. Easy — A “party whiskey”. In all the press I’ve read, he seems pretty clear about the Bushmills’ sourcing. Here in the states, it retails for around $19 so its in line with Jamo, etc. so again, feel like the taste/ profile is in line with expectations (at least stateside) cheers

    1. Phil
      Phil says:

      Lloyd,

      Pricewise it sounds like stateside is getting a much better deal but even at that price I would expect the likes of Bushmills White, Jameson, Jack Daniels and ….perish the thought, Jim Beam would offer equivalent if not better experiences.

      Thanks for taking the time to read the review and comment!

    1. Phil
      Phil says:

      James,

      It would certainly seem that this does not contain the finest example of Bushmills stock. As regards the Johnnie Walker Red….well lets just say that here in Ireland I could pick up that for at least £8 less than the Proper No. Twelve, so if I had to choose between the two my cash would go Diageo’s way.

      Thanks for reading the review and taking the time to comment!

    1. Phil
      Phil says:

      Graham,

      Thanks for stopping by, reading the review and commenting. Your support to Malt means a lot.

      Someday I hope to conquer my demons of pettiness and jealously and I’m sure I will with messages of support such as yours!

      Have a great day!

  2. Short says:

    Hello all…For McGregor v. Mayweather, I brought ‘MacGregor Clan’ scotch to the event; at good friends house, on outdoor theater screen w/ca. 100 attendees. For all supporting Conor, a turn up of the bottle and a rebel yell of ‘McGregor!’ in feeble Irish-imitated dialect. Fortunately, no-one hurled during nor immediately after their taste of this almost (Mac v. Mc) perfectly-named abomination/representation of scotch. We would be honored to take over the 660-666ml remainder of your bottle for our toast-to-victory for Conor to triumph over Kabib (I am quite confident that our grimaces after tasting ‘The Clan’ were what destined the outcome of the Mayweather fight). I am sure that you will agree if you could please do a side-by-side taste-test between the two. If you agree w/my palate, my plea would be for you to get the remainder of that bottle to us for our event here in Alabama. Most of us work in Huntsville (The Rocket City), and John (the event host) is a NASA rocket scientist. I would be honored to be able to present a bottle of Conor’s concoction for the event if we can make this happen…and yes, it would be nice if you could attend as well.

    Cheers!
    J-Short

    1. Phil
      Phil says:

      Short,

      Thanks for the offer but shipping an open bottle to the US has got to be problematic!

      Safe to say that the contents are being shared with other enthusiasts this side of the pond to save them from having to buy a full bottle!

      Phil

  3. Jordan Louie says:

    Rid the jealousy and bitterness from your bum soul Phil, this is a pathetic attempt to drag down Conor’s good name from a hater.

    1. Phil
      Phil says:

      Jordan,

      Did I personally attack Conor McGregor? I don’t think you’ll find that in this piece. I’m not a Conor fanboy, nor am I a ‘hater’, I don’t know the guy and I’m indifferent to the whole circus around him.

      What you will find though is a constructive criticism of his marketing and his sub standard product.

      And if you have actually read any of my other reviews you will see that products are given praise where due and criticised where appropriate.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

    1. Phil
      Phil says:

      Chad,

      I assume you refer to the reviews on here https://sipwhiskey.com/product/proper-twelve-irish-whiskey/?

      At least half of those reviews it would seem come from Conor supporters. Maybe they are a little biased? Who knows, but hopefully they love it. I personally think it is a poor representation of Irish whiskey at the price point. Bushmills White Label, Jameson and Powers Gold Label are far superior blends for less money.

      Here is another review that also go against the grain of the 17 mentioned on sipwhiskey.com – http://uk.businessinsider.com/conor-mcgregor-proper-no-twelve-whiskey-review-2018-9, I encourage you to take a read at that!

      Thanks for reading the review and commenting!

  4. Ryan Tomasetti says:

    The most telling thing for me is that Conor McGregor sat there at that UFC 229 press conference, drunk off his own syrup, and told the world that he’s going up against Jameson? Firstly, you don’t call out who you’re in competition with. You let others decide that for you. You take the humble route. But we all know Conor McGregor apologizes to absolutely no one.

    Hopefully he can make an exception here.

    1. Phil
      Phil says:

      Ryan,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      I suppose the whole public persona that has been built up for Conor is one of supreme confidence and arrogance so I think expecting humility at the UFC launch of his whiskey was like expecting to see pigs fly.

  5. Phil
    Phil says:

    Stuart,

    Thanks for supporting Malt by reading the review and commenting!

    I don’t know why you find the fact that I critiqued a whiskey surprising as suggested by your opening acronym, we are a whiskey review site after all!

    I would enjoy a glass of proper twelve if it was any good, but unfortunately it isn’t! I thank you for your concern though.

    Enjoy your day buddy!

  6. Omar Fitzell says:

    Great review Phil, as always. Well put together and not swayed by the McGregor hype that other reviewers have been caught up by.

    Conor is a great guy that has achieved SOOO much from nothing. A credit to Ireland and MMA…….alas his whiskey misses that mark and isn’t a credit to anyone!!

    1. Phil
      Phil says:

      Omar,

      Thanks for your kind words and for seeing the review for what it is, an opinion piece on the Proper Twelve product, not a personal slight on Conor McGregor.

  7. J Short says:

    Hey Phil,
    Completely understand, just can’t find a bottle; nor one to be bought over here in time for the fight…lots of backorder promises. Clan MacGregor (corrected) will not be purchased for pre-fight comradery this time around. Not expecting a single malt out of it, just expecting that Conor has solicited a flavor that tops ‘The Clan’ ; )…which would at least be a couple points better than the 2/10 you gave him/it. Looking for a little extra publicity through controversy?…’sall good man…CHEERS! And…You did fookin nuttin!!! (except reply) LOL

    1. Ed says:

      McNulty would like a word with you, I think you’re mixed up mate https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=tjVzGYZLhvo ps. As a southerner it never ceases to amaze me how nordies shoe horn religion into everything, down south we couldn’t give a damn and yet we are constantly told that we should to support the ‘cause’, sure just look at the popes reception in Dublin as s prime example… crickets.

  8. Calvin says:

    Why is a malt whisky aficionado reviewing an Irish blended whiskey? It’s like a a nascar expert commenting on the Tour de France. Malt whisky is rough arsed, raw spirit of pseudo-exotic provenance, for Tims and Ruperts to unleash their otherwise useless humanities degree skills in “listen to me” screeds of masturbatory prose. Whiskey is a properly refined spirit with all of the crap, seaweed, coal tar, peat and other “flavours” considered vile in any other context blended and filtered out, or, even better, reduced to countrepoints that highlight the nice sweet, sour, and caramel flavours of a drink that someone has actually gone to the trouble to make palatable. Malt Whiskey is wank, there is a new Malt every other week, that’s because it’s as fake as the latest Gin explosion. Whiskey is something golden, war and flavoursome that gets you drunk. Malt is a just an excuse for a boring eulogy.

  9. Jack says:

    Huge Conor fan, was a bit let down by the Whiskey. Here’s hoping he can change the formula with some of the money he’s got from initial sales and make it better. Would much rather take a bottle of Jameson for the money, but I’d really like to see Mac make a great Whiskey instead of this stuff. Your review is pretty much spot-on.

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