Whiskey Review: Proper No. Twelve Irish Whiskey

There have been a string of spirits with famous names attached to them. From Dan Aykroyd’s Crystal Head Vodka to Danny DeVito’s limoncello there’s a whole range of spirits out there produced, branded, and marketed by celebrities. Today we’re looking at a whiskey from Conor McGregor to see if it lives up to his hype.

History

Conor McGregor is a famous UFC fighter who takes his Irish heritage seriously. In addition to his fighting career, he has a number of endorsement deals, a brand of men’s suits, and now a whiskey line that he launched in September of 2018 called Proper No. Twelve. While the brand is owned by Eire Born, McGregor’s own company which lists him as the CEO, production of the spirit was a partnership with Proximo (the parent company of Bushmills).

The whiskey is named after the Dublin 12 district where Conor grew up. For the contents of the bottle, he worked with David Elder (former Guinness employee and blender for Bushmills) who provided the whiskey expertise.

Product

There’s not a whole lot of information about the provenance or the contents of the bottle. Sigh… always a good sign, right?.

Starting from the top: this is marketed as a blended Irish whiskey, so what we’re drinking is likely a mixture of distilled spirits from multiple distilleries and different batches. Whether Proper No. Twelve has any distilling facilities of their own is not disclosed, nor do they list a specific location for the distillery… so it’s likely that the contents are entirely sourced from other places.

The bottle claims that this spirit starts as a combination of “golden grain” and malted barley, although I couldn’t find golden grain as a specific strain of any kind of cereal crop (although it does appear to be a rap album), so it’s probably just straight grain alcohol like we see in blended whiskey such as Ancient Age and Seagram’s Seven Crown. There’s no indication of whether these ingredients are blended together or distilled separately, although my money is on the latter.

Once distilled, Proper No. Twelve claims that the spirit is aged for three years in bourbon barrels. I’m going to make a bet that the whiskey is blended prior to the barrel aging process, but again since there’s very little about the manufacturing process so that’s pretty much just an educated guess.

Packaging

Following in Jameson’s footsteps, the whiskey is bottled in a green glass bottle. This half size version is roughly flask shaped, but the proper 750ml bottles feature the traditional rounded body with a tapered shoulder and medium length neck. It looks like any other whiskey bottle on the market. Except it’s green.

The label is where things get interesting. I like the striking white on black color scheme they’ve got going, which gives the bottle a more aggressive and edgy appearance. The lion’s head with a crown on it is artwork taken almost straight from Conor McGregor himself — it’s the same emblem that’s tattooed on his chest. (Except where Conor’s tattoo is more American traditional style, this is a simpler and more appropriate design for a bottle label.)

Neat

The aroma on this whiskey is like a piece of toasted white bread with some honey smeared on top. It’s sweet and subtle, with just a hint of vanilla creeping in around the sides. It’s not nearly as bold as the American bourbon in whose barrels it sat for three years, and definitely lacks the peaty earthynss of the Scottish style. Although that malted barley is what’s giving me the bread notes I think.

Tasting the whiskey starts out promising. The subtle sweet flavors promised in the aroma all come true, with distinct notes of honey and bread from the malted barley content. But near the end there’s a bitterness that’s rather unpleasant and ruins the experience. What is otherwise a smooth and sweet spirit leaves a bitter taste that lingers for quite a while.

On Ice

Ice is typically the savior of a bitter spirit, killing that aftertaste with a bit of dilution and colder temperatures. That holds true here, removing the bitterness that I saw in the neat tasting and making the experience more enjoyable all around.

The problem is that with the added ice, those subtle and sweet flavors disappear as well. They aren’t as bold or as solid as in a proper American bourbon, and unfortunately what I’m left with is something that is pretty close to a flat neutral grain spirit with some yellow food coloring. There might still be a hint of the sweetness and deliciousness, but it’s nowhere near as present or remarkable as before.

Overall Rating

It’s not terrible. It’s definitely not the worst thing I’ve ever had, but I’m also not a fan. There’s just nothing about Proper No. Twelve that isn’t done so much better by another spirit. Taking it neat is great, until the bitterness sneaks in and that’s all you remember. But if you add ice, then you’re no better than if you grabbed a bottle of Ancient Age.

Eire Born Proper No. Twelve
Produced By: Eire Born
Production Location: Ireland
Classification: Blended Whiskey
Aging: 3 Years
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $22.99 / 750 ml
Overall Rating:

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Overall Rating: 1/5
His record with whiskey is about as prestigious as his boxing career.

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