I don’t remember the moment exactly when I discovered Connor McGregor’s Irish Whiskey. Was it an advert on YouTube while catching up on the latest MMA news? Was it the controversial clip of McGregor pushing a sample of his whiskey on Khabib during the press junket leading up to their fight? Or was it the news that McGregor punched an older man in a pub for not wanting to sample the infamous Proper No. Twelve? Honestly, I’m still not sure. The first-ever Champ Champ of the UFC has created a whiskey that is meant to compete against the best.
Proper No. Twelve is a blended Irish whiskey that is triple distilled, and matured in ex-bourbon barrels. The Master Distiller is David Elder, the former distillery manager of Bushmills Whiskey. The name comes from McGregor’s hometown in Ireland, Dublin 12. The bottle looks incredibly similar to the best known Irish whiskey (on this side of the pond), Jameson. The green bottle, the label, the shape of the bottle, and the price point all call back to the original Jameson. The cap and label on Proper No. Twelve are more similar to Jameson Black Barrel. Black Barrel is also aged in ex-bourbon barrels.
For the sake of transparency, a few things to note here before we get into the details on my flavour opinions. I’m a huge Jameson fan, so it’s easy for me to see the similar branding between Proper No. Twelve and Jameson. I’ve met brand ambassadors that work for Jameson, competed in a Jameson cocktail competition in Toronto, and have some Jameson merch. Naturally, I’m a little biased towards them.
But I also enjoy watching MMA, and the UFC in particular. I used to take boxing classes, but quit after getting worried about breaking my hand and not being able to work. I understand some basic techniques, but have an appreciation for the work and training that goes into this sport. I jumped on the UFC bandwagon after McGregor became a household name. In the weeks leading up to McGregor’s comeback fight I’ve learned a lot about how he rose up through the ranks. I find McGregor’s foray into the whiskey business incredibly fascinating. A lot of people get into this industry because they had the means, and appreciate a good dram. Good whiskey takes passion, knowledge, and time. A couple million dollars doesn’t hurt either. In this tasting experiment I want to see how Proper No. Twelve stands on its own.
For those of you unfamiliar with tasting spirits, and whiskey in particular, The Master of Malt has some great pointers. Things to take note of in general with spirit tastings: look, smell, taste.
Proper No. Twelve
Proper No. Twelve pours a nice deep golden hue. The legs down the sides of the glass confirm there isn’t a ton of residual sugar. This is what I would expect from a whiskey that clocks in at 40% ABV. On the nose the whiskey gives notes of burnt honey, and that charred oak so synonymous with bourbon. On the palate the whiskey has strong peppery notes, green apples, some vanilla extract, and a return to that familiar bourbon barrel. The finish is hot, and long. This is not a sweet whiskey.
Cocktail Suggestions: Manhattan, Sazerac
This spirit pours lighter in colour, something similar to golden raw sugar. Swirling in the glass leaves some oils behind. This would do well with a splash of water. The nose is floral and sweet. Brings to mind the classic notes of a smooth Irish whiskey. The flavour is sweet, creamy, and notes of minerals with some floral tones. The finish is long and spicy like Proper No. Twelve, but not as aggressive.
Cocktail Suggestions: Boulevardier, Brown Derby
This whiskey presents a deep golden colour. Lots of residual oils clinging to the sides of the glass, this means it will open up more with a splash of water. On the nose the whiskey presents as light, sweet, floral, and some lovely brown sugar. Jameson is creamy on the palate, with flavours of orchard fruit like apples and pears. It finishes clean and sweet with a slight pepper spice.
Cocktail Suggestions: Whiskey Sour, Highball with Ginger Ale (and lime)
Jameson Black Barrel (bonus)*
Black Barrel pours a nice amber colour, and leaves behind lots of oils clinging to the glass. The nose gives off cream, bright orchard fruit, and some brown sugar. On the palate the whiskey is full body, baking spices, and some sweet orchard fruit. The finish is long with nice baking spice, and a touch of that ex-bourbon barrel.
Cocktail Suggestions: Old Fashioned, Whiskey Smash
*I wanted to include Jameson Black Barrel in this tasting as a comparison to Proper No. Twelve, because it was also aged in charred first-fill bourbon barrels. This expression is fruitier, as it is also aged in sherry casks.