MUFF LIQUOR owner Laura Bonner launched her business in Donegal less than two years ago.
Using potatoes to produce their gin and vodka is already seeing them carve a healthy niche in a notoriously competitive market.
This week she told us where the inspiration for her unique company came from and what they have planned for its UK launch...
Tell us about your company?
The Muff Liquor Company is a premium craft spirits company named after the village of Muff, in County Donegal, Ireland. We specialise in traditional potato inspired spirits with a modern twist. Our products currently include Muff Gin and Muff Vodka which are produced with a potato base made from four different types of Irish potatoes, distilled six times to create a clean and creamy texture. Our products are suitable for coeliac and are vegan-friendly.
What was the inspiration for the business?
My grandfather, Donegal-born Philip McClenaghan, was a well-known potato farmer. One of his many hobbies was to make a poitín with potatoes. The idea of making a potato-based spirit, inspired by my grandfather and which originated from Ireland, just stuck with me. Following a career in law and property in London, at the age of 32 I made the decision to return to Ireland and fulfil my childhood dream and set up The Muff Liquor Company. We're proud of our heritage and roots, and as the idea was born in the village of Muff, County Donegal, it seemed only right to honour it in our brand name. In 2018, I launched The Muff Liquor Company in Ireland and after a successful two years in business we are moving heavily into the UK market.
The alcohol market is competitive, what sets you apart?
Apart from the fact that our premium base spirit is made from potatoes, which contributes to the smooth finish, we consider this company more than just an alcohol brand, we see it more as a community of like-minded people who share a love for life. We have a young team who care about what our consumers want and our aim to deliver exactly that.
How much of a challenge has it been to enter that industry?
It's not been easy, but it's been so fulfilling to create something from scratch with family heritage at its heart. I had zero knowledge of the industry when I started but I believed in myself and had passion to succeed. I’ve a wonderful team also which has the same drive as myself and loves my company like their own. When we launched our gin in 2018, 12 other Irish companies also launched a new gin so the fact we are still here and doing well is a testament to the hard work put in so far. Each new region that we sign up is a huge achievement and brings us one step closer to having our product available all over the world - so we continue to keep our heads down and work hard.
What successes have you had to date?
We launched in Ireland in Feb 2018, and at just 13 weeks old, our Muff Gin won Gold at the 2018 WSWA expo in Las Vegas. It has since won numerous awards, including Gold at the Gin World Masters Asia 2018; Best in Ireland at The UK Gin Guide Awards 2019; and Gold at the Irish People’s Choice Award 2019. Since launching in Ireland, we've secured global accounts across African + Eastern in Dubai, Coles Liquor in Australia - one of the largest companies in Australia with over 1300 stores - will commence in June 2020, and we have our first shipment to Germany this month. Our next challenge is to take on the UK market and introduce our vodka and gin to the British audience.
Tell us about your range of products – what’s special among it?
So far, we produce all our own artisan gin and vodka. Both spirits are made using a potato-spirit base, which we ferment with four types of Irish potatoes. This is then distilled six times, to create a clean and 'creamy' finish. The gin is produced using a unique blend of nine botanicals, including mandarin, rosemary, elderflower and champagne essence. This makes it stand out and sets it apart from the rest. Both our spirits are gluten-free and vegan. According to the Nielsen CGA 2020 trends predictions, demand for premium vodka is set to rise, which is influenced by the 'better for you' movement. Alongside low and no-ABV spirits, consumers are also seeking out sugar-free spirits. Our vodka has 0% sugar, is gluten-free and vegan friendly. Ideal for those seeking 'cleaner' spirits.
What are your plans to launch in the UK?
We were really keen to explore the UK market, so decided to make our UK debut this month with our first London pop-up cocktail bar. Located in London's iconic Camden Market as part of the official Mayor of London's St Patrick's Day Festival. This was a huge opportunity for us to showcase our products to a new audience and give Londoners a taste of Ireland with our traditional craft potato inspired gin and vodka recipes, that also have a modern twist. I've always loved that Camden Market is an iconic London hotspot. It attracts Londoners and visitors from across the globe who are seeking out new experiences, unique products and something a little bit different. We felt like it was a natural fit for our first UK activation. We plan to have our products listed in venues across the UK by the end of 2020.
Where can we find The Muff Liquor Company products in Britain?
We are now available across the UK online from here and here and we have further UK stockists, both on and off trade with Hammonds of Knutsford in the pipeline. We're also now stocked in venues in London, Glasgow and Liverpool where they're also being included in specialty cocktails.