Irish drinks brand, The Muff Liquor Company is just a few years old but has been making its mark on the industry - and not just because of the name!
Donegal native Laura Bonner and business partner Tom Russell set up the Muff Liquor Company in Bonner's home county 2017. Starting out with a potato-based gin and now a vodka, with more spirits on the way, the company has been cleaning up at awards ceremonies. In 2018 it obtained the Business All Star accolade from the All Ireland Business Foundation and took Gold in the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America Exposition in Las Vegas.
We spoke to Laura about the very personal inspiration behind the business and the exciting plans for the future.
How did you get into the drinks industry?
My grandad Philip McClenaghan was a potato farmer who made poitín and from the age of 19 I became obsessed with the idea of making it into a business. I went off to college and moved to London but the feeling in my gut wouldn’t go away so two years ago I decided to move home and give it ago!
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Who is the man behind our bottle? He was known as Philip Mc Clenaghan to many but he was Granda to us. He would have turned 105 today! Once asked what his secret to a long life was? His reply “plenty of hard work” He is the inspiration behind our story and although he passed before seeing what we did, he knew we’d do it! We’re very proud to have him on the back of our bottles and we hope he’s looking down and is proud of us! #happybirthday #togranda #potato #farmer #inishowen #Donegal #Ireland #inspiration #proud #family #400yearsinthemaking ❤️
What prompted you to create your own gin?
Our first recipe was our vodka but gin was so on trend that we decided we must create one and release it first. We didn’t even know if we could make gin with a potato base but luckily we did has we are delighted with our finished product.
How would you describe the gin?
It’s not like a traditional gin as it’s not juniper led. Being a potato-based gin, it’s distilled six times - one more than most premium spirits - and we use a champagne abstract. It also has citrus botanicals such as mandarin, lemon, lime, grapefruit and it’s very smooth due to its potato base (most gins come from grain).
Can you tell us a little about the new vodka?
Our vodka is distilled six times creating a crisp, clean liquid handcrafted by using the finest Irish potatoes. The results is a premium vodka which is finely balanced with a creamy and earthy taste with a hint of vanilla on the nose.
Has being based Donegal informed the ingredients you use?
Donegal is a big potato county so the potato base was inevitable due to my upbringing. The mandarin was added as my father gave me them as a child and it’s a fond memory. Tom wanted elderflower and we both wanted a herb so that’s why we ended up using rosemary and who doesn’t like champagne?!
Do you think craft vodkas are going to be a big focus in the drinks industry?
I think craft, in general, is the way forward. Consumers love a story and the idea that a product is not mass produced so extra love goes into each bottle. I would love if craft vodka was the next ‘trend’ though.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love it all, to be honest. It’s been a dream for so long so I’m grateful every day even during the bad ones! I love meeting people at the events and, although winning awards is fantastic, my biggest satisfaction is being in a bar and hearing people ordering a Muff Gin or Muff Vodka, that feeling is incredible.
What are your future plans for the business?
We’re about to start raising money via crowdfunding which we’re pretty excited about. We’ll launch Muff Whiskey next and we’re brainstorming on a few other ideas. Our focus is Asia so we’ll keep our heads down and continue working hard.