To ‘e’ or not to ‘e’, that is the question for McGregor’s whiskey partner

Cantillon: if it is called Irish whiskey it must be distilled and matured on island of Ireland

When Conor McGregor strolled out for his post-fight press conference last weekend, he brandished a bottle of Irish whiskey and announced, in typically irrepressible style, that he was going to take over the market.

"Coming soon," McGregor said, as he held up the bottle adorned with his nickname. Perhaps a little too soon – the label read Notorious Irish Whisky. Irish whiskey is, of course, always spelled with an 'e'. Whisky is Scotch.

So what if the printing of the label was a little rushed? McGregor will probably never get a bigger television audience, so it was understandable that he seized the moment to plug his new product.

There is, in fact, no rule to prevent an Irish spirit being marketed as whisky. But it would make no commercial sense as it would alienate it within the Irish market – his bond with his homeland is half of McGregor’s personal brand – and it would confuse Americans, who also spell it whiskey.


Presumably they will get the spelling right whenever the Notorious product is officially launched. So who is going to distil it for him?

The provenance of Irish whiskey is protected under European Union rules. If it is called Irish whiskey it must be distilled and matured on the island of Ireland, and so he must have a deal in place with an Irish producer.

Industry sources say McGregor’s partner is not the Teeling family, long associated with the Irish whiskey industry. It is also, apparently, not Renegade spirits, the company behind Waterford Distillery.

The smart money, industry sources speculated, is on West Cork Distillery, which already makes The Pogues Irish whiskey.

John O’Connell, a co-founder of West Cork, was adamant on Wednesday that his company is not McGregor’s partner.

Whoever it is they will need significant quantities of whiskey lying around to relabel under the Notorious brand, which it is understood will be aimed at the mass market. They love McGregor in the US, and they love their whiskey too.

The company will also have to move quickly to secure a trademark. McGregor’s holding company has an Irish application pending since last year to register the Notorious trademark across a wide range of categories. But class 33, which covers non-beer alcoholic drinks, was not among them.