I’m confident that I could go shot-for-shot with Conor McGregor. Drinking whiskey, strictly speaking. The mixed martial arts warrior just hit the bars with his Proper No.12 Irish whiskey, and it’s got a nice kick to it.
For those who will scoff at a celebrity trumpeting his name on the label, firstly McGregor didn’t. His name is not on the front of the bottle, the autograph is that of the master distiller. Secondly, this isn’t Puff Daddy peddling vodka or Ron Jeremy’s rum. (Yes, that’s a thing that exists.) Among Guinness, rebel music and brawlers, one of Ireland’s most respected exports is whiskey. Irish monks originally named the liquid whiskey (which in Gaelic means “water of life”) so an Irishman wouldn’t dare fook it up. McGregor putting Irish whiskey out in the world is like Snoop Dogg throwing his reputation on a strain or your grandmother endorsing food billed as "home cooking." Proper No. 12 is McGregor's liquid courage incarnate. Say what you will about the extra personality of The Notorious Mystic Mac, above all he is a proud son of Erin and did his country right.
McGregor tapped master distiller David Elder—who has stints at Bushmills and Guinness on his LinkedIn profile—and they tasted their way through nearly 100 blends (work sucks, I know) to get to the recipe they're now presenting to bars and liquor stores globally.
Want to hear my tasting notes? It tastes like a blended Irish whiskey should. This category isn’t layered single malt scotch or robust bourbon. Comparing sipping whisky to drinking whiskey is akin to comparing boxers to streetfighters. You don’t drink Irish whiskey for it’s depth—anyone who orders a Jameson neat is just too precious to order a shot. Irish whiskey is for the thirsty, and Proper 12 is a fine new addition to the category. It is certainly a bit smoother than the rest (no hard palm strike to the throat) with the lilt of sweet vanilla-infused-honey aftertaste that lingers on the tip of your tongue, making it palatable to even those who need the crutch of a chaser.
“New” is important when talking about crowd pleasers. Smells and tastes are senses that best unlock memories in your brain. An expertly cooked steak can take you back to the night you celebrated a milestone at Keens Steakhouse. The smell of modeling clay can bring you back to the seventh week of second grade. Unfortunately, a whiff of tequila can remind us of the time we almost poisoned ourselves to death on the hooch. What Proper 12 brings along with its clean assertiveness is a slightly fresh variation of smell and flavor to the well-worn Irish whiskey shelf.
Here’s the biggest problem with Irish whiskey:
“I’m going to get a round of shots, does Powers work for everybody?”
“Can we do Jameson? Last time I drank Powers, I drunk-FaceTimed my ex.”
“Sorry, I’m allergic to Jameson. When I drink it, I breakout in handcuffs.”
“Oh, actually get me Tully please….”
Ordering a round of shots should not be like trying to take a coffee run order from your picky coworkers, it should be the simple MadLib: “___ shots of ___, please.”
And because nobody in your crew has had a bad experience with Proper 12, it should be your go-to order until Kevin inevitably messes it up for everybody (Every group has a Kevin.) As a matter-of-fact, maybe you should just stop giving Kevin any shots.
Other than shooting, Proper 12’s vanilla tone wakes up with a splash of cola. As we strut toward sweater weather, the honeyed hint makes it so you needn’t add sugar to an Irish coffee, and perhaps its best application is in a hot toddy. When you first see the Proper No. 12 bottle at your local, we suggest you go a few of rounds with McGregor’s whiskey, just don’t let it knock you on your ass.