Full name: Darryl McNally
Role: Master Distiller/General Manager
DOB: 4th September 1974
Fun Fact: “I once played football against David Beckham”
So let’s start at the beginning. You’ve been in the drinks industry for a fair time – doing many different things (for Diageo and Pernod Ricard amongst others?) – but did you always know that a career in whiskey (or drinks in general?) was for you…? or was this something that came later? Could you give us a little backstory on how you got to where you are today?
Yes I started with Pernod Ricard back in 1998 working at the Bushmills site for Irish Distillers, then moved to Diageo in 2005. I was born into the drinks world as my parents had a bar so I pretty much grew up learning the bar Trade, which set me up for a career in the drinks industry. I applied for a role in Bushmills as a Purchasing/Supply Chain professional and then over time worked into a Whiskey Production role and eventually Master Distiller.
I know of you through your work on The Dubliner whiskey. Could you tell us a little more about that and how you got involved?
I had been watching Quintessential Brands as a relatively new company in the drinks world and when I found out they wanted to get into Irish Whiskey, I simply sent in my CV and the rest is history – I started about 4 weeks after sending my CV and it’s been great creating new brands for The Dubliner and building their new distillery in Dublin, which we hope to have completed in 12 months’ time.
A little off topic, but I read that you actually built your own house on your family farm. What was that like?
I did this twice once back in 1998 when I got married and again in 2010 – it is great to plan each detail of the build – a bit like building The Dubliner Distillery you know exactly what you want……so a great experience that I would suggest everyone try at some stage in their life
You’re based in County Derry, right? In terms of food and drink, what’s good down there?
My favourite place is the Harbour Bar in Portrush – great food, great whiskey and great craic……also my home town of Limavady has great bars and great music
Personally, what’s the best drink or drinking experience you’ve ever had?
I love to take the whiskies from The Dubliner and The Dublin Liberties, which we make and experiment with cocktails, but also to blend up new brands with specific cask finishes this is so much fun.
What’s a ‘day in your life’ like? Could you give us an insight into the Irish distilling business?
My day will start with dealing with Architects on the building of the new Dubliner Distillery, finalising process designs for the stills etc, maybe some blending, budgets and then maybe a few whiskey tastings or media interviews so very varied but exciting.
What’s your greatest/most memorable professional moment been, so far?
Winning the Worshipful Company of Distillers Award in 2010 – this was for the highest mark in the exams for Distilling…..a very proud moment.
Where do you get your ideas?
Years of experience in knowing what works with a little bit of innovation on top……I like to push the boundaries and be modern……trying to work out what the future taste trends in Irish Whiskey will be and cater for that.
What’s your philosophy, summed up in a sentence?
God created whiskey to stop the Irish from ruling the world……..and what good whiskies we make!!
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had, how did you overcome it, and what did you learn from it?
At the minute it is trying to cover so many roles and being in all corners of the world promoting The Dubliner Irish Whiskies and The Dubliner Liberties Whiskies. To be honest I take one week at a time and get satisfaction on how well our whiskies are being received before moving on to the next challenge…….what I have learned is that this is necessary for the growth of our brands, it’s only for a short period of time and will taper off as we get into more and more markets.
Who’s the person who’s most inspired you in your work – food industry or otherwise? Is there anyone that you draw inspiration or strength from? Do you have any specific culinary influences?
Working with so many Irish whiskey experts over the years within Pernod Ricard and Diageo it’s difficult to single out any as they have all been inspiring. I think Gordon Ramsey has to be admired for his no lose attitude as this is needed in the world of food and drink.
What do you enjoy most and least about what you do?
I love to meet people and talk about our brands The Dubliner Irish Whiskies and The Dublin Liberties Whiskies, it’s almost like talking about a member of your family……..the least enjoyable aspect is being away from your family when travelling as you see all these amazing places but cannot share with your family the experiences.
What advice would you give to aspiring distillers and drinks professionals who’d want the kind of results that you’ve had?
Follow your dream…..it is a great career and with Irish Whiskey now on such a growth trajectory there are more careers in distilling available. The IBD is a great guide and there are also universities in Ireland covering courses in distilling so there is more support than when I started out.
If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you be doing instead?
What a good question……probably own a bar/hotel in Ireland or something entrepreneurial involving food and/or drink.
If you could get anyone to try The Dubliner (fictional or real, living or dead) who would you pick and which of the whiskies would you like them to try? Assume that they go on to be your brand ambassador…
I have a few……Conor McGregor who is in my eyes The Human Dubliner……he would be a great ambassador for The Dubliner Whiskey
What’s your ultimate aim and goal for the distillery and your career? If you could achieve anything with it, what would you pick? Money and reality are no obstacle, so shoot for the moon…
To build The Dubliner Distillery and Visitor Centre which is like no other in Ireland, and make quality innovative liquids for the next 25 years….winning numerous awards, whilst traveling the world sharing them with Irish Whiskey drinkers……if money was no obstacle it would be great to also build my own distillery on the family farm in Derry…..
Where next for you and The Dubliner?
Complete The Dubliner Distillery and maximise stocks for future stocks of The Dubliner……move into new markets and align with the correct distributors whilst supporting the growth in market. So the next 12 months will be very busy!
And we always ask three customary ridiculous questions…
If you had to eat one food for the rest of your life (assume that your metabolism becomes specially adapted and this is literally the only thing you could eat) – what food would you pick and why?
Probably Irish Stew……great Irish Beef, Irish Potatoes and Carrots……and it’s great with Irish Whiskey
If you had to found a new country based around The Dubliner’s principles, what would you call it, where would it be, what would it’s capital be called and what would it’s chief export be?
The country would be “Liberties” and the capital would be “3 Stills”, it would be situated just off the coast of Dublin about 4 miles out to sea and its chief export would be you guessed it ……Irish Whiskey.
If you had to get into a no holds barred, 20 round fist fight with any fictional character, who would you square off against?
I suppose the Incredible Hulk would be fun…….