An unpleasant astringency and notes of Listerine on the finish make this Irish whiskey from UFC fighter Conor McGregor as unsavory as its founder’s infamous personality.
Classification Irish whiskey
Company Eire Born Spirits
Distillery Bushmills (Bushmills, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom)
Still Type copper pot
Proof 80 (40% ABV)
Aged at least 3 years
Awards Gold, 2020 Bartender Spirits Awards; Gold, 2020 USA Spirits Ratings
$5 from each case sold is donated to local first responder programs, up to $1 million annually.
Its green glass bottle and old-school label, featuring a tiger wearing a crown (representing Mr. McGregor himself?), are terrific-looking.
This is really not, by any standard, a good whiskey. The palate is oddly astringent and the finish has notes of Listerine.
Apart from the money going to first responders, Proper No. Twelve revenues also go into the pocket of Conor McGregor, who has been seen on video punching an old man in the head for refusing a shot of his whiskey.
Color: A very appealing golden straw
Nose: Light and sweet. At first, paint thinner is the dominant aroma, but once it opens up, it takes on more agreeable floral and citrus notes.
Palate: Light and oddly astringent—a little bitter and slightly sour. It tastes as if someone pulled a bad barrel and decided to make a whiskey out of it. There’s some vanilla in there too, but it fails to overcome the weird dominant flavors.
Finish: Long and quite unpleasant. Lots of oak, which is surprising for a three-year-old whiskey, combined with Listerine (the original medicinal flavor, not the cool mint).
Conor McGregor is, by many accounts, a rotten human being, and his whiskey doesn’t do much to redeem him. Launched in 2018 by the former UFC champion with multiple arrests under his title belt, Proper No. Twelve lists David Elder, previously of Guinness Brewery, as its master distiller. The distillate is sourced from Bushmills, the legendary distillery which has been making fine Irish whiskey for centuries. A blend of single malt and grain whiskeys, it is triple-distilled (par for the course for Irish whiskey) and aged a minimum of three years in ex-bourbon barrels. What could go wrong? Apparently, judging from the final product, quite a bit.
So what happened? It’s hard to say. It could be that Bushmills sold off subpar stocks, knowing that McGregor’s name would sell Proper No. Twelve regardless of quality. It could be something Elder and/or McGregor did during the blending or aging process. It could just be that Mr. McGregor likes whiskey that tastes like Listerine, and this was what he had in mind. But whatever happened, what went in the bottle is almost as disagreeable as McGregor’s notorious personality.
As a sipper, this whiskey is practically intolerable. As a mixer, it’s best buried among other ingredients—but at 80 proof, it doesn’t even bring a lot of alcohol to the party. On the plus side, at $25 a bottle, Proper No. Twelve is one of the more affordable Irish whiskeys on the market. But there are plenty of superior options for roughly the same price, including Bushmills’ own flagship expression.
Conor McGregor’s whiskey is named for the Dublin suburb of Crumlin, postal code 12, where he grew up. “It’s proper Irish whiskey and twelve is my hometown,” he explained in a press release.