Dan Leavy ready to score a try with Ogham

Supported by Bank of Ireland his entire career, former Leinster Rugby star Dan Leavy’s entry to the whiskey game is gaining legs with Release No. 3 of Ogham Whiskey.

Forced to retire prematurely from his rugby career after succumbing to a long-standing knee injury, former Leinster and Ireland flanker Dan Leavy is still in fighting form and is taking on the world of business through his family’s spirits venture Ogham Whiskey.

Today (7 December 2023) Ogham will launch Release No. 3 of its whiskey brand and Leavy told ThinkBusiness he has no doubt it will perform just as well as the two  previous releases which were sold out.

“They are all seven-year-old malts. The number seven is important because I used to play number seven and Adam was a 7s player”

The Irish whiskey business is experiencing something of a renaissance and the timing of Ogham’s latest release could not be better as Irish whiskey sales are beginning to provide meaningful competition to Scotch in the lucrative US market.

Leavy along with his brother retired 7s star Adam and his father Donal have joined forces with former Dingle Distillery executive Doug Leddin to create something special.

Blending courage with conviction

Bottle of Ogham Whiskey.

“My retirement and Adam’s retirement gave us the push we needed to get going and we met with Doug Leddin and we devised the Ogham brand”

“After my career-ending injury right before the Japan Ruby World Cup, I knew I was going to be out of the game for a long time and it ended up being 18 months. My dad, my brother and I always had a pipe-dream to get a distillery established on our family farm at Castletown Geoghegan in Westmeath. My retirement and Adam’s retirement gave us the push we needed to get going and we met with Doug Leddin and we devised the Ogham brand.

“Our first release of 1,100 bottles sold out in 20 hours at the time of the Champions Cup Final. Release No. 2 launched the week of the Ireland-Scotland game in the World Cup and 700 bottles were sold out in five and a half hours.

“With Release No. 3 we are hoping to sell it quicker and keep building momentum.”

Leavy said that many buyers will include members of the rugby community such as Leinster Rugby and Ireland team colleagues but he is keen to broaden its reach to a wider community of discerning whiskey buyers.

Launching the Ogham Whiskey business with the support of Bank of Ireland, Leavy said it was the continuation of a banking relationship that extends back to the beginning of his rugby career.

“Bank of Ireland supported me as the title sponsor for Leinster Rugby through my whole career. I opened my first account with them and now I have a mortgage with them. And now in my next chapter in business they are supporting me too.”

In terms of the name of the business, Ogham is the earliest known form of writing used in Ireland. The earliest surviving examples date back to the 4th century AD meaning that the Ogham brand provides a window into the language, culture, and society of early Ireland.

Among the finer details of the bottle are some personal touches which reference those involved such as a 7-year age statement to reflect Dan’s number when he played for Ireland and Leinster and Adam’s time with the Ireland 7s team. 

As such the latest release will be a seven-year-old single malt. “They are all seven-year-old malts. The number seven is important because I used to play number seven and Adam was a 7s player. 

“Release No. 3 will have a lovely cognac finish because we’re coming up to Christmas and wanted to do so with a perfect flavour. We will produce 1,100 bottles in this release.”

Its latest expression is a 7-year-old single malt Irish whiskey finished in a cognac cask that offers a delightful and unique tasting experience. Carrying a honeyed malt with a delicate sweetness, the cognac cask finishes adds subtle hints of dried fruits with vanilla undertones. The finish is long and satisfying with lingering notes of caramel. 

This whiskey is a fine example of craftsmanship and innovation, perfect for those seeking a distinctive and well-rounded Irish dram. This highly exclusive release has been sourced through Great Northern Distillery by  W.D. O’Connell. This latest expression is limited to less than 1,100 bottles and is bottled at 46.23%.

While the growing community of whiskey brands emerging from Ireland have taken to different modes of raising interest and driving sales – ranging from cask investments to crowdfunding – Leavy said the strategy is to continue to grow momentum through specific releases.

“For the moment our plan is to keep selling out, and keep gaining momentum. But if you want to really make money you have to go global. We’ll start with a strong and steady execution of our strategy locally and then build up to selling overseas.

Just like on the rugby field, it’s all about velocity and momentum. “I got a huge injury but instead of feeling sorry for myself I looked for a good opportunity and we turned a pipe dream into a viable option.

“We are very lucky to have crossed paths with Doug and he was very interested in doing something with us. We worked with Third Mind Creative Agency who were amazing and did some amazing work developing the brand and appearances of the bottles. Fundamentally if the liquid isn’t good, none of it matters. So we doubled down on tastings and experiments and we’ve been really happy with these first few releases.

“We have another release planned for February to keep the momentum going. The whole thing was a bit of a leap of faith but we’re glad we did it.”

John Kennedy
Award-winning ThinkBusiness.ie editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.