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‘I went from being on the dole to making a €1.8m whiskey’

Dubliner Jay Bradley, founder of The Craft Irish Whiskey Co, has gone on an incredible journey from unemployment to crafting the world’s rarest single malt. He tells Deirdre Reynolds what’s next


The Craft Irish Whiskey founder Jay Bradley

The Craft Irish Whiskey founder Jay Bradley

Award-winning single malt, The Devil’s Keep

Award-winning single malt, The Devil’s Keep


The Craft Irish Whiskey founder Jay Bradley

Ahead of St Patrick’s Day, Jay Bradley has a task that would make many men, and a growing number of women, suitably green with envy.

The whiskeymaker is in final stages of bringing his latest ultra-exclusive single malt, which will sell for €88,000 a bottle, to the market. But, first, are those all important tastings to ensure the limited-edition spirit (just 88 bottles, to be precise) lives up to its pricetag.

“Last night we were sitting there tasting our next release, The Aodh, and we were going through all the tastings of what might be,” Jay tells Magazine+.

“There was about 20 different casks of stock from 1991, so a 31 year-old whiskey, and I was sitting there with the two lads that are tasting it, going: ‘Pinch ourselves, lads. We’re literally tasting the rarest whiskey on earth, and we’ve twenty different casks that we’re tasting from. Do we even realise how lucky we are?’”

Sure, the luck of the Irish may have played a small part in the whiskey entrepreneur’s incredible success story. But after finding himself back at square one just four years ago, it’s safe to say there was more than the angels’ share of determination involved too.


Award-winning single malt, The Devil’s Keep

Award-winning single malt, The Devil’s Keep

Award-winning single malt, The Devil’s Keep

Long story short, the 40 year-old went from running his own bar and restaurant in New Zealand to being on the dole, after moving home to Ireland to spend time with his terminally ill father in 2018.

Incidentally, his late dad Shay is the man who went viral for his funeral prank the following year, where he punked mourners with a pre-recored message, and that resolve to have the last laugh is clearly in the genes.

“Basically, I lost everything,” says Jay, who has just welcomed his fourth child, a son named James, after his father.

“My dream was always to go back to Ireland to start a whiskey brand, but I had no money now for bottles, for buying distillate off somebody, for labels or anything else.

“In July 2018, I crafted an idea to build out a sister company called the Whiskey & Wealth Club, and bacially every ounce of profit that that [whiskey investment] company made was poured in to starting The Craft Irish Whiskey Co. So I kind of had to bootstrap it from being on the dole, and the government giving me a beautiful €200 a week to feed a family of five, to starting a company and it into what it is today.”

As well as bucket list price points, currently ranging from €600 to €10,000, the company’s USP is that it doesn’t put age-statements such as ‘10 Year Old’ or ‘20 Year Old’ on its whiskeys, as Jay believes “there’s so much more” to a great whiskey.

It’s a strategy that’s paid off after inaugural release, The Devil’s Keep, was crowned Best Single Malt in Ireland in the no age statement category at the World Whiskies Awards 2022. The 29 year-old now goes up against the best whiskeys in the world at the finals in London on March 24.

“This is as big as you get,” explains Jay, whose lifelong passion for whiskey can be traced back to his teens, when he began working with wood in his father’s furniture factory. “You win this and it’s legendary status. If it’s us or if it’s another Irish whiskey, I don’t really mind.

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“For me, the passion has been not to make me famous or even my company famous – it’s to get people speaking about Irish whiskey as an ultra luxury, high-end product, because all they really know around the world is Jameson. And while Jameson is a nice tasting whiskey, its something that you mix with ginger ale or put in a cocktail – it’s not a sipping single malt.”

Whoever splashed $2m on the brand’s rare Emerald Isle Collection at a charity auction last year – making it the world’s most expensive whiskey – presumably isn’t enjoying it ‘on the rocks’.

But boss Jay, who is planning to open a distillery in Dublin and is also working on a more accessible €100 release called The Donn, insists he’s not a whiskey snob, and has no beef with cheaper blends like Conor Mc Gregor’s Proper No.Twelve.

“I’m not against it,” he says. “I think what Conor McGregor’s done, for example, is great for Irish whiskey. He’s got so many more people drinking it and hopefully at some point some of these people will upscale and say, ‘OK, I’ve tried Proper 12, maybe now I’ll try a Red Breast’, or maybe at some point, they’ll try our whiskey.”

“I think everyone should drink whiskey the way they want to drink their whiskey. If they want ginger ale in it, if they want ice in it – go for it.”

  • The Craft Irish Whiskey Co’s new release, The Taoscán, 600, is available to pre-order from craftirishwhiskey.com from March 17

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