In our new Meet the Maker series, we're shining the light on the many gifted producers behind some of Ireland's best food and drink brands. Today, we chat to Mary Sadlier of Coole Swan
Could you tell us a bit about the history of Coole Swan?
Where to start? Coole Swan has a short history – but it is a varied one. We have faced an ever-changing business climate and the ups and downs have all formed part of our story. When Coole Swan was first being created it took 213 attempts for us to arrive at the incredible liquid we bottle today – we know what it means to “try, try again” and throughout our history, we have never ceased in our mission to create the world’s most delicious tasting Irish cream liqueur.
Taking natural ingredients, an amazing team of people and an old farming shed on the Brady family farm in county Meath, Coole Swan has grown from a premium start-up to a multi-award-winning brand. However, to this day, all those years later, we remain rooted where we began – on the family farm, in the Boyne Valley, county Meath.
Why is using Irish ingredients important to your company?
Ireland is a small country but with a big name. Worldwide we are renowned for many things; Music, culture, and especially for our food! The Irish food industry is rich and diverse and when it comes to making Coole Swan our ultimate focus is the quality of our ingredients.
For quality cream, we had to look no further than our own fields where the cows of County Meath produce some of the best dairy in the world. Other than cream, whiskey is a key component to giving Coole Swan its smooth and distinct taste. A quality single-malt from a distillery down south adds a buttery, spicy finish to Coole Swan and there is no other blend that we think would taste better (we tried 213 different formulas remember!)
Irish ingredients are important to us because Irish ingredients are guaranteed in their provenance and quality – two things we value as a company.
What is the biggest challenge that you face as a drinks producer in Ireland?
As a company, we see challenges as opportunities. It is not easy to build a business from the ground up, especially not a premium drinks business in this day and age – but nothing worth having comes easy. We put it down to the quality of our team – we have had everything from economic recessions to global pandemics – and yet, we are still here and going from strength to strength.
What new trends do you see that are emerging in your industry?
Our industry is an exciting one where trends and ideas are constantly emerging. The trend that we are loving the most is - we see a younger demographic moving towards quality. This generations drinker don’t just want to drink – they want to experience drink. They also wear their hearts on their sleeves – they care about the environment, they care about mental and physical health and they care about producers and supporting the independent companies they love.
Today’s drinker is drinking less but they are drinking better – for Coole Swan – this is amazing. We have championed all-natural, locally sourced ingredients for a long time now and to see the consumer's mindset following suit is extraordinary.
Are there any major changes you would like to see in your industry?
Not change – evolvement. We would love for that trend of drinking better quality to continue and evolve so it no longer remains a “trend” but a standard for drinkers everywhere
What has running your own business taught you?
“Plans are nothing planning is everything” - Plans assume you will know the outcome and can control it, but in fact, facing all our obstacles have shown us – you can’t! Who could have envisioned Coronavirus was coming down the road? So, instead of “making a plan”, we are learning to always be planning – ready to adapt to whatever we must face but never straying from the values that define us as a brand.
Who are some other Irish food/drink brands you draw inspiration from?
Dingle, Ballymaloe, Barry’s Tea, Slane Castle Whiskey – the list could go on. These are brands that also value quality and remain true to what and who they are – Irish brands. Up and coming producers as well who create amazing, natural produce like BowlaGranola in Galway, Ion herbs, Homespun – innovative brands with fantastic products! Definitely, ones to watch.
What’s next for the company?
Upward and onwards. The sky is the limit when you know you have a great product. The quality is the key – why hold back this amazing brand when people are so interested to find out about it and, most importantly, taste it!
Find out more about Coole Swan here!