Proper No. 12 Irish Whiskey: The Ultimate Bottle Guide

In 2010, Ireland was home to only four Irish whiskey distilleries, and as of early 2022, there were 40, and the numbers continue to grow, per Forbes. When you compare Irish whiskey to a spirit like bourbon, which is on fire with popularity and has 812 distilleries in the US (via IBIS World), it's easy to see that Irish whiskey may not be flying off the shelves in the same way, but as numbers rise, it's clear that it is seeing a similar boom. According to Distilled Spirits, in 2021, Americans spent enough money on Irish whiskey to generate $1.3 billion for the distilleries in Ireland.

The Irish whiskey is a label that is said to have grown faster than any other recent Irish whiskey label. Proper No. Twelve Irish whiskey torpedoed from a new label to millions of dollars in revenue in just three fast years and has helped to pique people's interest in the whiskey from the Emerald Isle. Proper No. Twelve is a popular whiskey at a reasonable price point. Today, the whiskey stays in the news thanks to its creator, a famous MMA fighter and controversial public figure, who helped make the bottle popular with whiskey drinkers and MMA fans alike.

The history of Proper No. Twelve Irish Whiskey

Mixed martial arts fighter Conor McGregor teamed up with expert distiller, David elder, who had worked with Guinness, to create an Irish Whiskey that would cause people to take notice. Logomyway explains McGregor had always been a fan of Irish whiskey and dreamed of having his own label, plus with his popularity, especially a social media following of millions of fans, it was obvious how he could promote it. According to the site, they sampled about 100 whiskey blends before landing on the winner, a blend of single malt and grain whiskies. Distributed in 2018, Proper No. Twelve quickly flew off the shelves and continues to do so today.

The team chose what is said to be the oldest distillery in Northern Ireland, Old Bushmills Distillery, for bottling, says Whiskey Cast, but where the whiskey is sourced is unclear since the blend doesn't contain any whiskey from Bushmills. 

The deal with Proximo

It only took three years for Proper No. twelve to become one of the biggest names in Irish Whiskey. After a financially successful three years, McGregor and his partners at Proper No. Twelve sold their majority stake to Proximo Spirits, a distributor known in the liquor business for names like Bushmills and Jose Cuervo already part of the umbrella brand. The company previously had 49% in the game with Proper No. Twelve, but the deal made that number greater, according to CBS, and the deal made McGregor and his partners about $600 million wealthier.

One of McGregor's business partners, Ken Austin tells Shaken News Daily that it was the plan all along to eventually make a deal like with Proximo, and the timing was right for the major shift. Selling a majority stake hasn't seemed to change McGregor's love for the brand, however; after the sale, he posted on Instagram saying, "Proper Twelve is my baby for life."

Who is Conor McGregor?

Biography says that as a boy he enjoyed soccer, but after finding that due to his aggressive behavior, he was well suited for boxing, he focused on that for many years, until he found his real passion, mixed martial arts. Conor is world renowned today for his Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight and lightweight titles in MMA. Although McGregor is now a multi-millionaire, it hasn't always been an easy path. In remembrance of that, Biography says the fighter named his current yacht "188," which is the amount he received weekly in welfare checks before he launched his MMA career. 

When McGregor isn't busy fighting, he's also a father to three children and has been with their mother, Dee Delvin, for over a decade (via The Irish Sun). He's also received several charges and fines for alleged dangerous behavior out of the ring, including multiple reckless driving charges, assault charges, and fines such as $1,000 compensation for punching someone in a pub for rejecting a shot of his celebrity whiskey (via Inside Hook). Despite all the legal issues and selling his majority stake in the company, McGregor is still an active promoter of the whiskey brand.    

What's the meaning of Proper No. Twelve?

Most whiskeys have a meaning behind their name so those who enjoy it understand where it came from or what it means to the distillery. Part of the pleasure of drinking a fine whiskey, whether it's Irish, American, or Scottish is knowing there is a history of how it came to be. Proper No. Twelve is no exception and the story behind its name is a sentimental one.

McGregor is proud of his Irish roots and that pride is reflected in the name of his Irish Whiskey. The number 12 is the area code of Crumlin, the neighborhood in Dublin where McGregor was raised. McGregor tells JOE, "It's a place dear to my heart. It's where I learned how to fight; it made me who I am today. It's a place I'm still very much a part of every single day of my life."

What's the meaning of Proper No. Twelve's logo?

Just as the name, Proper No. Twelve has a special meaning, so does the brand's logo. Although there are critics who feel the logo doesn't suit Conor McGregor, the founders stuck to their guns. Perhaps critics feel it should have more of a "fighting" look to it, but when the purpose of each part is understood, the logo is meaningful and sophisticated.

LogoMyWay explains that Proper's logo of a tiger's head wearing a crown represents courage, fearlessness, and strength, while the crown is a symbol of dominance and authority — all words that arguably suit McGregor quite well. The words "Proper No. Twelve" sit between two horizontal lines to signify calmness, stability, and motion, according to the article, and even the colors, black and white, are chosen for a reason:  Black is mysterious, intimidating, and seductive, and when seen as a positive, it represents wealth, elegance, and power; however, when viewed as negative, the traits are fear and sadness.

How it's distilled

To be an Irish whiskey, a bottle must, of course, be distilled in Ireland and Ireland alone. The types of grains chosen determine whether the whiskey is considered a malt, grain, pot still, or blended Irish whiskey. Proper No. Twelve is a blend of grain and single malt, and the distilling process begins the same way it does for all whiskeys, with the proper grain selection. For this Irish whiskey, the brand choose air-dried, germinated barley that becomes hard and crispy during the drying process. Because of this, it's then rolled, using a traditional rolling mill, and the result is a fine barley powder called grist.

The milled barley is mashed and then allowed to naturally ferment, and finally, it's distilled using a triple-distillation process in copper pot stills, which yields a cut above 80% alcohol. The whiskey is left to age in barrels. What gives Proper No. Twelve additional flavors is that it's aged in American bourbon oak barrels, allowing the Irish whiskey to inherit a touch of what bourbon is known for, such as vanilla and honey.

The notes in Proper No. Twelve Irish Whiskey

McGregor has made it clear when describing his whiskey brand that he wanted to create a drink that everyone would enjoy, whether they are seasoned whiskey enthusiasts or someone new who has never even tried Irish whiskey. This may be why he chose to create a blend since blends tend to go down smoothly and are a great way to begin drinking whiskey if you aren't used to it. Blends can also provide an excellent, smooth finish for even experienced whiskey connoisseurs (but the brand has its detractors among experienced reviewers).

According to Master of Malt, the notes of Proper No. Twelve begin with the nose as you bring it near and find aromas of floral and vanilla with hints of sandalwood. After the whiskey opens up, citrus is noticed as well. On the palate is a crisp sweetness like orchard fruit and also honey, which are followed by white pepper, giving the whiskey a kick. As a finish, the whiskey might leave you with honey and a little heat, lingering on the tongue.

Why is it so popular?

If you know anything about MMA fighting, you understand why McGregor's name on an Irish Whiskey has had huge success. He didn't just put his face on a whiskey to advertise it, but he actually founded Proper No. Twelve, and his fans are all over it. The Drinks Business writes that in 2021 Proper No. Twelve saw a 21% growth and quickly rose to the top for Irish whiskey sales in the United States. McGregor tells The New York Post, "I said that I was coming in strong and would disrupt the whiskey category, and me and my team have done exactly that."

For better or worse, the brand indeed has shaken up the category (even if it's ranked as "fine" when comparing Irish whiskey brands). The success is in large part thanks to McGregor's big personality and success in the MMA ring. Because he was already well known and had a huge Instagram following, social media created an excellent avenue for advertising. The boom for Proper No. Twelve seems to have piqued interest in Irish whiskey altogether in the U.S. and could help pique continued interest in the category after years of the spirit playing second fiddle to bourbon. 

How to enjoy Proper No. Twelve Irish Whiskey

There is never a right or wrong way to enjoy any whiskey; however, using some helpful hints, you may enjoy a whiskey in the best way suited for you. The first step to consider when drinking any spirit is what type of glass you'll use. Liquor glasses are designed to bring out the notes, such as aromas and taste. When tasting a whiskey, or enjoying it neat, choose a short tumbler with a heavy bottom. Once you have the proper glass and have poured an ounce or two, lift it to your nose before drinking. Noses often find more notes than the tongue. 

Next, take a sip and let the whiskey linger in your mouth by rolling it over your tongue from side to side to allow the drink to hit all your tastebuds. This process is sometimes called "chewing" the whiskey. As you swallow your Proper No. Twelve, you'll find the finish and possibly new notes.

It's important to always enjoy your Irish whiskey in your own way. You may prefer a drop or two of water to open up the whiskey, or some ice to calm the heat. Also, Proper No. Twelve can be used for your favorite whiskey cocktails.

The One for all Initiative

McGregor's company isn't all about fighting and whiskey; they are also using the financial gains from sales of Proper No. Twelve Irish Whiskey for the "One For All" initiative, which is established to help those working as first responders. Conor McGregor tells Scotch Whisky Magazine, "First responders all over the world are the unsung heroes who act with courage and answer the call of duty every day for people in need."

Through the "One For All" initiative, the company says it donates $5 for every case of Proper Twelve sold and up to $1 million annually for the state or country where the whiskey was sold. In 2020, Proper No. Twelve was able to donate $1.3 million to first responders all over the world, with $1 million designated for the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation in New York, according to a release from the brand.

And that's not all. McGregor also claims to share his wealth not only with the "One For All" initiative, but also with other charities, including building homes for the homeless in his hometown, saving Straight Blast Gym in Ireland, and more, per Planet Sport

What is Irish Apple Proper No. Twelve?

Proper No. Twelve Irish Apple was recently released and combines McGregor's popular Irish Whiskey with the sweetness of apple, giving drinkers a unique whiskey experience. At 70 proof, the notes begin with Proper No. Twelve's popular whiskey blend and adds sweet aromas of apple and caramel, as well as browned butter and oak.

It's sold in most liquor stores and if you can hold out for St. Patrick's Day, the site, Proper Irish Apple offers a map of the U.S., showing where you can sign up for St. Paddy's Day pub crawls where you'll likely to find a taste of the liquid gold. What better way to enjoy a new Irish whiskey than on St. Paddy's Day? Whether you snag a bottle at home or find some at a bar, with its apple flavor, Proper Irish Apple is ideal for use in cocktails, such as an apple smash, apple, mule, or apple lemonade.