How an Aussie bartender became one of Dublin’s hottest distillers

Made in the heart of the Liberties district of Dublin, the award-winning Dubliner Whiskey has relaunched in Australia with a new look and a former Perth bar manager behind it.

James Di Guilio, 30, is one of six young distillers at Dubliner Whiskey, which has been in Australia since 2014 and has seen immense growth across its product portfolio. Dubliner Whiskey & Honeycomb Liqueur expression is among the top 10 mainstream liqueurs in the country and has seen the highest value growth within the category last year at 62%*.

After receiving wide acclaim in the US and the UK, Dubliner Whiskey unveiling its new visual identity Down Under, with a fresh logo and bottle design that reflects the vibrancy of modern Dublin. The brand re-vamp was spearheaded by Di Guilio and the distilling team, who knew that in order to engage a new generation of whiskey drinkers, they needed a product that reflected their tastes, personality and passions.

As Nicole Moore, Marketing Manager for GAP Drinks, the distributors of Dubliner Whiskey in Australia, notes: “Irish Whiskey is one of the most dynamic alcohol categories in the world currently, yet we know that to appeal to Gen Z and Millennial consumers, we need to give them something bold, delicious and uncomplicated – accessible to all ages and tastes. So, being re-designed and driven by our young and passionate team of distillers, we can now confidently say we are producing a whiskey
made for the people, by the people.”

Di Guilio was bar manager at Wolf Lane in Perth for two years, after completing a Bachelor of Technology – BTech (Motorsports). Here, he reveals to Drinks Digest how he went from being a motorsports tech head to one of the top distillers in Dublin.

You were bar manager at Wolf Lane from 2016-18 – what drew you to Ireland and distilling?

I’ve always had a passion for drinks, even while studying motorsports, having worked in bars during uni and then continuing in the bar trade after. I think it wasn’t until I started working in bars full time that I really started to develop an interest in how certain spirits, and in particular, whiskey were produced.

Having an engineering and technical background, I found the process fascinating and decided to pursue a career in distilling. This pushed me to make the move over to Ireland where I studied Distilling through the Institute of Brewing and Distilling. After completing this course, I was then fortunate enough to have been offered a job with The Dublin Liberties Distillery.

What attracted you to Dubliner Whiskey?

One of the key reasons I was attracted to Dubliner brand and The Dublin Liberties Distillery was the city. Dublin is so vibrant and full of life, and so when I was offered the opportunity to distil right in the heart of the city, I couldn’t pass it up. I would be part of a growing industry not only within Ireland, but the world as well.

What was the philosophy behind the rebranding of Dubliner?

Globally, we decided that it was time for the Dubliner brand to reflect the city in which it was made, by putting the focus back on the brand’s personality and provenance. The city itself is so vibrant and full of character, you get the sense real change can and is happening here, so the rebrand was a conscious effort to move away from the traditional and capture the energy
and youth of modern Dublin.

Is it exciting to see the popularity of Dubliner rise in Australia?

For me the Dubliner Honeycomb Liqueur was something that my mother would drink after dinner with friends. So, to see the growth in younger people enjoying the spirit is great – as it’s truly a unique and delicious drink. The Honeycomb Liqueur is great for people just starting to explore whiskey and awesome for cocktails, as it gives real depth and flavour.

The reason we feel many Aussies love this product, is because it is so diverse and can be served neat, mixed into a range of cocktails, or even as a dessert ingredient, or topper. While it’s a perfect base for classic cocktails like the Espresso Martini or Old Fashioned, a great way to enjoy the product, is the ‘Honeycomb Crumble’ – which is essentially a shot of Dubliner Honeycomb Liqueur with a teaspoon of Chocolate liqueur. So delicious! However, I would have to say my favourite way to enjoy the Dubliner Whiskey is with Dry and Lime, something simple, but sometimes simple is best.

Outside of that, in our wider range, it’s wonderful to see our efforts gain a little momentum. We’re a small team at the distillery and our goal is to make great whiskey without any frills, making it accessible and enjoyable rather than ‘collectible’.

What makes Australia a great market for Irish Whiskey?

Irish Whiskey has been loved in Australia for many centuries now, however it is often associated with older heritage brands like Bushmills or Jameson. In recent years we’ve seen people start to enjoy whiskey at a younger age, and so it’s given us a unique opportunity to help a new generation of whiskey drinkers embrace this Irish Whiskey category. Now more
than ever, Aussie consumers are educated, vocal and experience-driven, looking for products that reflect their individual tastes and personality. And it’s here that we’re hoping for a lot of growth, particularly on Dubliner.

What’s next for distillery?

I can’t say too much just yet, but I’m quietly very excited about what we’re working on and the processes we’re using to craft our spirits. I’m very proud to be a part of the team here and you can expect to see some new and highly innovative products coming out soon on our Dubliner and Liberties range.

What are you missing most about Australia?

That’s a tough question. I miss a lot about Australia, my family being the biggest thing. But being from WA, I have to say I miss the beach where you would often find me at a bar overlooking the ocean – usually Cottesloe – on a hot Sunday arvo drinking a very cold, crisp Swan Draught. I do have a sweet tooth though, so it’s the lollies and chocolate bars that my family to send me to remind me what I’m missing out on.

Dubliner Whiskey & Honeycomb Liqueur has an RRP of $47.99; Dubliner Irish Whiskey has an RRP of $51.99. To purchase, visit Dan Muphy’s or BWS.

*IRI Data July 2020 MAT.

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