Trading Tackles for Tipples
In a world where sporting heroes can struggle to find their footing after retirement, the Leavys were always going to be an anomaly. Just as they defied many odds throughout their respective 7s and XVs careers, the brothers are now blazing a trail through a strong liquor field with the launch of Ogham Whiskey.
Reflecting on their launch in May which was supported by rugby players throughout the country, Adam expressed his delight at how the product was received. “It was a busy week but a successful one, so we were delighted with it,” the Olympian said. Indeed, the response to their first release was nothing short of exceptional with Ogham Whiskey selling out in less than 24 hours despite there being no formal activation.
Instead, the Leavys and their father Donal relied on their network of influential connections while Doug Leddin, a familiar name in the whiskey industry, also played a key role. “Doug knows the industry inside out and has access to a huge network within the whiskey world. Once we got them on board and spread the word through our own community, everything else fell into place.”
Delving deeper into the origins of Ogham, Adam revealed that plans for the whiskey began long before their rugby careers came to an end. The Dubliners had regularly mused about setting up a micro-distillery on their family farm in Castletown-Geoghegan in Co. Westmeath.
The Leavy’s return to their midlands roots is not the only nod to the past. Their whiskey pays tribute to the enduring influence of the Ogham alphabet on Irish culture and heritage. This tribute is beautifully represented through the carefully crafted bottle design, featuring embossed Ogham lettering that holds hidden elements.
The whiskey also holds further hidden messages, including its 7-year-old age statement, specifically chosen to honour Dan’s playing number and Adam’s role in an esteemed Ireland 7s team – the first to secure both core status on the World Series and their place at the Olympic Games.
“It wasn’t an overnight hunch,” Adam says. “A lot of thought went into every aspect. Through the likes of Rugby Players Ireland, we were always aware that our rugby careers would be short-lived and so we decided to get moving on something a few years ago while we were still playing. I’m glad we had that time to think it all through.
“I think when Dan won the Grand Slam we began to see our USP and Doug gave us the extra bit of encouragement we probably needed. Once we decided it was a direction we wanted to go in we started what turned out to be a very lengthy and meticulous process to get to where we are. We left no stone unturned in selecting the right taste profile and then the development of the brand saw us through multiple prototypes.
“When you look back now it’s actually funny just how bad some of those early ideas were and how far we’ve come but it’s all part of the journey. We’ve landed on a design that stands out from the crowd and we’re very happy with it but most importantly, it is the liquid that will ultimately set us apart.”
Inevitably, the Leavy brothers’ frustrations were tested at various stages of Ogham’s development. However, Adam believes his close relationship with Dan helped carry them through the nagging moments of doubt.
“People say you should never get into business with your family or partner but I don’t know if that’s all that true,” he says. “I love working with Dan. If anything, being so close to him has helped me to share how I really felt about different things along the way. Sometimes you can be a little closed off in typical working relationships because you can’t help but think that everyone has their own agenda whereas we have this implicit trust in each other.
“With a shared passion for it, we could focus on our common goals and aspirations. Dan wouldn’t be involved unless he wanted the best for it and in order to get it all right, we knew we had to be upfront and honest with each other. It’s not personal. It’s just how it is in the changing room too. Every player is accountable for their actions. It’s very black and white. I guess we applied the same mentality to this venture.”
A commerce graduate with an MSc in Finance, Adam’s background complements Dan’s people skills and aptitude for negotiation creating a well-rounded team dynamic. Having left his role as an Investment Analyst at Wayflyer, the younger brother has been focusing his efforts on getting Ogham off the ground. Whilst he intends to return to the corporate world, for the moment he is enjoying the ways in which he has been adding to an already unique combination of attributes.
“I’ve really enjoyed testing my entrepreneurial instincts. It was probably the piece I was missing from my portfolio. At the end of the day, when you’re working in finance the majority of your work is about buying and selling but I have found that you need to have a certain level of empathy when it comes to dealing with business owners.
“I’ve now seen at first-hand how much work it takes to build a business. There’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears that have to go into it and I see how taking the step to sell up can be a massive life decision for people. Having this perspective adds another feather to my bow for when I do go back in, but I’ll leave that for another day.”
Content to have traded tackles for tipples, the Leavy’s Ogham adventure is set to continue through a number of limited releases in the coming months. In the interim, they will continue to build out the brand and grow their network.
Though it has been years in the making, Adam and Dan are only setting out on their journey. However, having transitioned their mindset from the intensity of the rugby pitch to the depths of whiskey barrels, they have already shown that they are brave enough for the challenges that lie ahead.
Head over to OghamWhiskey.com and sign up for their newsletter to ensure you don’t miss out on the announcement of their highly anticipated second release.
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