Smyth and O'Reilly

Smyth _ O'Reilly

Where did the idea to set up Artisan Irish Distillers Smyth & O’Reilly come from?

I’m an entrepreneur with various business interests over the years from property and HR companies to the hotel market and I saw a gap in the market for a high quality, authentic drink of providence and heritage which can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Charles and Dawn Smyth live at Ballydarton House which was built in the early 1800s and the remarkable story of John Henry Watson who was presented with the Silver Spear in 1876 is a story of integrity and great pride and so it was extremely appropriate as a solid foundation on which we set about building the Smyth & O’Reilly Brand and our inaugural product Silver Spear Gin. A direct descendant of John Henry also called John Watson is an active team member which furthers our commitment to honouring this story in all that we do. We firmly believe that in the drinks industry A.P.H. (authenticity, providence and heritage) is of vital importance when building a brand that consumers will value and trust and our Silver Spean Gin and the tale of John Watson is of great assistance when competing in a busy market for shelf space and loyal consumers.

How did you find setting up a new business, I’m sure there were challenges along the way?

We are all used to this and it wasn’t too taxing, however, we went into this project with an acute awareness of our individual strengths and weaknesses and we played to our strengths as a team. Dawn heads up production, Charles looks after operations and accounts and I handle the sales and marketing side of the business. We have made mistakes sure who doesn’t in the beginning but these only helped to refi ne our product, positioning and know how to get us to where we are now. We enlisted an excellent board of management and a team of expert consultants who were exceptional in terms of their experience and reputation within the industry to advise us as we created a product which we are all proud to be associated with. We spent almost 2 years creating a gin that tasted perfect and was of superior quality, one which could be enjoyed neat and which offered great versatility also. We use an excellent grain and we have sourced our botanicals from no less than 4 Dawn’s background and experience in the industry certainly made the entire process easier and helped us to call on the best possible industry contacts along the way.

What has the feedback been like?

Excellent…so much so we are working on new product development already to extend the brand which has been so well received by the industry and the public.

Tell us a little about your vision and objectives for Silver Spear Gin going forward?

Without question, the biggest challenge that Silver Spear Gin must overcome is the battle for ‘shelf space’ and how we bring a relatively new product to market and get a spot on a shelf to be seen and tasted. To get a spot on the shelf we need a great taste which we have in the bag. A commercially viable product for stockists to take which we are happy with, based on European market research we have an A.P.H. that consumers will fall in love with so we can compete with the big brands for some of that finite space and thanks to John Henry - that’s covered too! So all that’s left is the legwork and hard graft and we’ll get there, I have no doubt. In terms of goals, I would like to clearly establish an internationally recognised brand that consumers enjoy now and for years to come, safely in the knowledge that it will always be enjoyed to the taste and quality that they have come to expect.

What was your breakthrough moment?

I guess with a superb product like ours you can do all the market research and sampling you want to give you that breakthrough feeling, however, for me it was when I was at a bar unbeknownst to the bar personnel or the customers and a consumer asked the bartender what they’d recommend and they said to try the Silver Spear Gin its fab and you watch the consumer enjoy your product in a very honest way, that’s pretty amazing! Bar staff are our brand ambassadors and the joy of bringing a really A.P.H. brand to market is that they can see through to the core of your product and serve it with integrity.

Tell me about the support you received from your Local Enterprise Office Carlow?

We were accepted for the New Frontiers Programme in Carlow and it was, without doubt, an excellent course to attend not only for the business acumen garnered by participants but also the contact base that it delivered and personal and professional growth for the members of our small team. It also led to Bord Bia connections and so many other avenues that opened up as a result of it thereafter. They also helped us with grant assistance which really helped us to engage with top industry consultants to refi ne our sales and marketing strategy and the internationalisation of the business. Each international market requires a unique business model and sales and marketing strategy and that is an extremely important part of the business to get spot on and LEO Carlow’s assistance enabled us to get that part correct for which we are very grateful.


You have been in various businesses for many years now, will you share with us the best advice you have received in business?

There are so many pieces of advice I have gathered over the years so that’s a tough one….the age-old phrase “put the very best team you can get together and listen to them”. Some people say one should “think outside the box” but that’s one phrase I disagree with because if you have to think outside a box you have already limited yourself.


What advice would you give others?

Once you have the passion and belief in your business and you can see there is a genuine opportunity in the market for it to justify that belief – follow your dreams! It is important to be realistic in terms of what you want and what’s achievable for you but after that’s clearly established just go for it! You don’t necessarily have to have an ego but you must have a strong self-belief.

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