Whisky-related stories brought to life in book

One of the great whisky-linked success stories is Bailey’s – Irish whisky and cream, plus other ingredients, which is a global phenomenon and has spawned countless imitations, none quite up to the original.

Amazingly, the drink was first concocted by David Gluckman, a South African Jewish advertising man working in London, who mixed it in 1973 in his Soho office from Jameson’s, a tub of supermarket cream, sugar and drinking chocolate. All this and much more can be found in his book, “That S*it Will Never Sell”, recently published by Prideaux Press at £25.

He and a business partner ran a brand development agency which was asked by IDV (International Distillers and Vintners, now part of Diageo) to develop a new drink for an Irish subsidiary, as Ireland was assisting firms spawning Irish products with export potential.

David had helped to create the Kerrygold butter brand and knew Ireland’s dairy products. But mixing whisky and cream was then a step in the dark. The name Bailey’s came from the pub under David’s office, the initials R&A Bailey were chosen from the Royal and Ancient in St Andrews.

Testing the prototype drink on focus groups didn’t go well. Male drinkers sniffed it was “a woman’s drink” and a female group said it “looked like kaolin and morphine”, a well-known cure for diarrhoea. Luckily, David had placed two test bottles in a London pub and within days one vanished. The publican said two off-duty cops had tried it and emptied the bottle. That was the clincher.

Company executives in Dublin loved it and soon the drink went into full production. It was no overnight success, but over the years Bailey’s became the drinks success story par excellence. Within eight years, it was selling zillions of bottles a year and it remains a shining star in Diageo’s crown.

David has since helped launch countless other drink brands, some successful, some not, but nothing matches his success with Bailey’s. His book is pithily written (as one would expect) and sheds plenty light on the advertising/brand promotion/PR world where lavish, well-lubricated lunches are matched by rejections, put-downs and, after months of effort, occasional failure.  Whether you’re in the trade or just a casual reader, it’s a book to be sipped with pleasure.