Style

In conversation with Fireball Whiskey – Canada’s premium export

A couple of weeks ago, I was in a bar and saw this weird drink called Fireball staring me dead in the eyes. I decided to take the plunge and get it on the rocks. What made me go for that? I’ll never know, but I’m bloody glad I did – because it blew my head clean off.

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We’re a whisky-based, cinnamon liqueur hailing from Canada, owned by the fantastically innovative Sazerac company. We’re the new kid on the block when it comes to alcoholic shooting products, really, and we’re certainly not afraid of ruffling a few feathers. We’re a louder than life brand with an uncompromising attitude. It’s been a bit of a runaway success story, too, having now become the number one recommended spirit brand in the US by bartenders – and number one consumed by them, too!

Since Fireball originated in the early 2000s, it’s had tiny pockets of raving fans in America. Then, all of a sudden – and almost overnight, everyone was drinking it. Now it’s my job to ensure the good people of Britain get to try it and hear about it as Fireball spreads its wings globally. We’re doing nearly four times the volume of competitor brands like Jagermeister in the US and still growing. It’s been the most successful spirit story in the US in decades.

In terms of our approach we’re certainly not afraid of going against the grain. We want to reach those people who are tired of all the same old same old brands popping up at festivals. We’ve worked hard to make sure our pricing is untouched. And we have the likes of Jack Daniels and Jim Beam trying to copy our product to get a foot in the door of the emerging cinnamon whisky market around the world following our American success – and we’re very happy to let them spend their millions of corporate big bucks on tube advertisements and billboards whilst we slowly and surely conquer the category.

We never do any above-the-line advertising, because we don’t believe bellowing your product name in customers’ faces is the smart way to market a brand. People are sick of seeing advertising invading their daily lives, so we just want to add to peoples’ experiences on a night out or at an event instead, and have our team genuinely make a connection with them. Consumers are also far smarter than the big brands give them credit for, too, and they know a copycat cash grab when they see one. We’re the original, and we’re the growing product with just a fraction of the budget. I don’t think there’s any other spirit brand around quite like us, really.

I was so bowled over by this drink I decided to get in touch with this mysterious Fireball company and tell them how great their product was. They then went a step further and decided to send me a whole bottle of the stuff to review, as well as getting to interview them about the company as a whole and what they’ve got planned for the future (hence the big block quotes throughout).

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My first impressions of Fireball had already been positive from the first taste along with their customer service, so once the bottle came through the post, the rose tinted spectacles were already firmly on. Add the beer goggles on top of that and you’ve got a very favourable outlook on these fellas from the off.

We’ve just come off the back of our marquee activation in October – The Fireball Fuelling The Fire Tour. We’re big advocates of live music and an even bigger advocate of not paying silly money to see your favourite bands. So, we worked in partnership with the Academy Music Group to put together an annual tour of punk, rock, roots and ska music with the emphasis on having fun! All those people who take themselves too seriously at a gig need not apply.

This year had ska-punk legends Reel Big Fish, punk icons Anti-Flag and the awesome Mad Caddies in tow along with Sweet Little Machine and a local opener each night across ten O2 Academy venues – all for just £10 a ticket. There was heaps of free Fireball, merch, prizes, competitions and good times aplenty at each date with lots of people trying the product for the first time, and then going on to buy about ten more each at the bar!

Elsewhere in the UK, we work with a number of festivals. We’ll be at Slam Dunk next year amongst many more. You can also find us at Winter Wonderland in London over the Christmas period, and if you have a good rock venue near you, you’ll almost certainly see us pop up there a couple of times over the course of the year.

Globally – it’s all about the festivals! We’ve a great team of like-minded Brand Managers working in different countries with a keen interest in adding value to the customers’ experience at a festival, rather than treating it as a soapbox type scenario like so many other brands, too. We’re also careful about which festivals we work with. Can you believe some of them have the likes of Colgate showing up and doing branded stuff?! Where did all the love and care go when putting together a festival? We’re not some giant faceless corporate entity, and we’ll ensure we always work with passionate people.

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The whole ethos behind the company is one that I really admire, they don’t sell out and they don’t over-complicate things. Everything is simple, full throttle and in-your-face fun. I can imagine a night out with these would produce a fair few stories, and that’s exactly the feel they’re shooting for.

In the near future – we’ll be popping up at almost every decent rock pub, bar or venue at some point. We’ve worked really hard on proving we’re not in the business of simply handing over a big cheque, but instead devoted thousands of hours of overtime from our devoted Sales and Ambassador teams to ensure we add value to their events, and that their customers fall in love with the brand.

We’ll continue to develop these relationships as well as working on our proven track record of sales in the supermarkets against our big-bucks competitors. We’re still in double digit growth year on year with a long way to go, but the signs from our first couple of years in the UK all point towards a similar fate to that of America. If I didn’t believe in the high ceiling of this product, I wouldn’t do what I do!

In the long term we want to continue to support grassroots British music talent, but also skating, snowboarding, extreme sports, American sports like NFL and hockey and also the ever-growing Americana food and drink trends in the UK hospitality industry.

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Make sure to check out Dragons, dice and dares. This is our fun little game that everyone should get! It’s an app you can download on your iPhone, Android or other. Just grab some mates, grab a bottle of Fireball and dive in. I’m sure you’ll learn a thing or two you didn’t already know about your pals.

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We don’t like to overcomplicate things. There are too many bells and whistles on drinks these days. Oh, look, this drink is served in a Fabergé egg, on the back of a duck, holding a pearl… infused with saffron smoke and stirred with Harry Potter’s f*cking wand. WHO CARES? The most important thing about going out (or staying in) and having a drink is the company you’re with.

If you’re spending ten minutes staring at your drink and Instagramming it then you’re doing it all wrong. Put the phone down and enjoy your evening with friends, or making new ones – an ice cold shot of Fireball is unmatched in breaking the ice. We’re a weekend drink and we want people to try it in the manner it was intended to be consumed for the first time.

Already love it? Then stick a shot in a tall glass with some apple juice and enjoy that Christmassy flavour. Which reminds me… need to buy a bunch of presents for people…

These are my new favourite people. Give it a go and see what you think of this tasty lil’ tipple – you can get it just about anywhere.

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