“A great gateway sipper for wine lovers and complex enough for aficionados.” That’s how The Three Drinkers’ Helena Nicklin and Aidy Smith describe the limited edition Bordeaux finished Irish Whiskey that they have come up with in time for St Patrick’s Day and also as a marker to help promote the upcoming third series of The Three Drinkers that is due to be released on Amazon in late spring. Here Nicklin and Smith explain why they wanted to make, as well as talk about whisky.
Part of the proceeds from each bottle of The Three Drinkers’ new Silkie Irish whiskey will be donate to My Black Dog mental health charity. Helen Nicklin and Aidy Smith explain all…
You are launching a new limited edition whisky – tell us all about it.
We have always loved the idea of having a product to sip while watching each series we produce. The plan was to think about launching an Irish spirit with our own fingerprint and while we were out there, we were lucky enough to taste a range of wine-finished gin and whiskies that Sliabh Liag produces up in County Donegal. We approached the distillery about a collaboration and luckily for us, they obliged. Being wine fiends as well as spirits lovers, a wine finish seemed to be the way forward and we are delighted with the result: Gorgeously rich and velvety, the team have captured that wonderful balance of dried fruit spice and moreish salinity topped off with deliciously complex, ripe, red fruit flavours coming from the wine casks. It’s so approachable and easy-drinking, yet with such elegant complexity, you could sit with it for hours – a great gateway sipper for wine lovers and complex enough for aficionados.
How did you link up with Sliabh Liag Distillers?
We worked with Sliabh Liag while making The Three Drinkers in Ireland, where we abseiled down a cliff on the Wild Atlantic Way to go and source sea botanicals for their An Dulaman gin, as you do. We got on really well with the distillery founders, James and Moira Doherty, who have a similar ethos of innovation in their industry and just said ‘yes, we’ll make it work’.
What was the process of deciding what style of whiskey to make?
Having tasted all the spirits that Sliabh Liag produce, we were convinced that our product should be a classic style of Irish whiskey with our own kind of wine finish, marrying our favourite drinks worlds. We deliberately went for a red wine cask to enhance the body, red fruit character and add a certain, subtle tannic structure to the Legendary Red Silkie whiskey, which, made in the historic style, is itself is velvety and spicy with just the faintest hint of smoke. We discussed the options for red wine casks that could be sourced and looked to France for grapes or regions that would give new whiskey drinkers particularly, the confidence to taste. We jumped at the chance to use casks from Clos L’Eglise in Pomerol when James showed us the options, knowing how beautifully rich that wine is, as well as being a brilliant name to be working with!
How did you do the blend?
Hours of back-breaking toil! I’m kidding. We left the production process to the professionals after we’d all agreed the brief and chosen the base whiskey and wine casks. These casks remained in situ in Ireland, with the spirit needing at least three months in them to finish to the desired level of extraction. We tasted iterations until we all agreed it was ready, which took a bit longer in reality.
How many bottles have you made and how can you buy it?
There is a limited production of 600 bottles available in the UK available for pre-sale now, priced at £49.99 RRP. The bottles themselves will be released in time for St Patrick’s Day. Some can be found on the distillery website here and some will also soon be available on Amazon.
This is your second product – what was the first and how did that do?
The first was a 17 year old blended Scotch whisky to celebrate series 1, which we filmed in Scotland. We only made 300 bottles and it sold out within a few days. I’ve just seen one on an auction site for double its original price already, so they seemed to have been a good investment.
Any plans on doing any other products – perhaps non whisky?
Yes. And quite soon too. We are already working on something…
You are donating money to Black Dog charity – can you talk us through the work it does and why you chose them as your mental health charity.
Both Aidy and I have had run-ins with our own mental health as well as those of our families over the years, which is how we became aware of this charity that tackles mental health and depression, especially in men. It is run entirely by volunteers who do an incredible job, so given the epidemic of mental health problems the world is facing post-pandemic, we wanted to do something to make sure that more people are aware of their existence. We are also giving our time to run a private mixology lesson in someone’s house as an auction lot in the celebrity Big Bash happening this week to raise funds for My Black Dog. You can see what else is up for grabs in the auction here.
You also have your new TV series in the works – what can you tell us about?
We do. It has been filmed, edited and is currently being prepared for broadcast. I can’t say much for a couple for weeks, but I can tell you that it is not Wales or England as many assume after Scotland and Ireland.
Any highlights from the filming?
Tons… but I can’t say yet. But all will be revealed with the series is released in late spring. Watch this space…
How would you describe the shows you are making now compared to when you started – what are you doing differently and why?
We knew nothing when we started about physically making telly this way. Looking back, I cannot believe that we made it happen. I guess sometimes, if you know too much about how hard something is going to be, you would never start. We have learned so much though, from getting all the production funds in before you start, meticulous scene planning, working with brands, directors and crew that truly understand the vision and are interested in the places we are going, to giving yourself plenty of time to do a job that normally, a team of at least 10 would do when it comes to watching edits, creating assets and devising a social media and marketing plan for when the show goes live. We now have a formula that works.
What are you most proud of about the series?
We love seeing how far we’ve come since those first four episodes in Scotland, when we looked a little shellshocked on screen. The series get better every time now we are learning what works and what doesn’t. We have the confidence to say when we don’t want to do things the expected way, taking risks and mixing it up a little. The result is much better flow and some unexpected, unscripted moments that really make an episode shine.
When the presenters are comfortable, the viewers are comfortable. The best moments however are when people watch the show and send us photos of them doing it on planes or at home with a drink – or even standing n the various filming locations after booking a trip there. That’s when we know we have connected.
What best advice you have had about making good TV content?
Know exactly who the viewer is you are aiming to reach (geeks or newbies) and always keep them in mind. No matter when the money is coming from, you need to stand your ground (in a friendly way) if you are the expert in your field and if you know something is going to look too dull or too corporate, especially with branded content. Don’t be afraid to remind people of your experience.
What are your ambitions for the programme going forward?
To keep it returning, going further afield (rum, please?!) with bigger budgets to make life easier and not being afraid to adapt along the way. Finding a way to make it a more 360 degree experience for the viewer too would be fun.
What advice would you give anyone looking to create their own video and film drinks content?
1) Define your audience before you do anything.
2) Make sure you have a plan, not just from start to finish of creation, but beyond to the marketing.
3) If you have a gut feeling that your ‘different’ way of doing things will work for you, trust it. Life is too short to worry about the naysayers, only to find them doing exactly the same thing ten years later because you were ahead of the curve. Speaking from experience!
Anything else to say?
The Three Drinkers in Ireland is still streaming on Amazon Prime 24/7 and can now be found on various major airlines. If you loved the show, please rate and review it and if you buy the whiskey, send us a pic on instagram @TheThreeDrinkers!