Muff Liquor Company CEO Laura Bonner's on her cocktail for success and plans to launch mini distillery in home village

Laura Bonner.Laura Bonner.
Laura Bonner.
Muff Liquor CEO Laura Bonner was an entrepreneur on a mission from a tender age.

Inspired by her potato farmer grandfather Philip McClenaghan and his famous liquors, Laura wanted to one day found her own expertly-crafted spirits, ‘born of the land,’ and steeped in tradition.

Little could she have known just how successful this would be and her Muff Liquor Company, with the tagline ‘400 years in the making’, is not just nationally, but internationally and globally recognised.

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The latest success is the launch of its Muff vodka and gin throughout Tesco stores in Ireland and this follows hot on the heels of the Muff Liquor Company launch in Australia.

Muff Liquor Company's gin and vodka is being sold in Tesco stores across the Republic of Ireland.Muff Liquor Company's gin and vodka is being sold in Tesco stores across the Republic of Ireland.
Muff Liquor Company's gin and vodka is being sold in Tesco stores across the Republic of Ireland.

Laura was also recently named as ‘Handcrafted Spirits Business Leader of the Year- Western Europe’ by Acquisition International in their International Businesswoman Awards 2023.

It has been a whirlwind few months – if not years – for the Muff woman, who told the Journal of her latest, exciting venture – the launch of a mini distillery, offices, gin experience and retail shop in her hometown.

Community is important to Laura and she highlighted how she has ‘always, always got amazing support from local people’.

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The latest developments are just part of a long string of successes for the Muff Liquor Company, which also crafts whiskey, but Laura is also grateful the company made its way through the other side of the pandemic.

Muff Liquor Company has been many years in the making.Muff Liquor Company has been many years in the making.
Muff Liquor Company has been many years in the making.

"The pandemic was an horrific experience and I was really lucky I was able to bounce back. Many of my competitors – I don’t really look at them as my competitors, as I know what they’re going though to make something work – didn’t survive and when I hear what they’re going through my heart does break for them. Sometimes, I get that guilt and think: “Why am I doing it and it’s going well? You do get that imposter syndrome but I’m extremely grateful for it to be what it is.”

The launch of the company was many, many years in the making, with Laura coming up with the idea when she was just a teenager.

"I saw my granda and what he was doing and I really couldn’t understand why poitin was illegal. I soon found out! But the idea was there in my head and I really wanted to do it.”

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She had plans, at 19, to drop out of university and begin making the product, but life circumstances changed her mind and she lived the ‘corporate lifestyle’ for a number of years. However, the pull of her own company was too strong and six years ago, she took the leap.

Russell Crowe. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)Russell Crowe. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
Russell Crowe. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

When asked if she ever expected Muff Liquor Company to achieve the success it has in just six years, she told how she ‘always aspired to it.’

"I have a really high standard of myself and because it was in the pipeline for so long, when I got the go-ahead for the funding, I thought to myself: ‘Well, this is what you wanted, you need to make sure it’s a success.’ When people say that I’ve done so much in the last five years, I’m like, ‘really?’ as everything happened that I expected to happen. Maybe in 10 years I’ll look back and go: ‘Oh my God, that was amazing,’ but I don’t have anyone to compare to other than myself, I suppose.

“I remember, that day after the launch party in February 2013, I was lying in bed and thinking it was an amazing party. And then, I jumped out of bed and realised that I now had a company to run!”

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Laura has travelled all over the world promoting the product, with the ‘Muff Liquor’ name a hard one to forget. But, she also wanted the product to speak for itself and it has been recognised by industry experts across the world. Both the vodka and gin is distilled a total of six times. The products have not only been lauded by experts and customers, but its investors include actor Russell Crowe. He liked the product so much he asked Laura if he could bring in some ‘friends’ to also invest – those friends turned out to be singers Ed Sheeran and Ronan Keating and comedian Jimmy Carr. All of them regularly promote Muff Liquor Company to millions of people on their social media accounts.

Ed Sheeran. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)Ed Sheeran. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)
Ed Sheeran. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

Laura was ‘over the moon’ with the recent award and told how it ‘never entered’ her head she would win.

"They contacted me to say I had been nominated and asked if I wanted to submit anything to back the nomination. I replied back no, as in my head I was thinking: ‘As if I’m going to win that!’ It never even entered my head that I’d be in the running, never mind win it. I got my lovely glass trophy recently and it will have pride of place in my new office in Muff, all going well.”

Laura, who described the Tesco deal as ‘amazing,’ is based in Sydney and travels over and back. She dismissed any idea that her success is more impressive as she comes from a small area in Donegal, compared to a major city.

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“I get that quite a lot, but I always believed it should happen anyway, no matter where I’m from or where it was based. And this is an amazing place to be and to be from.”

She is very excited’ about the plans for the mini-distillery, offices, gin experience and retail shop.

"It will hopefully be great for tourism and for the area and I really hope everyone continues to get behind it.”

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