When it comes to spirits, Manchester’s O’Donnell Moonshine stands out as a unique beverage.
Moonshine often brings up memories of a bygone era, particularly the American Prohibition period during the 1920s and early 1930s.
It conjures images of clandestine distillation operations hidden deep in the woods and the allure of speakeasies where secrets and spirits flowed freely.
But O’Donnell Moonshine has reimagined this historic beverage with a modern twist, creating a sensation in the spirit market.
In this interview, we sat down with CEO Max Ruether to delve into the brand’s origin, journey, and the Manchester influence behind it.
The Birth of O’Donnell Moonshine
The story of O’Donnell Moonshine began with a road trip that took CEO Max Ruether and his two school friends, August and Philip, to the southern parts of the United States.
During their adventure, they stumbled upon the intriguing concept of Moonshine.
Max recalls their journey: “We fell in love with the story and the history behind it, and when we arrived home, we couldn’t find anything like it in Europe.
“So, the idea of bringing this infamous beverage with a modern twist to Europe was born.”
Bottling their first Moonshine jars by hand, they started selling their product at local markets.
Even today, O’Donnell Moonshine maintains a presence at local markets across the UK and Europe, allowing them to connect with their customers face to face, a practice that Max credits as a significant contributor to the brand’s success.
The Dragon’s Den Experience
O’Donnell Moonshine made a significant splash when they appeared on BBC One’s Dragon’s Den.
Max reflects on the experience: “It was a great moment for me and the brand.
“Pitching our product to household names on prime-time television was surreal.
“The Dragons loved our branding, taste, and the overall business, which was a huge compliment for our team.
“Ultimately, it came down to the ownership structure, with the Dragons wanting a bigger piece of the pie.
“But knowing that five successful entrepreneurs saw potential in our brand gave us a massive confidence boost.”
What Makes O’Donnell Moonshine Unique
When asked about what sets O’Donnell Moonshine apart from other spirit brands, Max is quick to point out that they make Moonshine, not gin or rum.
He emphasises their uniqueness, saying, “First and foremost, we make Moonshine, so we can confidently say we’re unique and unlike any other tipples out there.”
O’Donnell Moonshine distinguishes itself with its diverse range of flavours such as Roasted Apple, Tough Nut, and Sticky Toffee.
These flavours offer a different drinking experience and are crafted to delight the taste buds. Their choice of packaging, the iconic Mason Jars, adds to the intrigue and excitement surrounding their product.
Additionally, O’Donnell Moonshine’s versatility stands out.
Max highlights that their Moonshine can be enjoyed neat, as a simple long drink, incorporated into fancy cocktails, or even added to hot beverages.
The possibilities are endless, and they encourage their customers to be creative.
Crafting New Flavours
O’Donnell Moonshine’s commitment to innovation is evident in their process of developing new flavours.
Max sheds light on this creative journey: “We are always on the lookout for new flavours, keeping an eye on market trends.
“This year, we decided to do something different and asked our fans what flavour they’d like to see. We launched our first ‘Community Flavour,’ which we were incredibly proud of.”
They strive to add complexity to their flavours by incorporating different notes and creating a distinctive taste profile.
Roasted Apple, for instance, features apple, almonds, and vanilla, while Tough Nut combines caramel, hazelnut, and chocolate.
The key focus remains on quality and ensuring each flavour is a crowd-pleaser.
The Importance of Manchester’s Presence
O’Donnell Moonshine’s success has led to the doubling of their UK-based team.
Max emphasises the significance of maintaining a strong local presence in Manchester, saying, “Maintaining a strong local presence promotes trust, credibility, and authenticity for our brand.
“Manchester is our home, and we’re proud to be part of such an exciting, vibrant city.
“We aim to become a household name, and it all begins in Manchester.
“Manchester is hub for creativity, authenticity, and generally good vibes. The people here are the type of people ideal we want to be a part of O’Donnell Moonshine and be a part of our growth.”
The Manchester Influence
When it comes to the connection between O’Donnell Moonshine and Manchester, Max draws parallels between the two.
He notes, “Our brand and Manchester align incredibly well. Manchester, like our Moonshine, has a unique history, culture, and character.
“Both celebrate and remember their heritage and traditions, carrying them into the modern day.”
Manchester’s vibrant and creative atmosphere is something that resonates with O’Donnell Moonshine.
Max feels that the people in Manchester embody the values they want their brand to represent – creativity, authenticity, and good vibes.
It’s a city where they want to be a part of the community and contribute to its growth.
The American Prohibition Era Influence
O’Donnell Moonshine is deeply inspired by the American prohibition era, and Max elaborates on how this historical context influences the brand’s identity and products: “Authenticity is a key value for us, and we make sure our moonshine remains true to the original Moonshine of the 1920s.”
Drawing parallels to the gangsters of the American Prohibition era, O’Donnell Moonshine bottles its drinks in mason Jars, striving to maintain that iconic look.
Their name, “O’Donnell,” is a tribute to Edward “Spike” O’Donnell, the leader of one of the most notorious Moonshine gangs in Chicago.
Spike O’Donnell was known for his commitment to quality, a trait that O’Donnell Moonshine carries forward by remaining loyal to producers of German origin.
Spike O’Donnell’s history and the era of prohibition live on in O’Donnell Moonshine, a brand that is as committed to quality and authenticity as it is to creating exceptional spirits.
As O’Donnell Moonshine continues to make its mark in the spirits industry, its dedication to authenticity, unique flavours, and the influence of the American prohibition era, along with a strong Manchester presence, make it a brand worth raising a glass to.
Whether enjoyed neat, in cocktails, or as part of a creative concoction, O’Donnell Moonshine is a true taste of Manchester’s authentic spirit.
You can check out their website here