From Egg Farmer to Whiskey Ambassador: Tim Herlihy's Story
Tim Herlihy took an unlikely path to becoming a brand ambassador. Unlike most folks in the trade, he didn’t get his start behind the bar. Rather, he spent the majority of his lifetime working on his father’s egg farm in Ireland. When an unexpected opportunity presented itself, Herlihy took a leap of faith and left the family business to pursue a different passion — Irish whiskey. We talked with Herlihy about how he draws from his unusual background to thrive as an ambassador to Tullamore Dew.
How did you become a brand ambassador for Tullamore Dew?
I originally started off as an egg farmer — my dad's an egg farmer. I love that about ambassadors: everyone has a different story, either how they started bartending or how they fell in love with whatever spirit they're working with. And there's always a very unique journey; it's not necessarily bartender to brand ambassador. Egg farming is a little bit different, I've gotta admit. You may be questioning Tully's recruitment policy at this point but I assure you, they only hire the best egg farmers.
Did you begin your career in spirits with Tullamore Dew?
My first whiskey experience was working with Cooley Distillery and I did a year apprenticeship with the Irish government where they pair you up with them ... So I got work through the Irish food board with Cooley Distillery, and that was kind of my moment. And, you know, I always liked whiskey but I guess I never had the imagination of thinking I can work for a liquid I love. You know, I never thought like I like Mars Bars, doesn't mean I'm going to go become a brand ambassador for Mars Bars. And I didn't have the imagination to know that this job existed.
My dad was expanding the egg farm at the time, so I wrapped up there and went to work with my dad as he went from 15,000 hens to 80,000 hens and the idea was me and him would build an egg empire together, rule it with an iron fist. No, that was always the plan. I was in eggs for forevermore but during my time with Cooley, I bumped into the Glenfiddich guys and girls at different whiskey shows, and then when they bought Tullamore Dew, they were looking for an ambassador, and they were like, "some Irish guy we bump into, he seems to know his stuff, somebody go find him." And you know, I was at the egg farm. And a couple of months later, it kind of happened. I made what was a big decision to leave the family business. So that was difficult, and I gave it a shot. I said I'd do it for a year and see what happens, and if I like it, amazing, I'll keep doing it, and if I don't, it's just a year, no biggie. And five years later, here we are — combining eggs and whiskey. So yeah, that's my little journey.
What connection do you share with Tullamore Dew?
I think the obvious one is Ireland, that goes without saying. It's very easy for me to be passionate about Ireland, very easy for me to be passionate about Irish pubs. It's what I know; it's what I enjoy; it's what I like. And I'm a big believer that you can’t do this job if you're half into it. I think you can only ever work for two, three brands as a brand ambassador, because you can't be that passionate about everything. And you can't fake it. There's no half measures. Plus, that's not really me. I'm a very simple fellow when it comes down to it. I'm not an actor, so I can't jump into that. And Tullamore Dew is just a whiskey I was a big, big fan of, it was as simple as that. When I figured out that you can go work for things you like, it was a magnet, basically. And it was always a matter of time that way, once I came to this whiskey universe. What I love about it now is I get to be behind the scenes and get to go deep down into what I love about Tullamore Dew and figure out why I like it. I knew I liked it, but now you get to be at the distillery, you get to be with the people that make it, and then you get a feel for, oh, this is what I like about it.
How does being a brand ambassador suit your personality?
I'm a whiskey geek at heart, and this role lets me be that whiskey geek. I'm working with a liquid that I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoy — maybe sometimes too much, I'm over-enthusiastic. And I get to have a creative reign like no other, so it's brilliant.
Now that you live in New York, do you still visit the egg farm often?
My mother sees more of me now that I live on a different continent than when I lived at home. So, I still bring the dirty wash in, she always has a tear of nostalgic cry when I hand it over, I'm sure it's nostalgia. I get to see my friends and my family a lot, which is great.
What does it take to be a great brand ambassador?
You've just got to be yourself. You might have to ratchet up to 10, turn the volume up, you know, when you're presenting, but besides that, you get to be yourself and do the things you enjoy and the things you wanted to research but never had time to do it. So, that's the real thing for me. I don't have to get into character or pretend — it's just what it is.
Does loving your job make it easier to comply with the demands of being a brand ambassador?
I work all the time, because I'm interested in it. Like I don't know what weekends are anymore, but it doesn't matter, it all blurs into one in a nice way. So you have that wonderful gray area of social and work, you know, because your friends are behind the bar. We work on projects together, whether it's coming up with seminars, coming up with events, you're just planning parties and events with your friends. And you're researching something you're interested in and I researched when I wasn't a brand ambassador, like I had that info ready to go — and now I just have the platform to dig deeper into something that I would have dug into anyway. And I have more time to do that. So, I'm just thankful, grateful that Tullamore Dew could benefit out of the things I'm interested in, which is whiskey, which is pubs, and oddly now, eggs. So that's the real joy of it. So long may it continue, and I think it will. I'm not thinking about stopping this anytime soon, I've only scratched the surface.