In a world dominated by fast-paced communication and digital interactions, the art of conversation often takes a backseat. However, Australian entrepreneur Mark Bouris seeks to change that narrative with "The Bird," a unique whiskey brand that aims to bring people together and reignite meaningful conversations.
Inspired by his father's love for whiskey and their cherished moments of bonding, Bouris embarked with mates Paul Giles and Andrew Nugent (of the globally renowned Bird in Hand Winery) on a passionate project to create a whiskey that not only delights the palate but also acts as a catalyst for human connection.
Greek City Times meets with Mark Bouris to learn the fascinating story behind 'The Bird' whiskey and how it fosters the revival of authentic conversations in today's world.
Breaking Barriers: The Bird Whiskey for All
Entrepreneurial titan Mark Bouris is a prominent Australian business man, television personality, and author known for his success in various industries, including finance, real estate, and media. He was the founder and Chairman of Wizard Home Loans, the founder of Yellow Brick Road, a financial services company, and gained fame as the host of the Australian version of "The Apprentice."
Respected for his financial knowledge and insights Bouris has written books on entrepreneurship, finance, and personal development while his achievements and contributions have earned him a significant reputation in the business community.
So, upon our meeting to chat with Mark about his latest venture - his new whisky brand, ‘The Bird’ - I know there is no pulling the wool over his eyes. I had to come clean straight away.
“I’m not very knowledgeable about whiskey,” I admit apologetically.
“Well then, you definitely have to try ‘The Bird’,” Mark is confident, adding, “This is a whisky that’s not just for men, it’s also designed for women to drink.”
Really? In what way? How do you design a whiskey for women? My interest is piqued.
In some places around the world now, Mark explains, whiskey is becoming quite a popular women's drink.
“So when I say “designed also for women” I mean it's softer on the palate. It's what they call very drinkable.
“It's more of a Japanese style whiskey with regard to its taste. Some of the whiskeys out of Scotland are very smoky and really quite harsh on your throat - it feels like you’ve just had a puff of a cigar. Whereas the Japanese style whiskey’s are more sweet, much softer on your throat and more drinkable.”
Everything about the whiskey, including the cleverly designed luxury packaging and even the way that you unbox it, is quite an event.
“The idea behind the un-packaging process was to build a sense of delight and also a little bit of surprise, and to build talking points,” says Mark. “We spent a lot of money on the box.”
It's true that females often do value attention to detail and this packaging aesthetic caters to that, opening up a market where the whiskey is appreciated by both women and men. Furthermore, such beautiful boxing offers a perfect solution to the age-old quandary of 'what gift do you buy for the person who has everything?'
“The whiskey is designed to be very soft, so that when you drink you feel like, ‘Ahh that was nice, I just hit a pause in the day. Let's sit down and talk – whether it be with dad, mum, girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, wife, daughter, or your best mate."
Honouring Greek Family Heritage: The Birth of the Bird Inspired by Memories
Backtracking to the very beginning, for Mark Bouris who was born to a Greek father of Greek Orthodox faith, the journey into the world of whiskey was more than just a business venture; it was a heartfelt homage to his father's love for the spirit and his cherished childhood memories in Greece.
The significance of whiskey went beyond just its taste; it was an element of communal interaction. Mark fondly remembers that in those cherished moments, the focus was on cherishing time together, sharing experiences, and simply being present with loved ones.
“What a lot of people don't know, particularly a lot of non-Greeks, is that Greeks like whiskey. And also, Greeks - in particular my dad’s generation - like the simple life,” says Mark.
“My father is not a big drinker, he might only have two or three drinks, but he would sit on a drink for hours – literally hours - and there's always food around.
“So the connection between me and Dad, me and my dad's five brothers, and anyone else who might be in our company, has been the food.
“Food was always there from the moment you arrived, until the moment you left- it’s always in front of you, it doesn't matter what happens.
“So, the food connected everyone but whiskey was the thing that made the conversation flow. And the main reason why it made things flow is because you don't drink it fast. You’ve got to drink it slow because it’s a strong drink. It wasn’t a scotch whiskey or anything fancy but it was always just a great conversation starter.
“I thought, well, I'm gonna make this.”
With this heart warming connection to whiskey and its role in communication firmly imprinted in his mind, Mark was struck by a realisation. "I felt like the art of conversation was slipping away in our fast-paced, digital world," he admits. "People were losing touch with the power of face-to-face communication, and I wanted to bring that back."
"Dad will bring out some cheese, some bread or biscuits and some olives that have usually been made by one of my uncles. And I thought wouldn’t it be good if I made the whiskey?”
“If I ever take a bottle of whiskey across to Dad’s, it doesn't matter what time of day it is, Dad will bring out some cheese, some bread or biscuits and some olives that have usually been made by one of my uncles. And I thought wouldn’t it be good if I made the whiskey?”
Thus, the idea of creating his own whiskey brand emerged as a means to reignite the art of conversation and authentic connections. "I wanted to craft an Australian whiskey that could stand proudly among the world's best and spark conversations in the process," Mark explains.
The Art of Ageing ‘The Bird’
Mark shared his vision with his business partners, and together, they embarked on a seven-year journey to create 'The Bird' whiskey.
“My partners have a famous winery called the Bird in Hand – it’s a very well known Shiraz brand around the world and they have French oak barrels which have been which have had their own Shiraz in them,” says Mark.
“When those barrels become empty, you put the distilled liquor into them and that gives you the sweetness and the colour of your whiskey,” he explains. “So, the whiskey is initially close to clear colour and the deeper colour comes from the finishing off process, which occurs during the couple of years over which it's aged in the barrels."
“The Bird Whiskey we finished off in French oak Shiraz lined barrels and gives it a particular taste. And the Shiraz had been in those barrels won The World's Best Shiraz in 2018,” he adds.
“So we produce a really high quality whiskey in those barrels – like award winning quality level whiskey. “
The Bird Tasting
NOSE: Stewed apple in maple syrup overlaid with French vanilla
PALATE: Brulee sweetness together with a salted caramel maritime influence
FINISH: Lingering dried fruits with a hint of condensed milk
“We try to make a whiskey that’s very clean and very Australian,” says Mark.
“In making the whiskey, all of our water is really clean Adelaide Hills water, where our famous grapes come from, our barley is local barley, which quite sweet with a lot of fat in it, a lot of oil in it, so that gives you a much sweeter whiskey.”
View this post on Instagram
One for Dad
“And so...the big question is: what does your dad think of it?” I ask, curious to know.
“He loves it. He actually loves it,” comes the swift answer from Mark. “He was the first person to get the first bottle.”
“We have two different types of whiskey - one of them is called ‘Cloudburst’,” he explains. “And the other one is called ‘George’, which is my dad’s name.
Whilst a lot of whiskeys may come from different batches of malt, The Bird is a single malt whiskey.
“We don't blend our whiskey we’re a single malt whiskey,” says Mark. “Every bottle of our ‘Cloudburst’ whiskey from just one batch of malt. So every single bottle should taste the same. The ‘George’ is not only a single malt but it's also a single barrel, therefore it's much more expensive to produce. And that's the bottle I named after my dad. We haven't sold any of those - we've kept all of them for family.”
Unscripted Travel Plans
My chat with Mark comes just short of a week ahead of his trip to Greece and as we discuss his unscripted travel plans, it becomes evident that Mark's approach to this trip mirrors his philosophy on life – an emphasis on cherishing family ties and savouring the moments that truly matter.
“I'm going to Greece next week, I'm gonna hang out in Kalamata,” says Mark whose family is from the middle of Greece - from Rizes, near Tripoli. I'll drive through there and go to the village, then get on the freeway all the way to Kalamata, go to Mani.
“I might go across to Kythera,” he adds, undecided.
“All I know is I am going to Kalamata and I have my hotel booked and that’s it. And where I go after that it doesn’t matter, I don’t like to be too organised. I've got a base. I've got a car, I just wanted to drive around and see where the mood takes me. The whole idea of being away is to not have to run to a schedule and to relax.”
It’s the simple things.
“If you go to the busier islands and you want to watch the sunset, people get there hours and hours earlier to get a good position. Then when the sun’s setting all you see is people with sticks with their camera on top,” he laughs. “I don’t really want to see that."
So…Yamas! Let’s Toast to Genuine Conversation
More than just a beverage, Mark Bouris' 'The Bird' whiskey is a tribute to the lost art of conversation and the power of meaningful human connections. A journey inspired by his father's love for whiskey and their cherished family memories, Bouris has created a unique whiskey brand that he hopes will encourage people to slow down, savour the moment, and engage in heartfelt conversations.
'The Bird' whiskey represents a return to the simple pleasures of life and serves as a reminder that the most precious moments are often found in the company of loved ones. So, whenever you raise a glass of 'The Bird' whiskey, remember to cherish the people around you and celebrate the joy of genuine conversation.
Cheers to rebuilding the art of conversation, one sip at a time.