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Risky whisky pods

14 October 2019 | Lloyd Hughes

When I think of whisky, I think of a glass. Personal preference is a tumbler with a cube of ice. Some aficionados, though, turn their nose up at ice, seeing it as sacrilege – believing that, if you must water it down, adding the smallest amount of water should suffice. And even that’s a stretch in some eyes, with the argument being it dilutes the taste.

I prefer ice as I believe you get the full tasting experience of the whisky initially, before it dilutes slightly as the ice melts – with the added benefit of slight cooling, too.

Other whisky lovers prefer a Glencairn glass, which is specifically designed to maximise the tasting experience, allowing drinkers to savour the delicate scents. Again, personal preference for me, this isn’t one I enjoy – as it makes the whisky too potent on the nose.

"A refined palette"

Those with a refined palette can, not just pinpoint the region of a whisky’s origin (Highland, Speyside, Islay, etc.), but also identify the individual distillery and even the age at which it was bottled; picking out specific tastes and smells to determine the intricate particulars.

Another point of whisky snobbery sees sneering at blends (multiple whiskies blended together to form a distinct taste), with many proponents opting for single malts only – those produced and bottled in a single distillery.

So, why am I saying all this?

The thing I’m getting at here, is that whisky tasting is a subtle art, with a level of nuance that’s likely underappreciated by the uninitiated. The knowledge behind it is something that whisky lovers take pride in aware that, usually, they’ve had to cultivate it over years of experimentation – enhancing and honing their knowledge over time.

The Glenlivet, amongst the best-selling single malts and one of my personal favourites, usually has a place at the top table when it comes to whisky talk, with the brand being held in high esteem. However, of late, the Glenlivet seems to have gone completely radio rental, having announced the creation of whisky pods.

"Whisky pods"

Think of the much-maligned Tide Pods that braindead yoofs were eating on the interweb, and in place of a dangerous mix of detergent and softener, add whisky to the pods and edible seaweed casings.

Yes, an odd one.

A slick video announcing the partnership with a sustainable packaging start-up emphasises how ‘the Glenlivet sets new standards of how whisky can be enjoyed’.

Cue social media meltdown.

The Glenlivet brand has come in for some serious backlash. Indeed, I’ve seen commentators on Twitter screaming (in all capitals, no less) that having taken years to establish the quality of a brand it can take one wrong step to undo it…AND THIS IS IT, GLENLIVET, THIS IS IT.

"Shot culture"

As stated, whisky tasting is regarded as a refined art and one for the more cultured amongst us. Opting to create one-off ‘shot’ culture drinks is playing more to the WKD end of the market, and something that the Glenlivet, frankly, really shouldn’t be engaging with.

My first introduction to whisky involved shots at the bar, and let’s just say it put me off savouring it for years.

The Glenlivet has since been at pains to point out on its social channels that it’s a one-off gimmick for London Cocktail Week and only a short-lived endeavour. However, that hasn’t stopped the tide of whisky-fuelled fury.

Even outgoing Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson felt compelled to voice her opinion of the pods on her Twitter account; “Eeeeewww, no” was her Burns-esque take on the marketing misstep.

I’m pretty confident the Glenlivet (and its multinational owner Pernod Ricard) will put this to bed as a one off and try to forget about the furore, which I doubt will impact it in the long-term. Although I’m sure a few die-hard whisky lovers will bear a perpetual grudge.

"A risky business"

The brand has created a huge stir, which has certainly got the name out there. But risking the cultured foundations of a refined art and industry is certainly a risky business…and something I doubt the Glenlivet will be looking to replicate any time soon.

If you want to undertake less hazardous marketing endeavours, why not get in touch with us? We’re more than happy to share a whisky with you, whilst outlining how we can help get your brand out there without alienating a large part of your target market.