I’m going to share a little secret about me. I’m an absolute sucker for pretty packaging. It holds power over my purchasing habits and I’m not afraid to admit it. Some say it shouldn’t and I know I should be making sound judgements based on research and recommendations from fellow whisky drinkers. Oh, but those embossed tubes emblazoned with gold and silver! The badged and boxed bottles. The textured ribbons heralding the promise of a top notch scotch call to me as a siren does, against my better instinct sometimes.
It’s not by accident this happens. It’s all designed to sway our minds. Boat loads of cash are assigned to the efforts of those who pen the songs of that siren, too. Distilleries like Glenfiddich and Johnnie Walker pay very close attention to creating trends that we as consumers crave. Diageo, as most of us are (over) abundantly aware by now, recently released a series of scotches from their portfolio of distilleries tied in with the hit HBO series Game of Thrones. To say the campaign was successful is like saying it’s “useful” to have two dragons when going to war. Look at the bottling of Macallan's upper echelon!
Is there credence to the argument that the fancier the packaging, the lower the quality of the product within? Some would say that if they’re spending that much money on packaging, it’s not going into the whisky. I’ve heard some people eschew whiskies with nice packaging altogether, claiming it’s unnecessary and they’d be just as content with a plain bottle. They’re probably not fans of lingerie or Christmas morning either.
Part of the enjoyment of scotch to me though is the history, the pageantry and the feeling of belonging to a group of imbibers that have evolved with more sophisticated requirements from their drams. Then I witness the madness that is brought about by those eight offerings of Diageo, bedecked in Hollywood heraldry and sigils and I’m reminded that regardless of how sophisticated we think we are, we’re all still influenced in some way by marketing. Even if you’re a staunch Springbank drinker (arguably one of the least bedazzled bottles of scotch in the market), there’s something about the way they present their product that’s appealing to you.
To ignore and not allow yourself to be affected in any way by the trimmings and trappings of our favourite dram is, I think, paying oneself a disservice. Embrace it as part of the enjoyment. Allow the pomp and circumstance of the dressing up of your scotch to become something you revel in because there’s beauty in taking the effort to present something in more than just it’s nakedness. Appreciate, respect and be familiar with the raw form of it in the way you see fit but look back at whiskies from begone eras and tell me you don’t nod approvingly at their adornment. It speaks to their rarity and their appeal and I guarantee there were people when those sage scotches were first released, way back when, who lamented at the bottles flamboyance just as some do today.
As long as there remains a reverence for the historic and a commitment to the quality of the product, I’ll continue to stand in front of that vast stretch of shelves at my local liquor store and gaze longingly as would a lad dreaming of Christmas morn or the latest Victoria’s Secret catalogue. Because I must say, I do enjoy my presents wrapped.