Firstly i'd like to thank Ben Cops (@ben_cops) for the following guest post after he attended the following event on my behalf, i think you should all go follow his blog anyway at Bens Whisky.
Glenfiddich have just launched the Glenfiddich Gallery, a bold, digital concept from a highly traditional, global, family owned business. The concept is this - a fully bespoke, luxury whisky experience either in a shop or online. Choose the whisky, either using the taste profiler, or from a gallery of whiskies, pick the packaging and text on the bottle and an engraved plaque, Glenfiddich then produce it (in some cases decanting from the barrel) and ship it to you. Have a look and explore on the site at www.glenfiddichgallery.com.
I was lucky enough to attend the press launch of Glenfiddich Gallery on Tom's behalf, where I was able to meet and chat to the Glenfiddich team, use the in store iPad app to customise a whisky, and have a 5cl bottle of it bottled and packaged in my choice of colours. The gallery currently only sells 70cl bottles but custom verticals and smaller bottles are inevitable in the future.
As well as using the app, we were led through a tasting of four different Glenfiddichs by Brian Kinsman (Glenfiddich Malt Master) and Ian Miller (Glenfiddich Global Brand Ambassador). All of these were single cask, very interesting and very good. Very interesting (although not the best of the night) was a 27 year old that had spent half its time in American oak, and the other half in refill sherry - it had been filled into sherry for finishing and forgotten about for over a decade. How wonderful would it be to work in an environment where you can discover casks like that forgotten about in dark corners? It was heavily, heavily sherried but still robust enough to carry it's 27 years well. Tasting notes are on my Bens Whisky Blog here.
Glenfiddich are first with this, and others will be watching and not far behind. It will be fascinating to see what this does to whisky. Completely bespoke whisky turns collecting on its head - a bit like a rare comic or book that's been signed by the author to the initial recipient, is it worth more as a unique item or less because it was uniqued to someone else? If this becomes widespread, will this see luxury whisky, therefore, become more about drinking rather than owning or investing? For example, this 1990 refill bourbon will only have 48 bottles filled "at this age", this means the rest will stay in the barrel and continue to age. Only 48 bottles is pretty close to being totally bespoke in the liquid as well as everything else. This could go even further - have casks being bottled one at a time on request, or blended on request to make completely bespoke Glenfiddich single malts.
I said early that the concept was about luxury and bespoking, which is true. But the point of the site isn't really to sell whisky (they're out of my price band for a start, and there's no enough whisky on there to make it a commercially viable concept really). The real point of the site is to get customers to explore and understand whisky and Glenfiddich, and to think of it as a luxury brand, not just the green bottle of 12 year old that you see behind the bar in your local. And importantly, to start to build a relationship with customers - Glenfiddich's clients, at the moment, are mostly whisky shops, pub chains and other resellers, and they're abstracted a level from their customers. When I was talking to the Glenfiddich team on the night, they were all really excited about the opportunity this was going to bring to interact with and learn about their customers. They've taken this from concept to press launch in just over four months flat, which is pretty amazing. Next up is other countries, which will bring its own challenges. Then phase 2 could be anything, I guess it will depend on the customer data they gather and what they learn from it. Most industries are having to make these changes and it was amazing to be able to be at the launch of it happening to the whisky industry, and fascinating to talk to the team who made it happen. I will be checking back in with them in six months to see where they've got to with it. Sláinte!
Once again thanks to Ben Cops (@ben_cops) for the guest post and please remember to go follow his blog at Bens Whisky.Ben may return in the future with one or two other guest posts from London events so keep an eye out for those also.