Expert advice

The Glenlivet's capsules and the future of whisky

Written by Simone | 8th October 2019

Recently we sat down with our whisky expert, Jeroen Koetsier, to discuss what the future holds for the whisky market. How would sustainability play a role? Would there be an alcohol-free version anytime soon? However, there was one thing we could not have predicted – the “whisky capsules” The Glenlivet announced on Twitter last week. We went and spoke to Jeroen again to discuss this bizarre development and how it may impact the whisky market.

Glassless whisky capsules

The Glenlivet has long positioned their brand as one of perfection and innovation; other whisky brands have even tried to incorporate ‘Glenlivet’ into their name (take Macallan Glenlivet for example), though a trial made sure The Glenlivet had complete autonomy over the name. Still, their innovative ways continue to this day, as the capsules prove. The collection was created in a collaboration between The Glenlivet, Notpla (a sustainable packaging start-up) and Tayēr + Elementary (a high-end cocktail bar in London). The pods themselves are made of seaweed and, when discarded, biodegrade in 4-6 weeks, which according to Notpla, basically means no waste at all.

The premise behind the collection is simplicity and sustainability, explains The Glenlivet. “Enjoying them is simple, the capsules are popped in the mouth for an instant burst of flavour and then swallowed. There is no need for a glass, ice or cocktail stirrer.”

The Glenlivet announced the Whisky Capsule Collection on Twitter and was met with controversy. 

Big mistake or marketing genius? 

Not long after the brand announced The Glenlivet Capsule Collection, the tweet went viral – for reasons both good and bad. The concept is so novel, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was simply one big marketing stunt. But, as Jeroen tells us, that probably isn’t the case: “The Glenlivet and trolling? I'm afraid not.” 

In a press release, The Glenlivet mentions their founder always ‘went against the grain, bucking tradition and doing things differently’ and argues that the capsule collection reflects his pioneering spirit. Jeroen begs to differ. “I'm certain Glenlivet’s founder George Smith would turn in his grave if he knew.” 

Even though the initial tweet sparked both outrage and confusion with whisky drinkers, a few days after their original tweet, The Glenlivet reassured us that the Capsule Collection is a limited release,  made especially for London Cocktail Week. This, in turn, incited disappointed reactions from those eager to try one of the pods. And yet, Jeroen suggests that the pods may still be a success. “Who knows. With recent NAS (no age statement) bottlings from many distilleries, including The Glenlivet, [the capsules] might be exactly what people want.”

Impact on the whisky market

But what does a whisky expert really think of the release?  “In one word: sad, “says Jeroen. “There is no future for these capsules, mainly because 80% of your taste consists of smell. You’re likely to miss most of the flavour when you skip the smelling and go straight for the 'mouthfeel'. There are already absolutely brilliant chocolates, fudge, truffles etc. filled with [minor quantities of] whisky. Also, 23ml is quite a lot; a young driver might end up being fined for drinking and driving after a single capsule.”

In the long run, Jeroen doesn’t think this will substantially impact the brand or the whisky market. “For now, it's an interesting gimmick that generates attention, so that will help in the short run. When they don't follow up with serious campaigning, no harm will be done. It has impacted the whisky market in the sense that the news went viral. But In a week or two most people will have forgotten this ever happened.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Jeroen isn’t eager to try one himself. “Happy to try a well-matured The Glenlivet any day, but I'll pass on this one, thank you.”

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