In the video, trendy electronic music plays in the background while a slow panning camera moves across a close up of Glenlivet’s colorful capsules, which do resemble upscale detergent tablets you’re not meant to eat. A rich Scottish accent provides a description of the product and instructions on how to enjoy it. The whole thing comes off as rather pretentious; how can whisky Tide Pods be interesting, fancy, or even a good idea?
Have a look at the video here and see for yourself:
Of course, the whole thing blew up on Twitter. An example:
…and another one:
However, I say ignore the haters.
Push past the Tide Pod association, and you’ve got something that is a genuinely interesting and tasty project.
First, and most important, the cocktails themselves are delicious. Created by multi-award winning mixologist and Tayēr + Elementary co-founder Alex Kratena, each of the three capsule cocktails uses Glenlivet’s Founder’s Reserve whisky to create three different drinks, titled Citrus, Wood, and Spice, with radically different profiles to each other. My favorite of the three was the Wood, which features the Founder’s Reserve, sandalwood distillate, Tayēr aged aquavit, oloroso sherry, rosso Vermouth, and cedarwood cordial.
Then there’s the ‘Tide Pod’ part of the cocktail experience, the unfortunate-looking packaging. This is actually pretty nifty. The cocktails are wrapped up in a seaweed extract casing created by a company called Notpla. When I got to try them, I was surprised to note that the cocktail slowly poured itself out of the packaging rather than in an unexpected, surprising, unpleasant burst. The packaging itself had a neutral and perfectly pleasant texture and feel (without much of a flavor). It might not look great, but it’s practical and sustainable, 100% biodegradable, and perfectly edible.
With a mission to wipe out plastic packaging, other projects from this company have included distributing water and juice at marathons (reducing the use of plastic bottles) or replacing plastic sachets for sauces. While replacing a glass at a bar may not be as practical, introducing the material into the drinks industry could lead to other innovative uses.
Even if you don’t like the idea, this is not a product that’s going to be sold at your local liquor store anyways, or even your local bar. It is a one-off gimmick served at only one bar in London, during the annual London Cocktail Week. That’s it. Maybe Glenlivet might try it somewhere else in the future, but perhaps not if the brand feels that the online shade-throwing isn’t worth it. In any case, this is not a mass-market product, it is just a new way to appreciate and enjoy whisky and cocktails, using sustainable packaging, for a limited time only.
While there is a very fair argument that the video is pretentious and over the top, this is a great project breaking new ground. It introduces a new way to think about sustainability and reduction of waste in the drinks industry. It introduces a new audience to single malt whisky with delicious cocktails, served through a memorable and unique taste experience.
I found it truly worthwhile, and I hope that the whisky industry as a whole is not put off by the negative responses to something that all of the haters haven’t actually tried. This is genuinely innovative, and that’s a good thing.
Also, ignore the purists who are taking this opportunity to preach how whisky ‘should’ be enjoyed. Drink it however you want, whether neat, with a splash of water, or in Tide Pod cocktail form at one of London’s top bars if you want to.
Of course, beyond the online mockery, from another perspective it could be said that the Glenlivet marketing team has succeeded beyond its wildest dreams. By going viral with this ‘Tide Pod’ project, getting an absurd amount of media coverage about a minor story, and sparking conversations about sustainability and how single malts could and should be enjoyed, Glenlivet may be another case study proving the Irish writer Brendan Behan right: “There is no bad publicity except an obituary.”