Pernod Ricard has sent social media into meltdown with its latest whisky innovation – a ‘Capsule Collection’ of glassless The Glenlivet single malt whisky cocktails.
Launched during London Cocktail Week in partnership with cocktail legend Alex Kratena, the limited-edition The Glenlivet ‘Capsule Collection’ is a range of whisky cocktails served in a seaweed-extract casing, one of nature’s most renewable resources.
A first of its kind for a spirit brand, the edible capsules are 23ml in size and fully biodegradable. They are popped in the mouth for an “instant burst of flavour”, then the capsule is simply swallowed. There is no need for a glass, ice or cocktail stirrer.
To launch the ‘Capsule Collection’ The Glenlivet has partnered with Tayēr Elementary, one of the world’s leading bars. Award-winning bartender and co-owners of Tayēr + Elementary, Alex Kratena and Monica Berg, created three original cocktails for the capsules, which are inspired by the elements and flavours of The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve: Citrus, Wood and Spice.
“When we saw The Glenlivet Capsule Collection for the first time we knew we wanted to be involved with the launch – the cocktail capsules are unique and push the boundaries of how drinks can be served,” said Kratena. “This is something we always look to do at tayēr and so it felt like a natural fit.”
The Glenlivet is the first spirits brand in the world to team up with capsule designers Notpla, a sustainable packaging start-up, to create an original consumption experience.
The seaweed used grows at a speed of around 1m per day and actively contributes to de-acidifying our oceans. If discarded, the capsules biodegrade in 4-6 weeks, faster than fruit peel, meaning no waste at all.
“When The Glenlivet approached us to create single malt whisky cocktails we knew it was going to be an exciting partnership,” said Rodrigo Garcia Gonzalez, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Notpla. “At Notpla we want to create original solutions for how to serve and consume drinks, and The Glenlivet is a brand that is looking to do just the same.”
The ‘Capsule Collection’ embodies The Glenlivet’s new global campaign Original By Tradition. Miriam Eceolaza, Director of The Glenlivet, explained: “As a brand that celebrates originality, we are always looking to break the conventions that have determined how single malt Scotch has historically been enjoyed.
“The Glenlivet Capsule Collection does exactly that, and we’re excited to see how people react when they try our glassless cocktails. Our founder, George Smith, always went against the grain, bucking tradition and doing things differently. The Glenlivet Capsule Collection continues his pioneering spirit today.”
The Glenlivet Capsule Collection is available at Tayēr (Tayēr + Elementary, Old Street, London) and served as an amuse-bouche on arrival throughout this year’s London Cocktail Week until October 13.
Uproar over whisky innovation
Since the release of the capsules was announced they have been ridiculed, compared to Tide Pods, called evil, a “bad idea” and even an “abomination”.
ABC’s foreign affairs reporter Julia Macfarlane, who described it as a ‘sick joke’ and an ‘abomination’, even called on Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to ‘do something’.
The Tide Pod comparison follows Tide Pod Challenge, a meme-driven, viral social media phenomenon where teenagers reportedly ate the toxic capsules full of detergent as a dare.
The Glenlivet was forced to issue a statement saying: “It seems our cocktail Capsule Collection has caused a bit of a stir – we wanted to reassure you The Glenlivet is committed to producing safe, responsible & delicious products for adults. Our seaweed capsules are a limited London Cocktail Week release & are not available elsewhere.”
Others were more favourable about the whisky innovation. Scotch Whisky noted: “In the face of an ageing consumer base, Scotch has been trying to shake off its dusty image of tartan and tweed to appeal to a younger audience, with varying degrees of success. They may be marketing buzzwords, but innovation, craft and stories with substance are what excite new whisky drinkers, and unless Scotch appeals to their cravings it risks becoming the dusty, uncool spirit of past generations, languishing on the top shelf as the more relevant Bourbons, rums and Irish whiskeys swagger in.
“Divisive cocktail capsules aren’t enough on their own to change the public’s perception about mixing Scotch, but at least The Glenlivet is trying. The saga goes to show Scotch is caught in a Catch-22 situation – it’s damned if it doesn’t innovate; ridiculed if it does.”
Verdict on the pod cocktail experience
According to Felipe Schrieberg at Forbes the pods are “delicious”.
“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.”
He also said the whisky innovation of a cocktail in pod form was unexpectedly enjoyable.
“I was surprised to note that the cocktail slowly poured itself out of the packaging rather than in an unexpected, surprising, unpleasant burst,” he noted. “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.”
View more about the whisky innovation below: