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I’ll kick off by saying that I am usually a person who buys whiskey with my eyes and not my taste buds (not 100% accurate to be completely honest if I’ve had a blind sample of a whiskey). The more awesome something looks the more I want it and will do anything, within reason, to get it. I will add at this point that if the liquid in the bottle is awful I normally end up with buyers remorse and end up having a five minute stern chat with myself on how not to buy a bottle while a voice in the back of my mind, normally the Mrs, is saying “I told you so”. But in the end I just don’t learn and invariably I will buy another bottle of something based on the way it looks. I just can’t help myself. The way a bottle looks, the design of the label, the colour of the liquid, the way the bottle feels in my hands, all lure me in.
Now maybe there are others out there that try to convince themselves that they never buy like this. Well I’m sorry I just don’t believe you. You see when you walk into a bottle shop for a whisky the variety is so vast it’s almost overwhelming. Unless you are a seasoned whisky pro, which many are not, how do you filter through the hundreds of bottles? Do you read reviews quickly on your phone at lightspeed? Do you ask the store sales guys which bottle they recommend so they can sell you the one that will have them hit their sales target for that month? Do you call a mate and ask them for a pointer? Worse still, do you open up one of the bottles on the shelf and have a quick drink to taste test?!
So to push to the front of this mish mash of bottles the distilleries and bottlers have to be creative. They have to get your attention. They have to have a cute story behind the brand and packaging that distinguishes themselves from the maddening crowd. An example would be the Orphan Barrel series from Diageo. And so the story goes that each of the barrels selected for each release have been found in the far depths of the rick houses untouched for decades gathering dust and aging effortlessly creating aged whiskey like no other. (I wont go into the quality of these whiskies on this occasion, but maybe another time!). I will add that the labels are pretty damn cool as well so this helps!
Put simply bottles have to stand out. The eye wonders first a little like the old fables of magpies being drawn to shiny objects.
But, there is an exception to the above rule (my caveat). We notice a dusty bottle sat way up high on a shelf. You start to imagine its been sat there for decades gathering dust. You think of all the people who overlooked the bottle. You want it, not because of the god awful and now faded label, but because in your mind it must be old and rare. You think back to a time when the whisky could have been made and romanticise over days gone by. Therefore you must have it. I’m sure we’ve all been there.
So how do you buy?
Patrick Garrett, "Pops" as he's known to his friends, is the founder of Bourbon & Banter, LLC and claims the title of Chief Drinking Officer (CDO). A long-time marketing professional and photographer, Pops hopes to use his professional experience and love of Bourbon to spread the Bourbon Gospel and help everyone realize the therapeutic power of having a good drink with friends. Read Patrick's full profile.
Nice article and a very good point. There are a lot of very creative labels on everything ranging from microbreweries to wine to hard liquors. I learned my lesson when I almost bought a bottle based on the label only to read the reviews and find that was consistently rated as very poor.
So now when I go to my local store, I scope out all the bottles, go back and read multiple reviews, and only then decide to which one to buy. It’s not so bad if you are buying 20 – 30 dollar bottles but it stings more if you are putting down 50 or more.