A whisky marketer’s wet dream.
Walk the floors of any creative agency working on the account of a big whisky brand and you’ll most likely see two things: A bunch of people who don’t drink whisky sat on brightly-coloured beanbags “ideating” how to make whisky cool and culturally relevant. And, pinned to a corkboard on the wall above the beanbags, a profile of the target consumer they need to convince that whisky is, in fact, cool and culturally relevant.
The target consumer in question – summarised as a portrait persona – is invariably some iteration of Gen Z. They have names like “Experience Maximisers” or “Conscious Explorers” and they are almost exclusively depicted with their arms in the air, absolutely loving life.
These personas have been carefully crafted off the back of extensive consumer research and quick ChatGPT prompts. Regardless of inputs, the insights are always the same. Gen Zs are a far more conscious and green-minded cohort than their predecessors. They care deeply about the planet, societal causes, diversity, and inclusion. They value authentic and innovative brands that share their values and create value in their lives. They’re more mindful of their consumption habits and don’t drink to excess. They prize experiences over ownership, and they believe that life is to be lived to the max, preferably whilst throwing their arms in the air.
It’s against this backdrop, and into this world, that most whisky marketing campaigns and product innovations are launched. Often, due to a lack of actual proof points, the strategies and stories behind such activities are built on flimsy folklore, borrowed credibility and – particularly in the case of sustainability – dubious pledges and claims.
All of which equals hard graft for your average whisky marketer, and why most of what they produce looks and feels the same. If only there was a brief that landed on their desk with some real substance and credibility. A Gen Z-ready whisky, lurking somewhere at the bottom of a brand portfolio PowerPoint slide. A workhorse blend-builder perhaps, with a cool and culturally relevant origins story begging to be told. The wet dream scenario of many a whisky marketer.
Well, the eagle-eyed folk at That Boutique-y Whisky Company might just have found and bottled it as part of a cast of Scotch whiskies released in support of their new USA series. Diageo marketers take note, this could be the Gen Z hero whisky you’ve been searching for.
A Cinderella Story
Teaninich Distillery probably isn’t too familiar to most whisky fans, let alone the coveted “Conscious Explorer Experience Maximisers” but I confidently predict that’s about to change. Currently, it’s mostly used for blends – a key component of Johnnie Walker Red – but it’s only a matter of time before its natural strengths lift it out of obscurity and place it firmly on Gen Z’s radar. A whisky with all of the raw ingredients to “get lit” and catch some serious cultural fire, it’s got the potential to become the Vinho Verde of the whisky world. It’s legit.
Fine fellow that I am, I’ve taken the trouble to list out the supporting evidence backing up my bold prediction. A brief of everything an aspiring young Diageo marketeer and/or creative agency type needs to kick-start this Cinderella Story in the making.
Teaninich was founded in 1817 by “Blind Captain Munro,” a Napoleonic war hero who had both eyes blown out in battle by a musket shot that went through his head. If that wasn’t enough, his fiancé subsequently broke off their engagement at the behest of her disablist father. Unperturbed, he donned a pair of green spectacles and got on with building his distillery. Add that to the brief.
Blind Captain Munro sold the distillery to his younger brother John – a lieutenant-general – in 1830. John became famous as a benefactor of the local poor and built houses for people displaced by the Highland Clearances. What a guy. Turns out the Munro’s are like a more benevolent “Succession” clan; “Roys with joys?” Add that to the brief as well.
Planet and sustainability
A trickier one. Note the usual stuff about waste products feeding local cows, but dial up the fact that they don’t have any packaging waste as there’s no official bottling, aside from the Flora & Fauna 10-year-old release. Also, the brand emblem is a porpoise, so there’s that as well.
Almost unique in its lack of mash tun, Teaninich distillery uses a Hammer Mill – which sounds really cool and is the only one operational in a Scotch malt distillery – and Mash filter to get rid of the draff from the wort. Innovation and industry-leading production practices, check.
Throw in some other bits about generations of Munro family ownership, locally sourced barley, and the distillery’s underdog status within the Digeo behemoth and you’ve got a bullet-proof brief ready to activate. Steal with pride young marketeers, you’re welcome.
All that’s left is the small matter of the whisky. Does the drinking experience match the hyperbolic brand story? For this task, I’ve got something a bit better than an OB. The bottle I’m reviewing was kindly sent for sampling by indie favourite, That Boutique-y Whisky Company. It was not accompanied by any reference to designs on Gen Z domination. As always, the amazing artwork – in this case depicting bespectacled Blind Captain Munro and his remorseful former fiancé Jane – is hand drawn by the brilliant emilychappellillustration.
That Boutique’y Whisky Company Teaninich 12 – Review
Batch 6. From a vatting of two refill sherry butts finished in a first-fill ex-Bourbon barrel as part of the USA Series. Bottled at natural cask strength, 59.1% ABV. Available at Master of Malt for £64.95.
Colour: White wine.
On the nose: A musty start. Like a good fino sherry, there’s a funky minerality mixed with a whiff of olive brine that sets things up nicely. Then green apples, with a bit of balsamic thrown in, followed by sweeter vanilla and honey notes. An undercurrent of “eau de Play-Doh” lurks throughout.
In the mouth: Salty. The olive brine leads the way and its wonderfully oily, creamy, and a bit waxy. Reminiscent of its blend-bodybuilding stablemate, Clynelish. The citrus fruits are present and there’s a touch of peppery spice. Toasted peacans start to emerge and develop into Lotus Biscoff biscuits. A curious thing. Both meaty and herbal, sweet and sour.
If you like Clynelish you’ll love this. I was vaguely aware of Teaninich, but it wasn’t a whisky I was actively seeking out. It is now. The distinctive character combo – briney-saltiness mixed with sweet-citrussiness – really works for me. That could be down to the wood selection for this particular bottling so I’m keen to try some more to compare. What a chore.
Finely balanced, with the spirit shining through and the cask selection expertly elevating things. Also – as always with TBWC – the artwork is fantastic.
On reflection, scrap the Gen Z domination plans. We can’t have any of this being spilt at [insert trendy youth festival] when they throw their arms in the air.