CONNOISSEURS might know the difference between an Islay single malt, a Speyside Scotch or a Highland dram but a large proportion of people who buy whisky choose purely on the basis of the packaging, according to a new study.
Up to 60 per cent of those buying single malts have no idea of what they might taste like and people are put off by packaging that embodies the “celtic cliche”, suggests the study carried out for Glasgow-based designed agency Good.
Chris Lumsden, co-director of Good said: “What this research shows is that there is a significant proportion of this marketplace that we should understand more about.
“We know a lot about whisky drinkers but, before the product is given to a drinker, someone is buying it and we don’t know much about them.
“A huge amount of money and effort goes into refining the taste of the whisky and designing the bottle but these are of secondary importance to most of the people who are buying the product.
“We are not saying these are unimportant factors, they certainly are to the drinker, but unless the packaging is right then the product will not reach its ultimate consumer.”
The study focused on the 60 per cent of whisky buyers who purchase a bottle as a gift, rather than people buying malts they plan to drink themselves.
Doug Maclay, a market research consultant who devised the study, said: “This kind of research is usually done with whisky drinkers.
“We set out specifically to identify people with very little learned knowledge about whisky and, therefore, with fewer prejudices about known brands.”
In recent years, distillers Bruichladdich have led the trend towards more modern packaging, with clear bottles and sea-blue labels. Dalmore, Glengoyne 21 and Aberfeldy 21 packaging were complimented for their colours and materials.
Brands that were seen as promoting “celtic cliches” were criticised by people buying whisky as a gift.
Rosemary Gallagher, Scotch Whisky Association communications manager, said: “A number of factors influence a consumer’s decision of which Scotch whisky to buy, either for themselves or as a gift.
“Scotch whisky producers are well aware that, as single malt is a premium product, design and packaging is important.
“However, taste will be a major reason for buying a particular whisky and for making repeat purchases. A consumer might be drawn to the packaging of a product, but taste will draw them back to it.”