The Vessel- Important?

I’ve recently joined a whiskey club and visited America, which has allowed me to experience a wide range of different bourbons, ryes, whiskies and moonshines. The thing that has struck me is the variety of packaging, bottles and ‘outside the box’ design entrepreneurism, which has enabled different brands to capture the consumer’s attention to make them part with their money.

Ok, I get it; America is much larger than Ireland and the UK; therefore, the variety will be significantly different. The whiskey industry in Ireland is arguably in more of a transition stage, and as distilleries develop their whiskies, more and more ideas concerning packaging are emerging. One limitation that Ireland does have, however, is the Technical File. I spoke about this a few months back and argued against it, saying it limited distillers’ creativity and ultimately regulated their inventiveness towards new ideas and concepts. Could this be the reason why we have no bottle alternatives?

A couple of months back, I held an ‘American night’ where my club tasted a variety of liquids, one of which included a corn whiskey from ‘West Platte.’ This liquid was contained in a traditional flagon, which created a nostalgic and evocative feeling: this is how whiskey was probably sold centuries ago. Whilst the whiskey did not meet the expectation developed by its packaging, the sentiment was undoubtedly felt and whilst choosing liquids for the tasting, it ultimately led me to this specific whiskey. The flagon was a particularly good idea, primarily due to its reusable nature. Whilst recycling wasn’t a critical issue during the 1900s, the idea certainly predicated a sense of ‘greenness.’

Speaking of sustainability, the whiskey business has a fundamental issue with packaging, so much so that the Scotch Whiskey Association has now acknowledged it, producing a plan for Net Zero Carbon Emissions By 2040. This has encouraged many businesses to develop innovative solutions to reduce their carbon footprint and produce an eco-friendly, sustainable, and creative solution to a significant and critical issue affecting us all. Creativeness has ranged from the strange and wacky to potentially possible answers. In terms of the ‘wacky’, Glenlivet announced their use of a 23-millilitre scotch-containing pod made from seaweed. It is undoubtedly a very modern approach to the problem, but likely not feasible, given that they are being served only as “an amuse-bouche” at London bar Tayēr + Elementary. Considering that ‘nosing’ is a fundamental part of the ‘whiskey experience’, we can safely rule these capsules out as fun but an inextricably impracticable solution.

Sticking with Scotch, Diageo and Johnnie Walker announced their plans to create the world’s first-ever 100 per cent plastic-free paper-based spirits bottle, made entirely from sustainably sourced wood. This begs the question of the bottle degrading over time. However, Diageo clarified that scientifically-advanced methods used to create the bottle involved curing the containers in microwave ovens before spraying them with a specialized coating intended to be compatible with whatever product the paper bottle is holding. Again, certainly an innovative approach, but one affected by time.

One feasible, innovative solution which solves the issue of time is Two Stacks’ ‘Dram in a Can.’ The Dram in a Can is essentially a 100ml shot of Irish whiskey in an Aluminium can primarily designed for consumption on-the-move or on any occasion in which bringing out a 700ml bottle of whiskey could be misconstrued. Aluminium is an infinitely recyclable material, and it takes up to 95 per cent less energy to recycle it than to produce primary aluminium, which also limits emissions, including greenhouse gases. Glass is also infinitely recyclable; however, the key difference is that glass is heavier, bulkier and retains its original shape unlike an aluminium can which can be ‘crushed’ for ease or carriage or disposal.

The whiskey inside the can is nothing exclusive either. It’s their standard, signature blend:  a combination of 40% dark grain aged in virgin oak casks, 40% light grain aged in bourbon casks, 8% pot still aged in Oloroso Sherry Butts, 10% double malt aged in bourbon casks, and 2% peated malt also aged in bourbon casks; called “The Blender’s Cut.” In keeping with the Two Stacks’ philosophy, transparency is key, and affectionately adorned across the can is their ‘no added colouring, no chill filtration’ affirmation alongside their mash-bill make-up.

It’d be rude not to review the actual whiskey inside the can, so here goes.

ABV: 43%

Price: $4.99

Nose: The first thing that is apparent is the freshness of the notes coming through impeccably. Candied lemon rind and green apple cuts are dominant with a hint of flat lilt. I can’t help but imagine a sweetshop at this point, with notes redolent of big jars of hard-boiled sweets or opened packets of dip dabs. There’s almost a transition from sweetness to freshness, and the notes go to freshly cut grass and lavender—a very complex but intriguing nose.

Palate: The sweetness is still there; however, it changes more to a ripened plum or pear traces. The bourbon influence comes through and gives an interesting, spiced vanilla tart note and sticky toffee pudding or even Christmas pudding and custard. Considering the proportion of peated malt, the smoke comes through gently but gives an exciting dimension of depth and balances the sweet notes seamlessly.

Finish: Sticking with the sweetshop theme, the notes gently subside to foam bananas. Given its ABV of 43%, it’s surprisingly lengthy. It’s probably medium length but certainly lasting in terms of my inability to take another sip.

Summary

Firstly, let’s talk about the packaging. In terms of feasibility, this works for me. It’s practicable, cheap ($4.99 a can), completely recyclable and will not degrade the vessel or the whiskey inside no matter how long it is retained. It’s perfect when you don’t want to crack open a bottle for whatever reason and is small enough to know you’ve had a decent-sized dram. The Aluminium has had no noticeable effect on the whiskey, and therefore, it is the perfect receptacle for the liquid it holds. Once you get over the unfamiliarity of drinking whiskey out of a can, it becomes almost normal, I would have no qualms about doing it in public either.

For the whiskey, it’s hard to fault. If you were to buy a bottle of this liquid, it would cost €44.95, which, all things considered, is a very respectable price tag. It’s a great whiskey for what it is, and let’s be honest, would Two Stacks stick their most exclusive release into a can? I doubt it.

I honestly think it’s an original and inventive solution to many problems: global warming, feasibility and convenience. Hard to fault such pioneerism.

Score: 7.5/10

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