Professor Charles Spence spends a lot of time thinking about the noise made by crisp packets. This is because the Oxford University academic is a specialist in crossmodal research, a field of experimental psychology concerned with the way our senses interact to shape our perception of the world. According to Spence’s research, the sound of a rustling crisp packet can make the contents seem up to 5 per cent crispier.
“All these external factors—the words on the label, the packaging, the weight, the name, the sound of the packaging being opened—are very important to our experience of a product,” he says. “There is starting to be a real change in the industry, as people realise packaging is not just about storage and about shelf life—it’s actually integral to the consumers’ experience and it’s increasingly becoming a key part of new product development.”
One industry that is having to give some serious thought to these external factors is that of Scotch malt whisky, particularly in relation to age statements. That number on the bottle—which must, by law, refer to the youngest whisky in the bottle, be it a blend or a single malt (as even single malts contain a mixture of ages, unless they are single cask malts)—has traditionally played a huge role in consumers’ perception of quality. According to research by Chivas Bros, the whisky-making arm of Pernod Ricard UK, 89 per cent of us actively look for an age statement when buying whisky, and 93 per cent of us believe that older equals better.
With global sales of Scotch now at a record high, however, aged whisky stocks have become increasingly scarce. Stretched whisky-makers have been forced to draw on younger stocks to maintain supply. The problem is that most consumers would be prejudiced against buying a single malt with an age statement under ten years old. So what’s the solution? For a growing number of distillers, the answer has been to drop that age statement altogether.
The result is the no-age-statement, or NAS, whisky. But while they’re good for the producer, what about the uninitiated consumer? How is a whisky buyer supposed to navigate their way around the off-licence shelf without the signposts offered by age statements? It’s a marketing conundrum that has forced whisky brands to seek out a whole new set of quality cues to seduce us.
In the case of the new 1824 Series from…