By Richard Thomas
A novel item to appear in the whisky news is Whisky-Me, a British subscription service that delivers a different sample in the mail every month. For roughly $10 a month, you get a shot’s worth (roughly 1.5 oz) of a middling single malt delivered to your door. Plenty of services exist in the UK and the US that provide a similar service, so what makes Whisky-Me stand out is their packaging: Whisky-Me is booze in a bag, the Capri Sun of whiskeydom.
The plastic bag part is what has brought some scoffing in Scotch whisky circles, which isn’t surprising when you consider that Scotch circles are known for some of the most intense snobbery in all of world whisk(e)y. “Single malt in plastic! Well I never!”
Yet when it comes to drinks, as a rule the contents are far more important than the container. This is for the simple, scientific and objective reason that drinks packaging is supposed to be neutral. A material cannot be approved if it has any impact or interaction at all with the contents within.
Glass bottles have been associated with quality not because of any qualities that glass might have as a container, but because glass has been around longer than waxed paper and steel or aluminum cans. Boxed wine is uniformly regarded as cheap wine, and there are very few exceptions to that rule. Certainly there are no premium exceptions to that rule. For the longest time, beer in a can was thought to be inferior because those brands that used only cans for beer were the cheapest.
I wrote “for the longest time”because the American craft movement is changed all of that. For economic reasons, most craft distillers can’t afford a bottling line and rely upon cans instead. This is the same logic that drove cheap beer to go into cans. Yet cans generally preserve their contents better than bottles, and a lot of the best craft beer in America is only available in cans.
That example ought to cause any naysayers to pipe down, and make a lot of observers take a look at the idea of whiskey in a bag again. Certain brands are already available in plastic, shatterproof travel versions, so why not whiskey in a plastic bag? It might not be attractive to the eye, but it’s certainly practical as a lightweight shipping and travel solution. I can tell you if they made a version of this that could substitute for the pint bottle, I would happily take it with me camping.
So, if you’re scoffing, don’t scoff too loudly. You might be eating those words down the road, because there’s a good chance this format is going to find a wider application.