It infuriates me, it saddens me and it makes no commercial sense not to stock a distillery exclusive bottle; you have a captive audience of people who are looking for an excuse to give you their money, yet so many distilleries do not oblige, why?!
For me, someone who visits distilleries regularly both for work and on holiday – I have a very understanding wife – there is something simply brilliant about being able to come home from any given trip with a bottle from the distillery I visited that I cannot get anywhere else.
It is not about bragging, or showing off, more about having something that captures a moment in time when I was visiting a historic whisky production site that maybe I’ve never been to before, or that I love to visit as often as possible, and being able to relive those moments with a dram or two every now and then. Each bottle holds a visual memory too, especially when you get to bottle your own distillery exclusive bottle, and in fact I have each one* I’ve ever filled myself lined up in my office and do catch myself reminiscing from time to time.
A distillery exclusive bottle is something special.
A distillery exclusive bottle is something unique.
A distillery exclusive bottle is something lovely.
A distillery exclusive bottle is something unseen in other categories of products; visited the Coca-Cola HQ in Atalanta? I have, and I did not get to bottle my own bubbles I can tell thee.
I was recently up in Speyside and gagging to buy a distillery exclusive bottle from any distillery I could get into, but alas only four I visited on that trip had one, Aberlour, Benromach, Strathisla and Glenfiddich, and on a previous trip with my wife on one of our wedding anniversaries, armed with a fresh AmEx, I was disappointed to find that of the eleven distilleries we visited over three and a half days, the supposed ‘big boys’ and historical distilleries such as The Macallan, Cardhu, Cragganmore, Blair Athol and Dalwhinnie did not have anything other than their core range, and maybe one or two of their stable mates.
This is not localised to Speyside either; Highland Park only had the 35cl 10 Year Old (I bought a few and bring one with me when I travel now in case there are no decent drams to be had wherever I am), The Dalmore didn’t have one, Bunnahabhain didn’t have one, Laphroaig didn’t have one, Ardbeg intermittently has distillery releases but you have to be very quick.
I’m not even talking about the awesome bottle your own facilities as, having worked on the storytelling of a couple of them over the years I can tell you they are not cheap to install and are actually steel lined for health and safety as well as for the appropriate tax to be applied in case the first bottle is older and / or a wildly different ABV to the last. Bit overkill if you ask me, but hey ho.
A bottle your own, or self fill, is a lovely way to build retail theatre and create a focal point in your store, but a distillery exclusive does a good enough job of it too; especially if you can personalise the label.
Parking my emotional response to being let down by not being able to purchase such a distillery exclusive bottle in many places, and with my brand strategy hat on it confuses me even more.
A distillery exclusive bottle is an easy sell.
A distillery exclusive bottle can be premiumised beyond reason (i.e. willingness to pay more for younger whisky just because it is a distillery exclusive is high).
A distillery exclusive bottle forms a strong bond with the brand.
A distillery exclusive bottle gets talked about long after the entry level 12 Year Old has been drained.
A distillery exclusive bottle gets shared and enjoyed.
Surely a distillery exclusive bottle is a no-brainer?
* all apart from the fabulous Auchentoshan bottle your own as the box is too damned big for the shelf!