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'Wow' factor essential for Scotch whisky packaging

Felicity Murray catches up with Richard Patterson following his World Whisky Awards accolade and asks his views on the packaging of Scotch whisky

Richard Patterson Whyte & Mackay

The ever-immaculate figure of Richard has injected a unique level of showmanship into the business of demystifying and marketing Scotch. He has worked steadfastly to illuminate the art of blending, engaging consumers all over the world through his charismatic, flamboyant and energetic presentations and masterclasses.

But to consider Richard Paterson a showman is to underestimate his very real skills and achievements as a blender and a custodian of some of the oldest and rarest single malts in existence.

Above all Richard is passionate and sincere about whisky, and he has been responsible for developing a highly-regarded, award-winning range of aged Whyte & Mackay blends and numerous limited edition expressions of his beloved Dalmore, while also working with the company’s Isle of Jura and Fettercairn single malts.

Richard is justly proud of being a third generation whisky blender, with both his father and grandfather heading the former family company of WR Paterson Ltd.

At the 2013 World Whisky Awards, he was recognised by Whisky Magazine with an Icons of Whisky Lifetime Achievement Award and entered into the magazine’s Hall of Fame – a permanent tribute honouring those noteworthy individuals who have made a lasting contribution to the world of whisky.

“I’m honoured and delighted that all the work I’ve done in the past in regard to education and the blending of whiskies has been recognised,” says Richard.

At the World Whisky Awards ceremony, the World Whisky Packaging Awards were also announced and I took the opportunity to ask Richard about his views on the packaging of Scotch whisky.

“During my many years with the company I have seen numerous packaging designs. However, some of the products I produce are exceptionally expensive and if the packaging does not reflect this quality with a ‘wow’ factor, we’ve got serious issues. As far as I’m concerned the choice of packaging is absolutely fundamental – it goes hand in hand with the product.

“When I talk about Scotch whisky, I believe we can never be too complacent – we must be aware of other spirits around us and make sure that our packaging immediately reflects - almost goes beyond – the consumer’s expectations of the quality of the product behind the label. It is absolutely essential that we really reflect what Scotch whisky is all about. We mustn’t hide behind poor labels.

“There is a danger that in attempts to ‘modernise’ a whisky’s image the packaging design risks either going beyond the consumer’s understanding or becoming almost tacky – either way it discredits the product inside. Over recent years we have seen a number of new Scotch whisky brands making efforts to go ‘out of the box’ with their presentation, just to be a little bit different. The problem with this approach is that it risks many people being left lost and confused, and that’s the last thing I want. The consumer must immediately think ‘yes this is Scotch whisky – this is luxury’.

“We must ensure that we reflect the heritage, skills and craftsmanship behind the creation of a Scotch whisky with packaging that has that wow factor and exudes excellence and luxury – because that’s what Scotch whisky is all about.

“Within the Whyte and Mackay brand portfolio, Dalmore is a good example of packaging but it has taken us a while to perfect it.  Dalmore is a great whisky and we perhaps did not get the packaging quite right to start with. We needed to up our game and exploit the icons of both the island of Jura and Dalmore distillery. The stag is very much relevant to the distillery and the brand so we brought that out to the forefront of the packaging. But getting it onto the glass bottle in that size was not an easy job and it took a number of years to get it correct. All our bottles now have silver stag heads on each bottle, but this evolved from illustrated stags on the glass and various metal stick-ons. Getting it right has taken time and research and of course these things do cost money. But if you want to say luxury, you have to put your money where your mouth is.”

Of the many whiskies over many years that Patterson has created, I asked which he is he most proud of?

The ones “that really hit the mark” for him, he says, are the Dalmore Ceti 30 year old (Ceti is part of the new Dalmore Constellation range and is named after a constellation of stars that is 30 light years away from earth) and Jura 30 Year Old.

“For me the packaging for Ceti, with the its use of the silver stag on the bottle, truly reflects the fine quality of the whisky inside. Also the Jura 30 Year Old and its packaging showing the iconic standing stone of Jura, because this is very much a part of the heritage and culture of the Hebridean island. These two go hand in hand as favourites.“

But then, he adds, “there is also the Dalmore 60 year old, and The Shackleton –many hours were spent considering how to package this and recreate a label from the early twentieth century.”

15 April 2013