English for Design & Whisky for Burns Night
Today for Burns Night, Blue Noun Language Hub began celebrations with a tour of our local distillery, The Glenturret.
Whisky is a key element in a traditional Burns Supper, and like Burns Night, whisky production is steeped in tradition – an unbroken chain reaching into Scotland’s past.
Traditional crafts, skills and technology are very much on show when you tour any distillery in Scotland. They are put on show because traditions are a large part of the brand identity as well as being integral to the actual taste of the whisky. As you will see in this blog, tiny changes can cause huge shifts in the product and consistency in process is key.
In recent history, individual whisky brands have been marketed by showing their allegiance to tradition: using storytelling to portray a brand that is ancient and unchanging: the landscape, the water it’s made from, the craftsmanship all make up the brand story, and history and longevity are used as proof of quality.
The Glenturret has taken a leap into a different brand identity.
Very cleverly, The Glenturret are redesigning whisky drinking – while keeping both feet safely in the camp of tradition.
Read on to discover why we love showing off The Genturret Distillery to our English language guests – it’s particularly great for practicing key English for design professionals like product designers and marketers – as well as a fantastic day out for whisky fans.
As usual, this blog is written with English language learners in mind: of course, all readers are very welcome, it’s just there’s a practice exercise for English learners at the end.
The Genturret Distillery Tour is on our Meet the Makers Immersion English Programme – and is an absolute must for anyone joining us to improve their English for design industry careers.
The Glenturret is changing the very language of whisky drinking.
Let us show you how.
Part 1 | An introduction to Scottish Whisky Making
The basic process of whisky distilling is pretty simple, it has been refined throughout its history – with a behind-the-scenes role for scientists, engineers and technicians to support new ways of enriching old tastes with precision, reliability – and without waste.
Some Things Can’t Change, Some Can
A copper still is a legal requirement of Scotch whisky: it’s one of the definitions of its particular taste.
However, every distillery in Scotland has its own shape of still, the shape and size of the still defines the taste of whisky.
For example, the Glenturret has a bulbous onion shape on its neck which allows a maximum of contact between steam and the copper – something our tour guide Alex described as, ‘stripping out super notes’ and controlling the ‘mouth feel’ of the oily alcohol.
It’s a medium-sized still. The fact of the small, windy, access road is that The Glenturret can never produce to a larger scale, using a larger still than it does.
Whisky brands are the story of the facts of location and history. Due to location. The Glenturret cannot increase in scale.
However, the brand could redesign. When the brand changed owners in 2019, its rebirth was high-end and upmarket: instantly positioning itself as a market leader and luxury brand.
Part 2 | An introduction to Whisky Marketing & The Glenturret Revolution
Ultimately, what distinguishes good whisky brands from each other is their own blend of product and marketing.
Every distillery has been doing its thing for unchanging years, so it’s interesting that it is ‘Scotland’s oldest working distillery’ (1763) – The Glenturret (which you would think to be on pretty safe grounds just preaching tradition) leading the way into a new style of whisky drinking.
Revisiting The Glenturret Distillery after a break of three years is to find the product much the same (at least, it varies as much as whiskies always vary in their years, batches and casks).
Two things are different:
It is immediately obvious that bottles and branding have completely changed.
The non-factory parts of the distillery are now gorgeous.
As before, the staff are friendly and welcoming, but less obviously – and charmingly – the staff promote a less stuffy kind of whisky drinking.
The whisky tour takes a spoken stance against elitism in whisky, urging you to enjoy it exactly how you want.
No more funny looks if you ask for ice or, god forbid – coke. They’ll even give you a recipe!
“Mess about with whisky. Have fun.”
Alex, The Glenturret Tour guide, 2022
Welcome to the Taste Experience
The very excellent whisky tasting included on The Glenturret tour legitimises your own tastes, while telling you a quite different history of whisky from other distilleries I’ve visited.
Aside from giving generous hints about how to get the best from whisky (good posture, partially open your mouth – don’t stick your nose in the glass), the conversation is all about new ways and recipes to enjoy whisky.
Of whisky as a mixer in cocktails.
Of whisky becoming fashionable only after a crop blight took brandy off the market.
That whisky didn’t always taste as good as it does today.
It’s friendly. It’s inclusive and it subtly introduces a forward-facing brand linked to the multicultural, contemporary Scotland we all want to be in: it’s whisky rebranded.
The brand’s gift to you is the permission to have fun with whisky again.
This is a very clever pivot.
More than likely, you’ll drink a hell of a lot more whisky than you would do if you restricted it to cherishing a single nip from a precious crystal glass, positioned in a leather armchair, beside an open fire, on a Saturday evening, at your favourite golf club, in winter (and only if the moon is full and the planets are aligned) – and on your birthday (February 29th).
The Mark of Great Design
The Whisky tasting experience offered by The Glenturret is enhanced by the glorious architecture of the room and furnishings.
The whole tour is peppered with new gorgeous details; including luxury bars, sofas and cabinets.
The Glenturret is now owned by luxury brand Lalique.
The new owners have redesigned the bottles and brand and put 3.5 million pounds into renovating the visitor experience, leaving the distillery workings untouched but adding a whole level of pleasure to the restaurant, cafe, shop, tasting area and waiting areas.
Egalitarian and Luxurious
The Glenturret is opening up whisky drinking to a wider audience – largely because the bottle design has moved this self-proclaimed ‘fun’ product into something to be seriously coveted by almost anyone.
The Glenturret are no longer trying to place themselves in a line of bottles at the top of a dusty bar (each with competing images of picturesque Scotland); they are pitching their whisky as the bottle your cocktail cabinet needs.
And what a bottle!
(You might need to get yourself an Art Deco cabinet to go with it).
Collaborations with Jaguar and Lalique glassmakers have produced limited-edition whiskies that sell for thousands of pounds to whisky purists and collectors.
The superb new Lalique showroom (which was a storeroom before the revamp) lifts the visitor experience into the sublime.
The Glenturret brand has invented a new way to market an established product – and the sky is the limit for where this will possibly lead the collaboration between glassmakers and whisky.
The distillery is already retailing its glass chandeliers at £10k.
An Ancient Alarm System – and Some Happy Cats
There’s as much added detail as you would like on this tour.
I particularly liked hearing about the drummer and piper who were stationed on the surrounding hills during the period when the distillery wasn’t declaring its existence to Customs and Excise.
(Much of Scottish history involves smuggling and skulduggery).
The piper and drummer sounded the alarm and the team of distillery men scrambled into the woods, carrying all the trappings of whisky production with them – (hard to imagine them scrambling up the hill with a Lalique chandelier).
Another likeable detail is the distillery cats; historically on-site to protect the grains from rodents, the two moggies, ’Glen’ and ‘Turret’ live a charmed life of cat treats, lo-fi cat flaps and have cosy beds under the heat-radiating whisky still.
They are typical moggies. (Thank goodness they are not sleek designer cats with bejewelled collars).
In fact, that is kind of the tone for the whole Glenturret vibe. Pragmatic where needed and exquisite and generous in detail otherwise.
English for Design | The Marketing Message
The Glenturret’s every communication is simultaneously about an authentic past and process that is being elevated to new heights through its superb glass and product design.
Traditions haven’t been sacrificed. They’ve been framed.
Have a look at their promotional film here.
English for Design
Thanks for reading our blog.
We hope to have shown you that The Glenturret tour is a must for whisky fans and design fans – and especially for anyone learning English for design careers including product design, interior design and product marketing.
We love it – and you will too.
At Blue Noun Language Hub we want to give more than just English language skills, we want you to have fabulous experiences of Scotland to take away with you and remember.
A good English immersion holiday should leave you in love with the country, wanting to stay in touch with the people and culture you were introduced to – and planning to travel again to explore further.
And perhaps clutching a bottle of whisky!
An Online Immersive English Experience
We know it’s hard to join us at the moment for live immersion English classes – but we are offering online classes and memberships tailored to your English learning needs.
Make sure you join our mailing list (link below).
Read our whole activities menu here
Your English Language Challenge
We offer you a practice conversation opportunity with every blog. Today, it’s
‘How do you drink yours?’
Know a good whisky recipe? Share it here.
As usual, if you want us to correct any sentences, just write CP (correct please at the end of your comment).