Girvan 25 Year Old Single Grain Scotch Whisky: a pack dissection

This article was originally published as my guest column on TheDrinksReport here.

Just how does a fifty year old mostly quiet distillery go about launching a new category in Scotch? Through creating thoughtful design, iconography and range tiering, that’s how.

The Girvan distillery dates back to 1963 and has a whole host of great storytelling opportunities surrounding it from Charles Gordon, William Grant’s great grandson, riding around the site on his bicycle barking orders to the already-working flat out workers or that the whole 380 acre site was constructed in just nine months. But the simple fact that it is the second largest grain whisky production site on the planet and I did not learn any of this from the pack itself.

These stories are not brought into the pack design at all for the now year-old launch products for its range. 

The products themselves, four in total thus far, are borne of a true design to ‘add a new pillar’ to the Scotch market by premiumising single grain releases. 

And it is fair to say that they have done a pretty good job. 

Girvan 25 year oldWhen you look at the range you see bottle structures reminiscent of wine bottles or even Grey Goose at a push that exude quality, show the liquid and say to the world: “single grain has nothing to hide”. 

Bearing in mind there are only a handful of grain distilleries in Scotland, none of whom had at the time managed to premiumise their product on the open market aside from the odd distillery release of independent bottlings, consumers had naturally assumed that grain whisky was blend fodder with little personality to it. The whisky geeks out there believing that it is produced in such a way that eliminates error, drives a consistent liquid and ultimately feels less characterful than traditional single malt releases. 

Girvan had to do something really special visually when they went to the open market with their range, and they have. 

They broke existing malt category codes. 

They created new category codes for single grain. 

They designed with modernity in mind. 

They have thought about ranging and tiers early on. 

They have created shelf standout. 

They brought an ambitious positioning to life with clarity. 

Consumers will notice that each tier from 4APPS to Proof Strength to Girvan 25 Year Old to 30 Year Old each adds additional premium cues to the secondary pack. 

From classic cardboard to rigid cardboard to veneer with magnetic girvan 25 year oldclosures, the tiering is up there with the best of them, especially when lined up side by side. 

When speaking with Global Brand Ambassador for Girvan Patent Still, Kevin Abrook recently I asked him about the secondary pack and he was at pains to tell me just how much they thought about the trade up story and how the bottle’s sleek design with lots of liquid on show would have been ruined had they not cut panels out of the rigid secondary pack to increase sightlines. 

Iconography can often be used flippantly, poorly or even randomly, you will notice on the Girvan 25 Year Old packaging the main brand icon is symbolic of the still and the key tasting notes present in this expectedly smooth liquid. 

The use of lots of white space on pack, printed panels on the side of the outer pack and a booklet inside that is so minimalist yet communicative in its design that it really does personify the brand promise of ‘deliciously different’. 

Will these become the new normal or even category codes within single grain? Time will tell. 

Part of me wants to say it is too modern, too slick, too unexpected for the wide Scotch category, but it works. 

It is definitely super premium, no questions there, and once you hold the Girvan 25 Year Old, for example, you feel every penny’s worth as you casually roll your fingers over the rigid outer pack structure or look longingly at the iconography piecing together the story of a product that has taken a quarter of a century to be ready for release and your consumption.

The packaging, for me, is a true personification and testament to the precision engineering used to create the impressive Girvan stills now fifty-two years ago. 

What do you think of the Girvan Patent Still packaging? Do you think it disrupts in a good way or does it break too many category codes? 

Written by Greg Dillon

Greg is a freelance brand strategist for hire specialising in creating compelling brand positioning / propositions, creative platforms and all things strategic for whisky and other luxury spirits, he also authors multi-award nominated GreatDrams.com, a site for whisky drinkers and learners alike and can be contacted on [email protected] or over at Facebook.com/GreatDrams

Tags: DistilleryDrinkWireGirvanGirvan 25 Year OldGirvan distillerypack dissection
Greg

Greg

My name is Greg, and I’m a brand strategy consultant, writer, speaker, host and judge specialising in premium spirits. My mission is to experience, share and inspire with everything great about whisky, whiskey, gin, beer and fine dining through my writing, my brand building and my whisky tastings.

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