Who knew that the newest way to savor experience would be to drink it with your eyes?

In what has become the go-to trend, some of the most popular whiskey brands across the world have begun to employ cutting-edge technology to take their biggest fans on an immersive journey of how their favorite drinks are born, created, and consumed.

To create these sensory experiences, companies have been very quick in embracing virtual reality to tell stories and create a differentiated consumer experience that goes beyond the simple consumption of liquor. This has largely revolved around the conception and development of virtual distillery tours, providing an intimate look into how world famous alcohol brands churn out their products.

Glenfiddich Shows the Way

Around June 2016, the Glenfiddich Dufftown distillery, riding the wave of this trend, began using virtual reality to provide users a bird’s eye view of their production process. Being one of the most prominent Scottish distilleries, their production values are high and the end product is a slick and masterful insight that viewers can enjoy without having to step foot in Scotland. Viewers would simply have to strap on a headset in order to ‘walk’ around the famed distillery and bear ‘witness’ to the creation process as if they were there in person.

Fittingly, Glenfiddich has called its virtual reality tour the ‘Journey into the Mind of the Malt Master’. This all-encompassing experience takes the viewer right into the heart of the distillery district, and shows off in great detail the mastery that whisky production entails. The best part is, they get to see all this ‘first-hand’.

The single malt Scotch whisky producers partnered with Space, a London-based creative agency, to develop this 360-degree sensory-rich experience. It shows off, to great effect, the heritage of Glenfiddich. When the video starts up, the view pans across the Speyside countryside before the perspective changes and users enter Glenfiddich Dufftown. A virtual tour guide is present to show tourists the lay of the land, and help them make their way between the numerous wooden casks and mash tuns.

Speaking on this latest venture, Ifan Jenkins, Glenfiddich, Global Brand Marketing Manager told thedrum.com, “Using cutting edge VR technology allows us to immerse whisky drinkers from all over the world in the Glenfiddich story and our Dufftown home to create a truly memorable experience and showcases how we’ve mastered the art of whisky making.”

Glenfiddich has also made this tour accessible to audiences across the globe. For instance, in September 2016, the company launched its VR tour in India.

Some VR and JD Please

Another globally recognized brand, Jack Daniel’s, followed suit a few days later, releasing a fully immersive VR experience for its loyal patrons. Like its Scottish counterpart, the Tennessee-based whiskey company has made it possible for loyal enthusiasts and new patrons alike to become part of a more holistic consumer experience that goes beyond downing a few drams.

The immersive, VR experience was co-created by Rama Allen and Bowe King. The New Indian Express quotes them as saying, "This new technology is a way for us to celebrate the Jack Daniel Distillery with fans everywhere and bring them closer to Lynchburg. The 360 degree video experience will allow Jack Daniel's consumers a chance to 'visit' the rick yard, see the cave spring hollow and feel as though they are right there in Lynchburg where each batch of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey is crafted, and has been for 150 years."

Of Drones and Futuristic Drams

These developments are just a few in a long line of consumer-oriented initiatives that brands have begun to explore. In the race to retain the coveted millennial customer mindshare, it has become crucial to create experiences that are personalized and leave an indelible impression. Virtual reality technology is helping alcohol brands achieve this by giving people unprecedented access to their production process using tools that are cutting-edge and unconventional. Something that before the advent of VR and AR would have been passed over as an afterthought can be repackaged into dynamic content that strikes an emotional chord with consumers.

To give credit where it is due, Glenfiddich and Jack Daniel’s is treading a newly-worn path that brands like Dos Equis and Jim Beam have already trodden in the recent past. In 2015, Jim Beam in association with the creative agency, Geometry Global, had created a promotional VR campaign for Devil’s Cut, its bourbon brand. The creation process was developed into an immersive experience that barflies across several US markets would be able to enjoy simply by strapping on a Samsung Gear headset.

Similarly, Patrón was one of the first brands to embrace VR technology in making its distillery more accessible to consumers. The story of Patrón, told from the perspective of a bee, also employed drone technology to make this possible. Furthermore, the company views immersive experiences as a logical extension of brand communication, instead of treating it as a one-off strategy created purely for entertainment.

Everything said and done, VR technology itself is just evolving from its nascent stages. As eagerly as it has been adopted by the whiskey fraternity, it is still a long way from becoming an integral cog in their marketing machinery. As it stands now, VR has provided brands with a viable alternative for establishing one-on-one connections with consumers. It will be exciting to see how evolving digital technology continues to influence the whiskey manufacturing domain.