Back in (Double) Black with Diageo

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Last Thursday Diageo Global Travel & Middle East hosted a media dinner to celebrate the success of Johnnie Walker Double Black, at Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley, in London. And what a dinner it was.

Diageo executives gather pre-dinner in the Pomerol Room

In the opulent Pomerol Room, guests enjoyed a sumptuous, specially-prepared meal, with Johnnie Walker Double Black featuring in every course. The dessert (which combined ice-cream, whisky AND chocolate – swoon) was officially the best this writer has ever consumed.

Diageo’s Tim Rycroft gave a pre-dinner presentation on the success of Double Black

Prior to dinner, Diageo’s Tim Rycroft gave a detailed presentation about the unfolding story of Double Black. (The deluxe companion blend to Black Label was unveiled in early 2010 as an exclusive test in global travel retail, at six leading international airport locations. Its exceptionally strong performance led to it being extended for sale throughout the channel later that year.)

“Double Black isn’t just an ordinary product launch,” Rycroft declared. “I think this has had a real impact on our channel…It’s a game-changer.”

Double Black whisky, chocolate and ice-cream – what’s not to like?

Following the presentation, guests participated in a dual Johnnie Walker Black Label/Double Black tasting, to experience for themselves the intense smokiness of the latter. Suffice to say this was an experience everyone present greatly enjoyed…

By happy coincidence, the Double Black dinner took place on exactly the same day as this writer’s eight-year anniversary with The Moodie Report, and was a fitting way to celebrate a total of 15 years of writing about travel retail (yes, I started young). It was an interesting change to be surrounded exclusively by male journalists (my knowledge base is broad but my specialist subject is the female-dominated beauty sector) and one which perfectly reflects how masculine – still – the Scotch category is.

The Double Black dinner menu – signed by Marcus Wareing

The drinks industry in general has learned much from its fragrance counterparts in the last decade, in terms of packaging, presentation, POS animations et al. Importantly, certain key players have made huge progress in terms of helping to create an experiential, rather than transactional, travel retail shopping environment.

Yet far too many female passengers – rightly or wrongly – still consider certain sectors of the liquor industry (and whisky is among these) to be intimidating, uninteresting or irrelevant. The brand owners, and travel retailers, who succeed in overturning these perceptions, and converting women into loyal consumers, will surely reap considerable rewards.

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