KNOW WHAT YOU WANT
guidance. Participants toward the top of that list will require more general category information, will need precise instructions on how to nose and taste, and will benefit from visual aids and other accessories. Further down, participants will want more brandspecific and technical information.
Here are some common tasting outcome goals:
»»Bottle sales in your gift shop or at the liquor store. »»Sign-ups for your e-newsletter, and social media follows. »»Merchandise sales. »»Distributor sign-ons. »»New account activations. »»Cocktail menu placements. »»Earned media. »»Brand awareness.
Time can be anywhere from less than a minute to over an hour, and it may be precisely fixed or last as long as your audience is interested. If you have the audience’s undivided attention, it’s a formal tasting. If you’re competing for your audience’s attention, it’s an informal tasting.
That last item — brand awareness — is the most common justification for having a tasting. You have to get the word out, and while it is potentially measurable, it doesn’t necessarily translate into sales. Brand enthusiasm is better, but it is even more difficult to measure. So even if brand awareness is a component, it’s best to have additional specific and measurable goals.
VARIABLES AND TASTING TYPES Three factors — venue, audience and time — ultimately determine the design and the potential goals for your tasting. (In addition to limitations imposed by local laws, of course.)
Venues are usually your distillery, a seminar room, an expo hall, a liquor store or a bar or restaurant. The Audience likely consists of one of these groups:
»»Recently legal drinking age and party groups. »»Category novices. »»Category enthusiasts. »»Trade: distributors, retail owners (on- and off-premise), liquor store employees, bartenders.
»»Media: from bloggers to major media. Different audience types need different information and
In a formal tasting you can define the parameters, pour more products and incorporate tasting accessories more easily. Formal tastings should always be sit-down and have all of the pours set when the audience enters the room. In informal tastings, the number of products and tasting accessories should be kept to a minimum.
TASTING CONSIDERATIONS Each component of a tasting has impact. A tasting mat is a great place for your logo, tasting notes and social media prompts. The most photographed and shared component of the Maker’s Mark distillery tour is the formal tasting at the end — which contains the brand name in seven places and each product name is clearly identifiable on the tasting mat, even on a small phone screen. Glassware is preferable over plastic, but it is expensive. If you use plastic sample cups, ensure they are large enough to observe color, swirl and nose. Scented products — including candles, air fresheners, cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, fabric softener and body care products — all have a negative impact on your tasting by covering up or competing with the aromas and flavors of your product. A tasting guide is equal parts entertainer and teacher. One note here: ensure all your tasting guides are well versed in your brand and product messages and are clear about the goals and objectives for each tasting. Bear in mind that it’s unlikely your distributor will do more than hand out shots, so dedicated or contract brand reps are critical to long-term growth. And whenever possible, rehearse the tasting. Remember, it’s a performance!
Three generations of raising premium grains for distilleries of all sizes. BRETT GLICK 124
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