Eighteen of us raise our glasses and toast at the launch of the new look Glenfiddich 12-year-old whisky. Kenya is the first African country to launch the new 12 and 15-year-old Glenfiddich.
The banter is lively and the laughter is warm, old friends and professional colleagues catching up. This, however, is happening with each one of us in the comfort of their living rooms.
It is a Tuesday afternoon, we are all logged into a Zoom meeting with Mulunda Kombo, the Glenfiddich national brand ambassador—who is in Nairobi and Struan Grant Ralph, the global ambassador Glenfiddich—in Speyside, Scotland.
“We are delighted to be the first market in Africa to unveil the new look. The redesign has a distinct reference to Glenfiddich's heritage and draws on inspiration from the special place where it is produced, Speyside,” said Mulunda.
At the close of last year, single malt whisky Glenfiddich began a rollout of its new look. The Africa release was expected to happen this year. That changed when Covid-19 struck.
With meetings now online, the launch too was a virtual affair complete with cocktails and the new bottle delivered to the participants ahead of the meeting. We were then given instructions on how to serve the pre-made cocktails—which is grabbing some ice, pouring the drink into the whisky glasses provided in the package, stirring and garnishing with the dehydrated orange in the pack.
The cocktail dubbed Speyside Sandcastle is made with the Glenfiddich 12, Cherry liqueur, sweet vermouth, and passion fruit juice. The ingredients mellow together and I cannot distinctly tell what is in the drink without reading the ingredient list, but it is a balance for those who lean towards fruity but not too sweet cocktails.
Locally and globally, alcohol brands have had to re-evaluate how they get to consumers as on-trade channels, which includes bars and restaurants, remain closed, slowing down sales.
Part of this has meant that Glenfiddich has increased partnerships with e-commerce platforms and supermarkets including Naivas, Quickmart, Carrefour, and Chandarana to reach the consumer.
“People are drinking a lot more at home and they are taking stronger drinks and start drinking earlier in the day. The impact on our sales has not been as much during the pandemic,” said Struan.
Mulunda says the global trend has been replicated locally with the uptake of home delivery and direct sales to the consumer cushioning the brand.
Beer globally has been hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic with sales slowing to a near trickle.
With the rebrand, Mulunda indicates Glenfiddich is modernising ‘language’ to appeal to a new market. Except for the packaging, the whisky tastes the same and retails at the same price as it did previously.