A Scottish gin maker has gone all hi-tech with its labels; Peter Ranscombe finds out more.
IT SOUNDS like something straight from an episode of Star Trek.
Wave your mobile phone at the label on a bottle of gin and you’re transported into another world.
But, today, science fiction is meeting distilling fact with the launch of McQueen’s augmented reality (AR) packaging.
Download the Callander distillery’s app, select the right gin from its core range of six, then point your phone at the label to be greeted by specially-made animations.
The cartoon chillis slapping each other in the video that accompanies the Five Chilli Gin perhaps owe more to the age of Lemmings and Sensible Soccer than Halo and Grand Theft Auto, but their rough-and-ready edges simply add to their charm.
Being able to rotate your phone and see “inside” the bottle from differnent angles on screen is really clever.
The graphics on the rest of the app are superb, with details of how the gin is made, information about events and visits, and cocktail recipes for each of the gins.
“Not only are we the first Scottish gin company to integrate AR, we believe that we are the first gin company in the whole of the UK to fully integrate AR into our label design with our own dedicated app,” explains Dale McQueen, who opened his distillery in 2015 with his wife, Vicky.
And the gin itself?
Reading that the McQueen Five Chilli Gin (£23, McQueen) is made using a “blend of five of the hottest chillies on the planet: Ghost, Carolina Reaper, Guajillo, Scorpion, and Orange Habanero” gave a weakling like me cause to pause.
I needn’t have worried though; the heat from the chillis is balanced by flavours of juniper, mint, lemon, and black pepper.
Yet there’s still enough lingering warmth coming through to mean the chillis are no marketing gimmick.
Instead, I can see how this would work well in cocktails, and could be an interesting component for bar tenders once the hospitality industry reopens.
What’s most impressive though is how McQueen has managed to retain the juniper essence of gin, even alongside a distinctive flavour like chilli.
Too many “flavoured” gins concentrate on the “flavour” and lose the juniper, which – at the end of the day – is gin’s defining characteristic.
Without the juniper, you may as well make flavoured vodka.
Read more of Peter’s gin, whisky, and wine reviews on his drinks blog, The Grape & The Grain.