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SB Voices: Booze meets tech

As some of the world’s biggest spirits players start to embrace cutting-edge technology, Nicola Carruthers takes a look at the phenomenon of virtual reality.

City Social’s Mirage menu is thought to be the world’s first augmented reality cocktail menu

The introduction of Apple’s iOS 11 update this week has now made iPhones capable of using augmented reality (AR), the technology popularised by the Pokemon Go app that overlays virtual images over the real world via smartphone cameras.

And it seems spirits brand are eager to capitalise on the trend too. Patrón Tequila launched The Patrón Experience on the Apple App store yesterday, transporting users to its distillery in Jalisco. The app provides a platform where consumers can learn about the characteristics and the ageing process of the brand’s Tequila range.

As William Grant & Son’s 2017 market report noted, consumers are indeed “seeking out the unusual” with bars even placing their focus on making the drinking experience that bit more interesting. Even Jason Atherton’s Michelin-starred restaurant and bar City Social unveiled the “world’s first” augmented reality cocktail menu, called Mirage.

The Patrón Experience

William Grant’s Sailor Jerry rum is also planning to bring its virtual reality tattoo parlour The Living Ink at Jerry’s Parlour to future venues, after it made its debut at this year’s Bestival. The installation allowed visitors to have inbuilt projections of Sailor Jerry’s iconic flash artwork mapped onto their arms.

This year alone, there have been an abundance of drinks brands tapping into the trend for virtual reality, particularly in the global travel retail (GTR) sector where brands such as Glenfiddich and Walsh Whiskey have popped up with their own VR installations in airports around the world.

Even Bacardi GTR has unveiled a VR cocktail tour of the world’s best bars for Virgin’s Clubhouse customers, transporting customers to the likes of Dandelyan in London or Blacktail in New York via headset from their bar stool.

As exciting as the prospect of virtual reality and augmented reality is, the technology is certainly not cheap and consumers may not enjoy strapping a bulky headset on.

But, as The Patrón Experience has shown, spirits brands can use AR and TR technology to add value to consumers and provide in-depth access to product information, along with the history of a brand. It could well be a worthy investment for the spirits industry.

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