Once upon a time, when traditional Scotch drinking was regarded purely as a thoughtful and solitary pleasure, befitting of deep leather upholstery and roaring library fires, distillers focused their bottle designs on the artful notion of “back-bar presence.” Whisky glassware was skewed toward drawing patrons’ attention to the illuminations of the back bar; silhouette, sculpture, glass coloration and label fonts all conspired to engender a positive and seductive message to the casual, occasional whisky drinker—while appearing immediately familiar to the premium-whisky loyalist.
But about 10 years ago, with new markets in China and elsewhere in East Asia booming, the industry suddenly woke up to the idea of whisky as a social lubricant that, like vodka, could be consumed table-service-style and bottled in glassware, admired from all angles by aspirant consumers. This new fashion for what experts call “table presence” has caused a quiet revolution in whisky-bottle design, with distillers battling for a whisky connoisseur’s attention with ever more elaborate and elegant bottles.
Now Chivas Regal has set an international standard for table presence with the Icon. It’s a blend of rare Scottish whiskies from over 20 distilleries in Strathisla, Longmorn and Glen Keith, all presented in a hand-blown crystal decanter crafted by artisans at Dartington Crystal in England. Each example of the Icon’s bottle glass is etched and finished with precision-crafted metalwork and adorned with a signature luckenbooth stopper, a heart-shaped traditional Celtic symbol of love. And the cost? A bracing $3,500 a bottle. So, guys—how about we split the bill on this one? —Simon Mills