Nothing on the Internet stays dead forever and — rather unfortunately — that includes memes that spur teenagers to do dangerous things, like eating laundry detergent pods.
Whether it was an intentional marketing scheme or not, a 195-year-old Scotch whisky distillery has released new whisky concoctions look suspiciously like the Tide pods that sent the Internet (and parents everywhere) into a frenzy almost two years ago. These “drinks” are limited-edition whisky capsules that come in three different flavors and, most notably, lack a traditional drinking vessel.
The Glenlivet, which is the world’s second best-selling brand of Scotch, has dubbed their Tide Pod lookalikes the “Capsule Collection” and describes them as “glassless cocktails.” Each casing is made of seaweed-extract and contains 23 milliliters of booze. You consume these alcoholic capsules much like Gushers by popping them into your mouth, biting down, and enjoying “an instant burst of flavor.” You then simply swallow the seaweed capsule with your one-of-a-kind cocktail and wonder whether you just had the best or worst liquor-based experience in your life.
While everyone from foreign affairs reporter Julia Macfarlane to Scottish actor Sam Heughan has lamented over this unconventional treatment of Scotland’s beloved beverage, the Glenlivet maintains that they would have had their founder’s blessing. George Smith illicitly operated his distillery in the 1840s and even armed himself with pistols to protect his business from political blowback. While tenacity like this may not be the standard now in the 80% of small businesses that make it to their second year, Smith always walked to the beat of his own drum. According to Miriam Eceolaza, The Glenlivet’s director, Smith didn’t follow tradition and the release of the Capsule Collection honors that legacy.
“As a brand that celebrates originality, we are always looking to break the conventions that have determined how single malt Scotch has historically been enjoyed,” Eceolaza said in the announcement of the collection.
To break these conventions, The Glenlivet had to commit to some serious collaboration. The distillery partnered with the London bar Tayer + Elementary to concoct the three varieties of original whisky cocktails: Citrus, Spice, and Wood. A mix of sherry, lemon, and bergamot, Citrus offers a heavier flavor palette than you may expect. This likely comes from the bergamot, which is an unusual citrus fruit that has a heady flavor and gives Earl Grey Tea, a popular black tea, its distinctive flavor. Spice contains two kinds of bitters and verjus, a highly acidic juice. Wood — the wildcard of the group in terms of names — is made of vermouth, sandalwood, and cedarwood.
Notpla, a sustainable packaging start-up, helped The Glenlivet create their biodegradable casings. The Glenlivet is the first spirits company to work with Notpla, which may not be all that surprising as bottles and cans have long been the mainstays of drink packaging. Seaweed was never quite the obvious choice for housing liquids.
Czech bartender and co-owner of Tayer + Elementary, Alex Kratena, said that he based the ingredients in the capsules on The Glenlivet flavor pillars. For the 73% of millennials who drink liquor, beer, or wine, the origin of the flavors may not be quite as important as the ease of consuming the drinks. Despite the capsules’ compact design, Kratena said he didn’t make them with the intent to be a means for subtle or easy drinking. He said that he also didn’t intend the similarity to Tide Pods.
The Internet doesn’t seem to believe that. Twitter was filled with references to the Tide Pod craze, which took off as a meme in January of 2018. The memes, which originally just said that Tide Pod looked like candies, turned into an epidemic of teenagers making YouTube videos taking the “challenge” to eat the plastic-wrapped laundry detergent.
Things quickly spiraled from there. A handful of adolescents ended up in the hospital and government officials issued warnings that consuming Tide Pods was extremely dangerous to your health. Tide also released statements, reiterating the apparently-forgotten fact that their detergent pods were meant to wash items like the two billion t-shirts sold around the world every year, not to be eaten. As various social media platforms took down videos of teens downing detergent, the Tide Pod obsession seemed to subside.
Although one of America’s strangest meme crazes is gone, it is certainly not forgotten.
Whether The Glenlivet has a meme-savvy marketing team that wanted to capitalize on a past fad or they truly didn’t intend the similarities, they now have plenty of press coverage for their innovative drink. If you want to try the whisky capsules for yourself, however, you will need to make it to Tayer + Elementary during London Cocktail Week. The alcoholic capsules will be served throughout this event, which is the Brit’s way of celebrating alcohol innovation. You can get them at the Old Street bar until Oct. 13.
The capsules have not been approved for consumption in the United States yet. However, as Americans’ fascination with putting things in their mouths that are brightly-colored and neatly-packaged has been proved in the past, we wouldn’t be surprised if The Glenlivet’s capsules make it to this continent in the near future.