We go inside the mind of George F. Manska for a look at the “comfortably numb” whiskey drinker.
Each person has a slightly different approach to their favorite drink. If you want to build loyalty and bar tips, you serve clients’ drinks to their preferences. If they prefer bottled soda to the gun, or crushed instead of cubed, fresh juice over canned, you make special note of those preferences, and they become familiar faces because you pay attention. It’s easy with cocktails, but not so easy with neat whisk(e)y. Why are cocktails so popular? Because mixers, soda, fruit juice, ice hide ethanol pungency of all spirits.
Nobody likes pungency, neat whiskey drinkers put up with it because they think they have to. NEAT drinkers exist in fewer numbers than cocktailers, but they need attention, too, and the bartender doesn’t have the same easy-to-change variables that accommodate cocktail drinkers. Many neat whiskey patrons know little about whiskey, most can’t tell brands apart. How do they choose their favorites?
- Emotional Choices: Most drinkers choose a favorite brand through emotional connections and perceived value
- Marketing Presence: Powerful magazine ads, social media connections or television makes a lasting impression, pretty bottle or label
- Status Symbol: Competition medals, the Queen’s seal, Official drink of the (fill in the blank) group.
- Relationships/Hero worship: Same whiskey as boss, dad, girl/boyfriend, favorite quarterback, actor, or rapper
- Significant Event: Dad’s last drink, had it at the Kentucky Derby, Superbowl
- Location: Hometown distiller, favorite city, tried it on a memorable vacation
- Erroneous Value Equation: Proof (or alcohol by volume) divided by Price ($). Higher is better, More ethanol for less bucks.
Spirits marketing is based on feel-good, memories, self-esteem, accomplishment, status and recognition, and we all identify. Now there’s a new way to cater to neat drinkers; show them how to enhance enjoyment and make better choices. It’s a break from tradition.
Priorities of Whiskey Drinkers
- Priority 1: Personal satisfaction of emotions, dreams, memories, desires, escapes
- Priority 2: Sense of belonging, fraternal kinship, must use tulip glass, beloved universal icon of the whiskey fraternity.
- Priority 3: Sensory experience of appreciating the full aromas, flavors, mouthfeel of the spirit.
Three is distant and usually gets no consideration once ethanol is detected. That’s where most whiskey drinkers stop searching for character flavors or nuances, as it seems pointless through the ethanol fog. The tulip is an inverted funnel which shoves concentrated anesthetic ethanol up the nose on first whiff, cancelling olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs). No wonder so few can describe flavors and aromas.
Manufacturers support tulips because flaws and blending errors are disguised by pungent ethanol. Comfortably numb, sensory-dumb whiskey drinkers can learn a game-changing lesson from wine drinkers.
Historical Lesson: The surge in wine sales in the 1970s, spurred on by 1976 “Judgment of Paris,” validated California wines on a global scale. Riedel becomes the most popular wine glasses ever. Spirits follow similar cyclical trends, and 2005-2015 is the “sales surge” decade for whiskey, spurred by a proliferation of craft distillers, and Glencairn and tulips become glasses of choice. Both industries are steeped in chemical and physical sciences to produce exceptional expressions, yet sensory science falls drastically short.
Shape Is Important: Riedel glasses create a large headspace for the nose, and the now well-accepted sensory science of wine is born. Tulips and Glencairns derive from the Spanish copita, designed for 16-22% ABV fortified wines, and 40%+ ABV whiskey in the tiny tulip creates a nose-bomb, numbs ORNs and pungency detracts from flavor detection. Flavor = 90% smell + 5% mouthfeel + 5% taste (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami only). The tulip eclipses sensory becoming a barrier to flavor detection, product differentiation.
Learn more and enjoy full flavors and aromas of great spirits. Toss tulips and snifters; wine drinkers threw away the tiny 6 oz glass poured to the rim in the ‘70s. Whiskey drinkers should choose wide glasses to move olfactory beyond anesthetic ethanol and into the subtle nuances of whiskey. Tumblers work well. Become a SWD (serious whiskey drinker), no pungency.
In 2002 Arsilica, Inc. discovered a solution to the whiskey sensory problem by dissipating ethanol away from the nose to avoid sensory receptor anesthesia (application of Graham’s Law of gaseous diffusion). Ten years of scientific research is summed up in a peer-reviewed open access MDPI Beverage Journal Paper published in 2018. Type in search bar https://www.mdpi.com/2306-5710/4/4/93.
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NEAT glass release date, February 2012. NEAT is the Official Spirits Judging Glass of 40+ competitions annually. Get your nose into action, break with “tradition,” get NEAT, enjoy a whiskey, put on some Pink Floyd, remember when you were Comfortably Numb. What could possibly be more important than learning a new idea, passing it along, building your business, and helping someone squeeze more enjoyment from great spirits?
About George Manska
George is an entrepreneur, inventor, engine designer, founder, Chief R&D officer, Corporate Strategy Officer, CEO Arsilica, Inc. dedicated to sensory research in alcohol beverages. (2002-present). He is the inventor of the patented NEAT glass, several other patented alcohol beverage glasses for beer and wine, (yet to be released). Director ongoing research into aromatic compound behavior, and pinpointing onset of nose-blindness. George is a professional consultant for several major spirits competitions, has been published in the MDPI Beverage Journal Paper, is the founder or member of over seven different wine clubs for the past fifty years, is a collector of wines and spirits, has traveled the world, and is an educator and advisor of multiple spirits sensory seminars.
George F Manska, CR&D, Arsilica, Inc. Engineer, inventor of the NEAT glass, sensory science researcher, entrepreneur.
Mission: Replace myth and misinformation with scientific truth through consumer education.