Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The SPHERE!

As a gadget lover and someone who works with consumer product development, I love to look at innovation. More so, I love to look at innovation which serves a CLEAR CONSUMER NEED!
A week ago I was at a party (a good one!). The Capital Club was celebrating its second year. Fine champagne, caviar and oysters, and all the trimmings you would associate with an event like this.
 
While navigating the busy aisles, looking at all the tempting fare on offer, I discovered something happening in the Billiard room! Tucked away in the corner of the club, this cosy room was hosting a whisky fest !

Now I am quite partial to a peg or two of a good whisky (I am not expert though), so this was a treat.
 
The session was sponsored by a boutique wine shop called Le Clos, and they had brought along Scotland's (and other countries) finest !
 
A young Scottish gentlemen hosted us (if I had a couple less drinks, I met be able to be more polite and remember his name here). While taking us through the many varieties he had, I questioned the logic of this gentlemen in adding water to a measure when he poured as he so clearly frowned upon me when I suggested adding ice!
So the lesson began ......
 
....... Water softens the taste on the palette, but the temperature shock that ice gives alters the taste, and this was shown to me in a clear demonstration (the Pepsi challenge if you will).
 
But I like my whisky chilled, as do many non-Scotsmen, not least the Japanese. And that is where the answer is found.
 
I was told that it is NOT the temperature of the ice itself that interacts so negatively with the whisky, but its shape. It is the sharp straight edges of the cube of ice (I will not venture into a scientific explanation here that I cannot fully understand myself). If you can manage to pour whisky over ice with no straight edges, then the reaction is different. The whisky will keep its original taste, have a slight softening (as it gets when adding water), but will also be very satisfyingly chilled on its way down.
 
So where does one get a sphere of ice from? I have not explored this thoroughly, but the Japanese whisky drinkers have figured it out ...... and figured it out in a most spectacular way!
 
The rest of the evening was now dedicated to this. Out came a trolley and upon it sat a large cylinder of copper - a dramatic piece of "machinery" that blended old world with new age. The cylinder split horizontally into 2 parts (very much like a plastic moulding machine), and a very large CUBE of ice was placed in between. Then the top part of the machine was released and rested on the ice cube. With its weight, gravity went to work and literally started to mould the ice into a perfect sphere - what a sense of drama (certainly when you are well "tanked up").
 



The resulting ball of ice was a perfect fit for a short tumbler. My Scottish friend then poured me a measure of 18 year old Macallan Scotch over the newly shaped ice, and it was superb !


 
The whisky chilled, didn't lose its flavour, and the form of the ice lets it melt VERY slowly and keeps the flavour dilution to a minimum.

What a great invention! Wonderful design, product engineering and production execution. Perhaps at USD1,500, this takes form slightly ahead of function, but here is a product that creates consumer desire and definitely meets a consumer need.

Whisky will not taste the same again !