There is an observable parallel between design craftsmanship and whisky-making. Both require years of dedication to master traditional skills. These, in turn, are put to use transforming humble materials into something of great value. This is encapsulated in Welsh designer Bethan Gray‘s exquisitely crafted bottle and display-case for The Glenlivet’s latest limited release: the 50-year-old Winchester Collection Vintage 1967.
The launch of the unique and collectible whisky, created by master distiller Alan Winchester using rare single malts, the youngest of which was laid down in 1967, represents the first time The Glenlivet has collaborated with a designer on the packaging for one of its limited-edition expressions. With only 150 bottles available (and each one retailing at $25,000) the Speyside distillery recognized the importance of producing something that elevates the bottle as a design object.
Gray’s expertise in working with artisans to manufacture high-end furniture and products for the home made her the perfect choice to create a statement piece that owners will enjoy looking at as much as drinking from. “We tried to bring a different point of view to the project,” explains the designer at a launch event inside The Glenlivet’s distillery. “I wanted to showcase some of the materials used in whisky making and to celebrate its overlap with craftsmanship.”
Gray was drawn to the project by her family ties to the Cairngorms region of Scotland, where The Glenlivet has been producing whisky since 1824. Her grandfather worked as a forester in the area, and she felt an instant affinity with the mist-shrouded hills when she visited as part of her research.
Gray interpreted this scenery as a pattern of curved, intersecting lines which were then produced by overlaying 50 meters of delicate copper onto the exterior and interior of the hand-stained maple display case. The combination of dark wood and copper detailing also references the charred barrels and copper stills used in the distillation process.
The bottle itself is crafted by master glassblower Brodie Nairn. It has been hand-cut to Gray’s specifications, in order to create an ombré effect at the base that evokes the changing of the liquid’s color as it matures in rare oak casks. Gray also designed an immersive setting for the launch dinner, featuring a miniaturized barley field and local flowers to emphasize the connection between the whisky and the landscape.
Speaking at the event, Winchester (whose 40 years in the whisky industry is being celebrated through the release of a series of rare vintages bearing his name) suggests that Gray’s contribution is a fitting match for the luxurious tipple. “The design complements the work of the distillery really well,” he enthuses, while toasting the collaboration. “The craftsmanship that went into making this whisky is mirrored in the concept Bethan came up with.”
Following the grand unveiling of the bottle and case, an opportunity to taste the spirit does not disappoint. The rich, amber liquid offers a nose bursting with the sweetness and fruit flavors that The Glenlivet’s whiskies are renowned for. These are followed by notes of fondant and orange that give way to milk chocolate and a long, lingering finish. It’s a seriously delicious whisky, and anyone fortunate enough to get hold of a bottle will be able to enjoy both its outstanding flavor, and a display that is a fitting celebration of craftsmanship and distilling.
Images courtesy of The Glenlivet