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Spirited New Gin Brand

After closure in 1903, The Glasgow Distillery Company has re-emerged as a new entity to bring the modern age of distilling to Glasgow. As a metropolitan distillery, celebrating the industrial heartland and Glasgow’s engineering heritage, they have a golden opportunity to put their heads above the parapet and be progressive.

As keen gin and whisky enthusiasts, Stand have kept up-to-date with developments at the distillery, watching them win awards for their uncompromising approach to spirit making (and enjoying a tipple or two of the excellent Makar Gin in our local bars). By chance, as often happens in our industry, we have been working with a similarly progressive client who is looking to create a limited edition gin: NVA are an incredibly creative public art collective who are currently partially restoring the Modernist ruin of St Peter’s Seminary as a world-class cultural centre. We thought they should meet.

the first seeds of collaboration and a meeting of extraordinary individuals who are all trying to make a lasting, memorable impact

So there, in that encounter, were the first seeds of collaboration and a meeting of extraordinary individuals who are all trying to make a lasting, memorable impact on the wider Glasgow area and beyond. Both are forging something new from the embers of what was once before, keeping history alive but at the same time going forward in a new brave direction.

Our task is to capture this exciting partnership and marry it with the fascinating history and future of the site at St Peter’s. We need to methodically decode all of the parts of this story and articulate it as one fully-formed piece of spirits packaging.

Proposed event space within St Peter’s Seminary. Image: James Johnson.

How will we go about it?

First and foremost, we do our homework. This project has lots of strands so it will be a challenge in itself distilling all of those elements into one cohesive approach. We don’t want to skim over any of the interesting facets but there is impact to be found by being succinct. The process will involve a broader investigation into the brief, examining all the various strands in detail before pinpointing the most promising routes for developing the project.

Research will cover: the history of Kilmahew Estate and the surrounding area; the Seminary building and the people who helped create it; the botanicals that will go into making the gin and their link to Kilmahew; the people who are making the spirit; NVA’s vision for the Seminary; materials and finishes available within the budget; current developments within the gin market; opportunities for disruption or innovation; and all the logistics of getting the new gin into the marketplace. All of that information will be recorded and may lead onto other chains of thought but at some point the most important and promising findings will be used to inform our design approach to the packaging.

the developments for this gin brand should not shy away from being divisive

Whatever we come up with, it needs to have impact and be memorable. This can’t be design for design’s sake; it must have depth, provenance and meaning. We are creating a gin brand that taps into all of the exciting things happening at St Peter’s Seminary so it should feel like it has a similar sort of weight and presence to it. In work and life most of us have learned that we can’t please all the people all the time, and so too in design it is a difficult, if not impossible task, to be everything to everyone. The Seminary embraces both positive and negative reactions, it invites discussion and is happy to be part of a wider conversation about architecture, culture and art — the developments for this gin brand should not shy away from being divisive.

Aaron Knoll’s excellent Gin book, a very useful point of reference so far.

Practicalities

The otherworldly nature of St Peter’s Seminary immediately conjures up some highly conceptual thinking on the project, which is very exciting. There is, however, a need for pragmatism — we wouldn’t be doing our jobs properly if the concepts proposed were undeliverable. Ultimately this project’s aim is to raise awareness and funding for NVA’s continuing work at the Seminary, which means that any profit made will go into the development of the site, a worthy cause indeed. One major task for us then, is to balance the cost of creating this gin so that it can be sold at a competitive price point while making the packaging look appealing and memorable. Currently as a limited edition of around 1,000 bottles, the first conclusion to be made is that a bespoke bottle moulding is beyond the constraints of the project. This means, like many other spirits brands, we will be required to source an off-the-shelf solution from a bottle manufacturer. This doesn’t impede creativity — there are a huge variety of options available that would suit a gin product and there are limitless options for how that bottle is then decorated. These options will be evaluated and we’ll make a decision on the best candidate based on cost, availability and suitability for our design approach.

Consideration will also be given to an outer pack, especially coming into the Christmas gifting market, but care should always be taken when adding an extra layer of packaging: how will it affect the overall perception of the gin? How necessary is it? What is the environmental impact? Where are the opportunities for innovation?

Development

We’ll keep you posted on how this project develops over the coming months, for now we are all off to enjoy some afternoon research on the gin brands available locally. Make mine a Gibson!

Clockwise from top left: Gin and freshly pressed apple at The Laneways; a Gibson Martini; and Gin and tonic from Urban Bar and Brasserie.

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