Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Royal Mile Whiskies.

A couple of years ago I started designing a new identity for Royal Mile Whiskies, owned by the hard-grafting and multitasking Keir Sword of Edinburgh. Shown around his magnificent shop for the first time, we arrived as ‘people who didn’t like whisky’ (each having had our own off-putting experiences with it in our youth) and left as calm and enlightened whisky drinkers. Having given Keir our likes, dislikes and ambitions for whisky, he’d pondered the shelves of his hundreds of types, and pulled out just a handful he suspected we’d like - and in every case, he was right.

Not only does he have a beautiful amply-stocked shop with more whiskies than I’ve ever seen in my life, those whiskies present four walls of positively bejewelled labels, and glittering glass bottles and elegant shapes. Did you know they make whisky in Japan? And France?

Keir also owns Drinkmonger and another Royal Mile Whiskies shop, and we satisfactorily created this blend of classic shapes and movement with quite a hands-on, organic look. All done by hand and to Keir’s tight and responsive feedback, the logo evolved through these stages to become the final:

My favourite was actually the ribbony one without any obvious drink references - but if I had a quid for every time the client’s gone for the opposite…well, I wouldn’t need to design whisky logos any more!
In the end, he liked the movement of this one and the small details, and I did too actually. It was drawn in one take on an A2 sheet and scanned (you can see the raw scan above) - then within a few months it was time to start thinking about applying that to his labels.

Keir’s got a distillery as well, called the Dormant Distillery - here’s a logo I had a stab at, even though he didn’t actually ask for one! -

which was about to bottle and release 8 different whiskies. The labels were a tough call - having had my eyes draped over some of the most beautiful and detailed labels I’d ever seen, I think I actually crumbled into defeat for a few weeks while I waited for the Brave to hit me. In the end it did - by going back to Keir’s brief and think about what suited the shop - but for a while there, I didn’t think it was ever going to be possible to create something as good!

*Ah, note to students…it’s not about it being ‘as good’ - even though that’s what happened as I channeled my 20-year-old self’s nervousness! It’s only ever about making what the client wants - and then making it a bit better than that. Official statement over!*

Here are some of the  messy designs for the first few labels I did. I chucked ink about a lot, thinking about the invisible chemical processes that were taking place in the whisky, and trying to imagine being a molecule inside that, being hurled and tossed about:

We removed the somewhat presumptuous logo and returned, partly due to the small stature of the label itself and the need for legibility, to a clean background:

And still groaning under the weight of too much type, they were further simplified to look like this:

which eventually became this!

Each bottle is very limited in quantity and has its own number, and each of the 8 whiskies also has its own description written in a different coloured ink, over a digitally-printed label on a classic ivory textured paper:

Plus a copper foil for the enclosing swirls:

I’m drinking some now, and this one, a Bunnahbhain, is so warm and gentle I can hardly believe it’s the ‘same drink’ I tried and tried again in my teens - but that’ll teach me to think ‘Bell’s = whisky', right?

Next on the agenda is the shop front, letterheads and aprons - and a trip back up there to get it all into action! Can’t wait to be honest.

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