Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Will Ink For Whisky

Back in the summertime I spent two weeks at the Glenmorangie headquarters in Edinburgh, hand-inking a total of over 3000 labels and certificates for the legendary whisky company.

The iconic whisky makers had asked me to go there to hand-number the labels of two very limited edition whiskies due to be released to collectors. One marked the 175th anniversary of the company's Highland single malt: a spectacular 16 year-old single malt available only in Glenmorangie's distillery shop at a glass-clinking £650.

The second release was a 30 year old, £1890 Oloroso sherry-casked whisky, sold again only in the distillery, and both whiskies were the handiwork of head distiller Dr. Bill Lumsden.

It was a strange job which, due to the apparent security and secrecy around the products, had to be carried out on site. Although mildly inconvenient at first - a full ten days out of the studio can be problematic! - it meant two lovely stays in Edinburgh city centre, a few weeks apart. Thank goodness for my iPad, as I worked all day at Glenmorangie, bought a picnic-style Sainsbury's dinner then worked in my hotel room for the night!

But before I even left the studio, an ink had to be chosen for the labels and certificates - 3 for each bottle - that was archival - that is to say, it wouldn't fade, run or smudge. My friend the inkmaker sent a couple of samples for trying out, and a suite of labels were written on in assorted variations of the style the company had suggested, running the gamut from loose and mildly ornery to neat and almost school-writing standard.

At the same time, a variety of pens - coded for ease of reference for the client - were tried out on the label samples. I didn't want to confuse the client with pen names and types - there were many - instead choosing a simple letter and number system. That way, they couldn't be influenced by what might cost less, or how quick and easy the pens were to use (for example a handle and nib would at least double the time taken); rather, they'd make a selection based only on what was most effective.


The samples were posted to HQ, and sent for testing by their Testing Department - subjected to Climatic Tests wherein the inked labels were exposed to moisture, cold, heat and contact.

With all ink options having passed the tests, the client in the end chose an inexpensive and reliable option - the 0.2mm UniPin; a water and fade proof pigment ink fineliner with a neat tip perfect for fitting into the very small spaces I had to work in. So 20 were ordered, and off I flew to Edinburgh! (note: I still have an unresolved complaint logged with Birmingham Airport Security. I don't recommend the airport one bit! But that's another, much longer story.)

Photographing the work itself wasn't permitted again due to the security around the project (chiefly concerns over the risk of counterfeiting) but I managed some snaps of the beautiful gold-edged printing, of both the labels and certificates that went into each box.

And my office for the duration had pretty breathtaking views over some nice old parts of the city centre!

After some tense print delays, very long days writing with plenty of yoga moves and regular hand and arm exercises, the work was done. Although I never got to see the finished product - yep, again down to security! - the two very special editions looked a little bit like this, and they apparently sold out very, very quickly.

So much subterfuge, and SO much writing...and do you know what? Not a snifter of the good stuff.
I even forgot to buy myself one when I eventually did get to a bar! Mole, you are a fool.

Read about the 16 year old whisky here, and the 30 year old Oloroso sherry cask whisky here.

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