Blacksheep has unveiled its design for a visitor experience for Scottish single malt whisky brand The Glenlivet, which has been inspired by the Scottish countryside.
The Glenlivet brand whisky was created by George Smith in 1824, and has been distilled in the Speyside region of Scotland since then.
“Entertaining, educational and really accessible”
While The Glenlivet is one of the best-selling single malt whiskies in the world, Blacksheep founder Tim Mutton says the brand has an ambition to open up the world of whisky to a “new generation”.
“Like champagne or wine, whisky can feel quite intimidating for people who don’t feel ‘in the know’,” he says. “Our task was to make the experience both entertaining and educational, as well as really accessible.”
Having done various distillery and tasting tours over the years, Mutton says the team had a good idea of what worked and what didn’t. “A lot of these places can feel very ‘samey’,” he says. In Blacksheep’s case, the aim was to hang the experience around the Scottish wilderness the surrounds the distillery, Mutton says, as well as the makers’-story itself.
“We took lots of cues from traditional hospitality spaces”
The experience takes place across several rooms, each with a different job to play Mutton says. The reception room has been designed as a greeting for guests. It features a custom chandelier of local dried wildflowers, made by Grandirosa, and a large wooden table designed by the studio and made by Elmwood Projects of Glasgow.
“We took lots of cues from traditional hospitality spaces here, but also tried to make things feel more homely – this is the home of The Glenlivet after all,” says Mutton.
The room to the left of the reception, earmarked as the lounge, further supports the home theme. Sofas and lounge chairs are included both to give guests somewhere to wait for their tour to begin while also achieving the look of a living room. Intricate hand-crafted plasterwork inspired by Scottish foliage and made by craftspeople Locker & Riley sits above the working fireplace to further underline the look.
Avoiding “tech where it wasn’t needed”
As guests travel further into the experience the history of the brand unfolds, Mutton explains. The History Room features a triple height illuminated bottle wall, alongside graphics on key people throughout The Glenlivet’s history. A concealed door is then used to enter the Speyside Room.
The Speyside room features a “sweeping indoor field of barley”, also developed by Grandirosa. As whisky’s key ingredient, Mutton says it was important to highlight it in such a way.
While the Speyside Room, and others, feature LED screens to tell the story of The Glenlivet, he says the challenge was making sure tech didn’t overtake everything. “The greatest asset that the brand has is its tour guides and other staff,” says Mutton, adding that many are locals and some have had multiple previous generations working in whisky too. “We didn’t want to overshadow these stories with tech where it wasn’t needed.”
“Focus on the process and origins, rather than on drinking itself”
Other elements of the space provide a more interactive experience of the brand. The Tasting Room, for example, is organised in a theatrical circular shape with a round custom walnut table at the centre. A sculptural central display rises from the table, showcasing The Glenlivet’s range.
Retail spaces also help bring guests closer to the brand, Mutton says. The Sample Room is arranged as an old-fashioned apothecary, and showcases the brand’s “finest collections”, including a £19,000 bottle of whisky at the centre in a bespoke cabinet designed by Blacksheep. Meanwhile a “fill your own bottle” station provides hands-on interactivity.
Mutton says it was a challenge to get the balance right between education and retail. “We didn’t want it to feel like the whole thing was a drawn-out exercise to get you to buy whisky,” he says. “I don’t think these things necessarily have to be about alcohol all the time, and we’ve tried to put the focus on the process and origins, rather than on drinking itself.”
What do you think of The Glenlivet visitor experience? Let us know in the comments below…
All photography by John Paul.