From the creation of the exceptional whisky itself to the inspiration behind its heavy-weight glass bottle, hand-crafted decanter and intricately-detailed presentation box, every element of our 2020 edition of Highland Park 50 Year Old is a masterclass in timeless craftsmanship.
John Galvin is an award-winning master craftsman and designer based in Glasgow. He takes inspiration for his timeless creations in wood from the natural world, so how did he go about creating a presentation box for a whisky this rare?
“Although Orkney is almost devoid of trees, wood is essential for the maturation of Highland Park and I wanted to reflect this in the box so I chose walnut for its beautifully rich and dark grain. It’s the perfect foil for the deep russet hues of the whisky and the beautiful gold detailing on the bottle and decanter. My design starting point was both practical and aesthetic – how to secure and display the embossed bottle, the gold decanter and the leather-bound history book in a balanced and pleasing manner. Sketching, scale modeling and prototyping led me to a solid rectangular plinth, with a recess for each element, housed in a classic square. The lid can be slotted into the bottom of the case, allowing the contents to be displayed with the case standing vertically. Simplicity is key and I never force an idea to work. For me, craftsmanship and design are equally important and, when executed to the highest possible standard, the end result will be a timeless piece of work.”
“I don’t believe that quality craftsmanship can ever be outdated,” concludes John. “However, I like to blend the old with the new to create well made, well designed pieces which have artistic functionality – a union between maker, object and owner.”
Credit: Søren Solkær
This approach to artistic functionality and a blending of the old and new is also played out in the bottle and decanter design, conceived by Andy Bowman, Creative Director of Glasgow-based Mountain. Andy took his inspiration from an ancient source that reflects the Norse heritage of the Orkney Islands, the carved wooden panels in the 12th century Stavkirke in Urnes, Norway. Andy explains, “My aim was to translate the essence of the Urnes carving into a design that would wrap itself all the way around the Highland Park glass bottle. While I was thinking about this, I was out hill-walking in Scotland and, quite by chance, came across an old glass bottle. Its beautifully embossed typography became my inspiration and I knew that ‘hand feel’ should be of utmost importance. My design became an intricate yet powerful emboss on the glass, creating a bottle that is a tactile work of art, as full of character and elegance as the whisky it contains.”
And of course, at the heart of the box and the bottle, lies the whisky itself, crafted by Gordon Motion, Master Whisky Maker. Gordon’s extraordinary whisky-making skills are behind our 2010 and 2018 editions of 50 Year Old too and his expert use of the traditional ‘solera’ approach ensures that both continuity and legacy are captured from batch to batch. Once again, it’s that very special marriage of the old with the new (or, in this case, the old with the even older). Find out more about Gordon’s approach in A legacy within a legacy.