A drinks and arts business which pairs the finest single malt whisky with originally commissioned art has partnered with a global whisky brand to create a limited-edition bottling and art commission.
Spirit of Art is a whisky and art collaboration from Milnathort drinks and arts company, The Distillers’ Art, pairing whisky with a commissioned piece of work inspired by the place the dram was created.
The firm has partnered with internationally renowned Scotch whisky brand anCnoc to create a unique limited-edition bottling containing a limited-edition signed print from acclaimed Scottish artist, Stuart Buchanan, for whisky and art lovers to experience.
George Thomson, CEO and whisky curator at The Distillers’ Art, is excited by the partnership.
“We are delighted to have had the opportunity to collaborate with anCnoc and the exceptional team at Knockdhu Distillery to create this limited-edition Spirit of Art bottling and signed print from Stuart Buchanan.
“We take pride in seeking out unique cask and canvas collaborations that can take our customers on a sensory journey through a fine single malt and the art it inspires. We hope many people will enjoy the experience.”
George added that they mulled over many ideas of a way in which they could be different when establishing themselves.
“We had the idea that we wanted to be an independent bottler and we thought how do we differentiate ourselves in that particular market because it is a growing market and we needed to do something different,” he said.
“After knocking about ideas for a while we eventually came up with what we thought was a worthy differentiation which was firstly we would get some good stock, so we did that and got some nice barrels and casks, then we commissioned an artist.
“We were very fortunate that we had Nichol Wheatley on hand who we had known for quite some time. He is a very well established Scottish artist and was formerly teaching at the Glasgow School of Art. He has a massive network of people who are in the business.
“Nicol did a couple of paintings for us and he commissioned three or four other artists to come along. The idea was that we would get an artist to create our label and a unique piece of art. From the paintings we have created high-quality museum class prints.
“If we produce 250 bottles from a bottling then we will produce 250 numbered prints to run alongside that. Not only are you getting a high-quality cask bottling, you are also getting a really high-quality exclusive print signed and numbered by the artist as well.”
Under the stairs!
Whisky and art lovers have been snapping up the pairings, with one customer, in particular, taking a long-term view on his purchases.
“We do have one customer who has bought all six from us and stuck them all under the stairs,” revealed George, who added that another distillery is lined up to participate in a partnership project.
“He says he is going to check them out in 10 years’ time and see what they are worth then. The implication being that they will be worth a lot of cash and hopefully they will be.
As with many businesses, the coronavirus pandemic has affected trade, but George is optimistic that things will soon improve to help them get their products into shops.
“We actually did our first bottlings in the second week of March last year when everyone closed their doors. It has actually been quite difficult getting retailers to stock the stuff when their shops were closed,” he added.
“Part of the problem we have is communicating online what we have in a little box doesn’t really do the job. It is more a hand-sell.
“We had a guy in Holland who took the pack out into the trade and everywhere he took the pack he sold it, so actually seeing the pack, taking the print out and demonstrating what it is was enough to turn on the customers to actually buy the product and put it in the stores.
“Of course the problem they have is getting customers through their doors to buy it so we really need Covid-19 to loosen up to get our products into the hands of retailers who can talk to consumers about what it is and that will make a huge difference.
“The feedback, however, is very, very positive from the whisky consumer and the gift buyer.”
Open to other collaborations
And while it is whisky that is involved in the project at the moment, the door is open for other spirits to be featured.
“The reason we have gone for the Spirit of Art rather than the Whisky of Art is that it gives us an open mind to look at other spirits,” continued George.
“That is in mind for further down the line. Gin is very popular at the moment, but from a cask point of view, it doesn’t really conform to the whisky ageing process, but there is an opportunity there definitely.”
As well as the anCnoc whisky collaboration, which retails for £130, there are currently five other limited-edition whisky and art pairings including Craigellachie, Clynelish, Linkwood, Benrinnes and Caol Ila.
Knockdhu distillery manager, Gordon Bruce, hand-picked the cask for the collaboration.
He said: “The bringing together of the anCnoc cask from Knockdhu Distillery and an original commissioned piece of art depicting the place where we create our whisky, is pretty spectacular.
“I’m really taken with the vibrancy of the painting which has not only captured the essence of the region but the character of the whisky, too. It has been a pleasure to come together for this unique collaboration.”
Essence of Knockdhu captured
Artists Stuart Buchanan, who lives in the north-east, was familiar with Knockdhu Distillery having passed it and admired the landscape many times.
The painting, “Autumn morning Knockdhu” depicts the distillery as the leaves are turning.
He explained: “I went up on a fine autumn day in late October and tried to catch the essence of the place in one sitting. It’s a lovely distillery. There’s a lovely road that goes past it between Huntly and Portsoy on the Moray coast. I’m looking forward to heading back there again soon.”
You can find out more Spirit of Art and their range of single malts and commissioned prints at www.distillersart.com