Saturday, January 12, 2013

Slàinte mhath! • [ slanj'-uh va' ]

...or, Benromach Single Malt Whisky ( no"e") and Me

Neil, David and Richard Urquhart of Gordon & MacPhail toasting Keith and Mike!
On a cold winter's day last year I was contacted by renaissance man Doug Alexander at Stuff Creative and asked if I fancied getting involved in a bit of branding for a small, exclusive single malt Scotch whisky distillery called Benromach.
Now, I have been involved with port, vodka and beer campaigns before but never a Scotch whisky, so of course I said YES. I am a Scottish illustrator after all and it's our national drink...I'd be daft not to!

Benromach, founded in 1898, is the smallest distillery in Speyside. 30 years ago the brand very nearly went extinct when the distillery was closed down. Rescue came from Elgin based bottlers and distillers Gordon & MacPhail who took it on and overhauled the  distillery buildings and stills in Forres and the distillery was finally officially reopened by HRH Prince Charles in 1998.
my illustration of the Benromach Distillery

Today just two ordinary (yet extraordinary), local blokes distill the Benromach whisky - no computers, no drama, nada. Just Keith and Mike, making lovely award winning water of life.
And it is this message that Stuff Creative and Gordon & MacPhail really wanted to tell people about the Benromach whisky:  that it's home made and hand crafted.
David Urquhart, Joint Managing Director of Gordon & MacPhail, the family-run Elgin company which owns Benromach commented: “Benromach is a handmade, boutique whisky which is lovingly crafted by Keith and Mike. They are the essence of Benromach and so we thought it appropriate that they were placed front and centre of our new concept."

Keith and Mike, with the whisky stills behind them.

 My illustration and lettering style and my way of working really chimed with this branding message and so I travelled up to the distillery in the north of Scotland one snowy day to meet Keith and Mike, have a blether, a few tastings and get shown around...and do some drawings of them in their place of work. What a pleasure!

I came away with lots of rum tales ( the distillery is haunted by a cat, apparently) and a great impression of how to portray them both in the illustrations I had been invited to do. How lovely to actually meet and talk to the subject of my illustrations face to face. Yes, I could have Googled them but my heading north really made a difference, I think, to the feel of the final illustrations.
The project continues - an animated film, and even a book have been discussed!
Whisky without an "e" is big business for Scotland right now... Benromach have just reported that their global sales increased by 40% in 2012 and exports increased by 55%. I like to think that my illustrations had a small part to play in that success!

Meanwhile, my illustrations of Keith and Mike now appear internationally on huge trade show and food festival backdrops and banners, in advertising spreads, on posters and even as life size cardboard cut outs that people have their photo taken with, dram in hand, toasting them with the traditional Scots Gaelic, Slàinte mhath! - pronounced slanj'-uh va' - meaning Good Health!

Keith at the Benromach stand at the Royal Highland Show 2012

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