While it’s the expertly crafted layers of flavour and exceptional aromas that set an award-winning whiskey apart from the rest, the design and accompaniments of that whiskey can elevate it even further. From the story that inspires its design to the craftsmanship that brings it to life, here are five whiskeys that take the experience to the next level.
In just four short years, The Craft Irish Whiskey Co. has gained a reputation for crafting rare irish whiskey, tearing up the rulebook to deliver exceptional, intricately balanced layers of flavour. From winning World’s Best Irish Single Malt at the World Whiskies Awards 2022 to a multitude of top awards for taste from respected bodies such as IWSC and The Spirits Business, our single malts have taken the world of luxury whiskey by storm.
But it’s not just the flavour profiles that have people talking about, and lusting after, these rare bottles of whiskey. Everyone from the enthusiastic beginner to the whiskey collector and the whiskey connoisseur has had their head turned by the unique whiskey bottle design that sets our single malts apart. In this article we’re going to explore what it takes to conceptualise, design and create these award-winning whiskey bottles and their boxes.
A Story Rooted in Mythology, Meaning and History
While the majority of whiskeys on the market are simply left in a warehouse to reach a certain age before being bottled in a standard glass bottle and sent out to the supermarket shelves, the ultra-rare single malts of The Craft Irish Whiskey Co. are different. Not only is the liquid a finely crafted, carefully considered balance of flavour, skilfully imparted to the whiskey through a clever use of barrels, techniques and locations, but that obsession with perfection extends the the bottle itself.
Each whiskey tells a story through the design of the bottle and its ‘experience box’. It’s in the finer details – the clasp on a box, the angle of the wood grain, the materials used and the partnerships that add even greater luxury. The journey begins with Jay Bradley and Chief Design Officer, Tiago Russo. Years of planning, research and development and design are poured into every bottle. Numerous prototypes, sketches and brainstorming sessions are worked through, worked on and perfected or discarded until the final product is the absolute pinnacle of perfection.
The Devil’s Keep
The whiskey that started it all. The Devil’s Keep was our first single malt and launched in December 2020. This was the whiskey that set the scene – it was unlike any other whiskey released, with its exquisite design, accompanying ‘experience’ and strikingly beautiful craftsmanship.
It began from a simple brief to Tiago Russo from Jay – ‘to create the best and most luxurious whiskey that Ireland has ever seen’. And if the awards and unprecedented attention are any indicator, he was successful.
Each component of the box and the bottle tells a story. This Irish whiskey collection brings together every element required to elevate the tasting experience beyond anything that had gone before. The scent of the barrels under bond is captured in the Angels’ Share, while the eyes are drawn by the brass detailing, the rich, dark burgundy interior colour, and the warm glow of the whiskey. Your hand is drawn to the heavy-grained dark wood, and the sound of the clasp slipping open or the gentle clink of the obsidian whiskey stones captures the ear. The Devil’s Keep draws on all of the senses in an intuitive experience; this is not just about the whiskey, but how the experience of the whiskey’s flavour can be further enhanced by its surroundings.
As Tiago says, “design should never be just about the aesthetics, nor should it be solely about the functionality. It’s the balance of usability, pleasure, and the ability to meaningfully interact with the user that lies behind great design”. And The Devil’s Keep is the epitome of that meaningful interaction. This balance of functionality and ultra-desirable craftsmanship and design was recognised in 2021 when it became the first ever whiskey to win a coveted Golden A’Design Award. These prestigious global awards are the world’s largest, and represent the highest achievements in design, symbolising exceptional design excellence in products, services and projects.
The Emerald Isle
While The Devil’s Keep drew the world’s attention, it was The Emerald Isle that fully confirmed the company’s reputation for skilled craftsmanship and obsession with perfection. In its combination of luxurious one-of-a-kind art and highly limited ultra-rare whiskey, The Emerald Isle reimagined the potential value of whiskey when it drew unprecedented attention at a charitable auction in the US to become the most expensive bottle of whiskey in the world. While that first auction price of $2,000,000 put The Emerald Isle far above any other whiskey for sale, it has since been eclipsed by the sales of subsequent collections, and the remaining two bottles are offered at £2.4million.
But then this is an historic collaboration, destined to become an heirloom to be passed on from generation to generation. In both the extraordinary rarity of the whiskey and the timeless beauty of its design, The Emerald Isle changed the worlds of design and whiskey forever. Each collection honours one of the seven wonders of Ireland, from the Devil’s Causeway to the Blarney Stone, with unique etchings on the box and the Fabergé watch depicting each. The Celtic Egg is set with a unique gemstone, again specific to the ‘wonder’, making each collection completely unique.
This Fabergé Celtic Egg was handcrafted by fourth-generation Fabergé Workmaster, Dr Marcus Mohr. Handcrafted in 18k yellow gold, each of the seven eggs took over 100 hours of work. From the legendary guilloché vitreous enamel in a pastel green to the white and gold detailing, the eggs honour the Irish flag, while each is adorned with a pavé Celtic knot to symbolise an eternal bond. Set with 104 brilliant-cut diamonds, the knot is a renowned symbol of Irish heritage and has no start or finish, representing eternity, love and friendship. In a first for Fabergé, an uncut emerald sits in a gold claw setting at the heart of the egg, and the owner can commission Fabergé to create a piece of art or jewellery, continuing the bespoke nature of the collection.
This exclusive whiskey collection continues with a humidor built into the handcrafted walnut wood box, two ultra-rare Cohiba Siglo Gran Reserva VI cigars – the ‘Holy Grail’ of collectable cigars – and a one-of-a-kind Fabergé watch encased in rose gold, with rose gold crowns and upper and lower sapphire crystals, engraved mother-of-pearl face, a self-winding automatic movement and a precious and rare 22k gold oscillating weight.
The design of this one piece took over a year of work by Tiago Russo as he poured over the smallest details, until each was mastered and perfected to do justice to the oldest, rarest triple distilled Irish whiskey ever crafted. From the rich shades of polished walnut that contrast with the gold detailing around the experience box, to the glass of the doors and their embedded emeralds, The Emerald Isle is a work of art, designed to be displayed, appreciated and desired.
It combines art, display, functionality and experiential storytelling and has transformed the luxury market like never before, winning a perfect score to take Platinum at the A’Design Awards 2022 and becoming the number one design in the world.
The Brollach was a deeply personal endeavour, to create a whiskey that would honour the late father of Jay Bradley, Shay. Every element of the whole design, from the wood used to the metal-working techniques, pay homage to Shay. A traditional approach to age-old techniques and the furniture-making heritage of the Bradley family has been revisited and reimagined to create an experience that values tasting and celebration always with the weight of time, of knowledge, of passion that travel through generations to create a unique moment in time.
The first glimpse of its heavy-grained oak box gives a hint of the craftsmanship and heritage to be found within. The deep grain charts the passage of time just as The Brollach charts the history of family and Ireland. Leading the eye towards the stainless steel clasps, it invites you to lift off the lid. As if peeling away the layers of history, a second box appears. Crafted from the same natural Nordic oak, though with a slight curve that calls to mind the contours of the barrel, the heavy grain draws your hand to the cool steel trim of the door.
Inside, a dark suede creates an intense, masculine backdrop. Two Finn glasses are held in place by leather straps and silver buttons that take their cue from history; an ancient technique used in armour that pays homage to Ireland’s master craftsmen. The curved oak that surrounds the bottle sends the light dancing through the golden amber of the whiskey, sparkling off the silver of the Finn glasses and the brushed stainless steel of the trim.
A sleek drawer opens to reveal the bespoke whiskey rocks, crafted from obsidian and carefully designed to deliver an optimal chill without diluting The Brollach’s intense flavours. The glass and anodised silver pipette sits alongside, its elegant simplicity belying the thoughtful design and craftsmanship that allow the textured handle to fit securely in the hand, delivering precise droplets of water and releasing the flavour compounds of the whiskey.
As Tiago Russo says of his third creation for The Craft Irish Whiskey Co., “it is, for me, an immensely proud moment when a creation carries so much symbolism, so much history and homage. Design should always be a tool to create meaningful interactions and it doesn’t get any more meaningful and personal than the story and the history that are the essence of The Brollach.”
A key part of the company’s mission to return premium Irish whiskey to its former glorious heights involves putting that whiskey back on the menus of the world’s finest restaurants. From the very beginning, The Taoscán was conceived to play a central part in this mission and takes its name from the Gaelic for a small measure of liquid, ‘taoscán’, which would have been the traditional request in the bar before ‘dram’ took over with the rise of Scotch.
In its name and its design, The Taoscán aims to restore this word to common usage and to introduce our single malts to the Michelin-starred restaurants and fine dining establishments that carry the same obsession with the perfect experience. In its design it offers every element for the ‘Perfect Serve’ created by the company, from the Finn glass that combines science and design to remove the ethanol vapours that would otherwise burn the nose and prevent the drinker from appreciating every note, to the obsidian whiskey stones and the pipette that delivers a perfect amount of water. The Taoscán’s bottle and accessories were designed to deliver an elevated experience.
The Taoscán’s stand was conceived to allow the drinker a full view of the amber liquid and its elegant accompaniments while the graceful, refined design and the walnut wood of the base calls to mind the rich, dark tones of an elegant bar. The copper stems and detailing honour the cooperage of barrels and the tones of a distillery, while also performing a function in allowing it to be lifted down from the top shelf and placed in front of the drinker, with a Finn glass, carafe of water, copper and glass pipette and a solid metal coaster sitting alongside the bottle to provide the perfect pour.
The bottle itself boasts a stretched octagon base that opens up into a masculine silhouette, topped with dark obsidian and with copper details to bring a sense of warmth and elegance, befitting the more than 60 Michelin-starred establishments that now feature The Taoscán on their menus.
The most innovative, groundbreaking whiskey bottle in our collection, The Aodh continues our tradition of skilled craftsmanship and peerless luxury, while adding technological flair and a partnership with trailblazing jeweller, MJ Jones.
The Aodh is the oldest whiskey The Craft Irish Whiskey Co. has created so far, and it is this age, rarity, power and beauty that are encapsulated in the story of Aodh, one of the Children of Lir and legendary God of the Underworld.
As the Children of Lir, Aodh and his siblings were cursed by their jealous stepmother to spend 900 years trapped in the form of swans. They kept their voices and could be heard singing, with the music said to calm and delight all who heard it. For 300 years they were banished to Loch Dairbhreach, 300 more on Sruth na Maoilé, and their final 300 were spent at Iorrus Domnann and Inis Gluairé.
Every element of The Aodh was designed to tell the story of Aodh, the son of Lir. As Tiago says, “when Jay told me the story, I knew that we had to forget traditional notions of a box in favour of a design that would be more transparent. So even though The Aodh’s liquid is trapped in the exo-skeleton that represents the swan, it can be seen. In this way we show that while Aodh was trapped, he kept his voice and was visible as Aodh through his words and songs.”
In his design of the bottle and its stand, Tiago created a shape that was beautiful, in an almost other-worldly form. The grace and beauty of the swan entrapped Aodh, and now this precious liquid had to be entrapped in a form of equal elegance and powerful beauty. The arms unfold in a swan-like movement, freeing the bottle. But from this point the bottle must be held, its curved base means it can’t be put down but must be passed between users. Irish folklore and stories have brought people together for centuries, sharing the stories and creating new ones. Now The Aodh does the same, bringing people together as they pass the bottle from one to another.
To create a piece of history that may pass into Irish folklore itself, the bottle is finished with a hidden compartment in the obsidian closure. This is designed to hold a ring, created by MJ Jones and entrapping a sample of The Aodh for perpetuity. A powerful symbol of The Aodh’s story, the amethysts, diamond, 18 carat gold, silver and signature black armour symbolise possession of The Aodh by a rare few, who enter the history books as one of just 88 to own this precious single malt.
Whiskey designed to be a luxury statement
Whether you’re considering investing in whiskey bottles, creating a collection to become a future heirloom, or looking for a bottle that will catch the eye of visitors, the design of the bottle should be on your mind. While the contents of the bottle – high quality whiskey – will always be of the most importance, the design can elevate the experience of the whiskey and cement its future as a collectable, an object of desire and heirloom to be enjoyed for generations to come. Explore the full range of The Craft Irish Whiskey Co.’s exquisite collection here or visit The Craft Irish Whiskey Store in Selfridges’ Wonder Room until April 9th 2023.