Responses by Martin Francis, creative director, Jones Knowles Ritchie
Background: Located on a peninsula in Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, Lough Gill is home to two unique properties: a six-acre disused factory and Hazelwood House, built in 1725 for the Wynne Family who resided there for 200 years, now fallen into a state of disrepair. Surrounded by natural beauty and full of heritage, this was the perfect site to build a distillery that could transform the fortunes of Hazelwood House, driving tourism in the area and reviving Lough Gill to its former glory. With the help of photographer Ben Peter Catchpole and production company Brother Film Co, our task was to create an Irish whiskey brand that would deliver this vision.
Reasoning: Embracing the long-term nature of the project, we landed on the idea of “an unfinished picture,” something that would never be complete, only ever evolving over time.
Challenges: The scale of the project. There is so much rich heritage and many untold stories concerning the Lough Gill area, along with the surrounding beauty of the forest and lake with its abundance of ancient folklore. With such a wealth of inspiration, it was initially a challenge to agree where to put the focus and what to leave out.
Favorite details: The brand name stands out; there are so many layers to it. We chose the name Athrú as it’s the Gaelic word meaning change, mirroring the transformation of the house and factory. It expresses the experimental nature of the brand’s whiskey making process, and has the potential to become a “toast” in the future. The forward-leaning treatment of the Athrú word mark embodies the progressive nature of the brand, and the three sections highlight the unique triple distilled character of Irish whiskey.
Visual influences: The area of Lough Gill itself. It was essential to take the design team to visit the house, factory and surrounding area to immerse them in the environment and to capture the visual moments that we could express through the brand. For example, the decorative wolves on a family crest above a doorway would later inform a secondary mark. Throughout the design, we kept an air of the unresolved, inspired by the derelict house and factory, alluding to the future restoration embodied in the idea of an unfinished picture.
Specific demands: The project was made slightly harder by the need to navigate the tension between developing a modern whiskey brand and the expectations of what a quality whiskey looks like. We delivered a progressive Irish whiskey brand with the ability to evolve over time, balanced with a few more traditional elements to give reassurance to discerning whiskey drinkers that this is a premium quality whiskey.