Responses by Matt Burns, creative director, Thirst Craft
Background: The White Heather Blended Scotch Whisky brand had been acquired by one of the whisky world’s most esteemed entrepreneurs and master distillers, Billy Walker, from Pernod Ricard. The brand was in circulation from the 1960s through the 1980s, and was traditionally a lower-value blended malt. It was Billy’s desire to revitalize the brand and give it a new purpose as an ultra-premium Blended Malt Whisky that showed that Blended Malts could be just as covetable, if not more so, as Single Malt Scotch Whisky.
Reasoning: White heather has long held a fabled existence in Scottish culture. Legend has it that a famous warrior was killed in battle and the messenger that delivered the news to his fiancée gave her heather as a token of the warrior’s love. Her tears turned the heather white, and though sad, she wished happiness and good luck to anyone who found white heather. We wanted to capture this poetic story behind the name; creating ornate heather filigree that surrounded the bold panels holding key information resembling classic book covers. We wanted the packaging to feel special and rare, fitting the quality of the liquid inside and the brand story. If you’re holding a bottle of White Heather, you’re already one of the lucky ones; for blends of this quality are as rare as its namesake.
Challenges: Creating all of the custom filigree by hand and choosing the right foil and emboss finishes to elevate the design to a level fitting of its price tag and rarity.
Favorite details: Each cask that goes into the whisky has been hand-selected and tasted by Billy Walker himself, and we wanted to capture that human connection with the product in the design. Creating all of the heather filigree by hand was a process that took much time and care, but was definitely worth it. It became a key visual asset for the brand. We felt the handcrafted finish to the design was fitting to match the care and analogue nature of making the blend.
Visual influences: Building on the poetic backstory of the brand name and story, we looked at classic Victorian book covers, particularly the spines. We hand-selected a slim bottle, as we wanted to create a design that was impactful, premium and well-crafted. We wanted the bottle to have a strong presence on shelf and to stand out against other blended malts as being something a bit special and different from the norm. Books have the same challenges when stacked cover to cover on a shelf; they need to stand out and entice the reader in to the story inside with a small canvas to use.
Alternative approach: This project was started a few years ago and the launch was delayed due to the pandemic and other external factors. Since we started the packaging design, we have significantly increased our awareness and knowledge of sustainability and the circular economy. If we were to do the design again, we would love to explore the ways we can make the overall design more sustainable and use the best materials and production processes possible to achieve this.