Responses by Neil Tran, creative director, Leap XD.
Background: This iconic, award-winning spirit that needs no introduction, Empress 1908 Gin recently embraced the opportunity to take distribution internationally. Produced by Victoria Distillers in Sidney, British Columbia—one of the oldest small-batch distilleries in Canada—this homegrown product needed a new website that would represent and support its global growth.
This site embodies the colorful and bold cocktail culture of Empress 1908, marketing directly to its target demographic with a highly Instagrammable aesthetic. 3-D animation brings in color, texture and movement, while rich visuals highlight the product, the botanicals and its distinct indigo hue.
Design core: An exciting swirl of 3-D animation opens the site, highlighting what sets Empress 1908 apart from the rest. This is the original purple gin, made from all-natural botanicals including a signature tea blend from Victoria’s Fairmont Empress Hotel. The distinct color and unique combination of botanicals are perfectly rendered to show the ingredients and the color in a way that is truer to reality than any photograph. Larger than life bespoke video on each page invites the viewer in, dissolving the barrier between viewer and product. And while the technology behind this design of this site is complex, the user experience is simple, functional and intuitive. With this colorful and immersive digital experience, any home can feel like a cocktail bar and any viewer can be an expert cocktail maker.
Core features: Rendering the gin bottle and the botanicals. The Empress Gin indigo blue is nearly impossible to photograph with consistency. It was important to communicate the natural ingredients that make its color. The Empress Hotel plays a huge role in the brand as well: for example, the teacup displayed on the home page was shipped directly from the hotel to our rendering team.
Videos play a big part on this site. We shot videos of the bar in the Empress Hotel to give people a true sense of the brand’s origin. The most visited part of the site is the cocktail recipes. Demo videos give cocktail lovers instructions on making the perfect drink at home.
Challenges: Presenting the Empress Gin in the best possible way and capturing its color. We brought in a 3-D rendering team to solve what photography couldn’t achieve. Also, the botanicals used to make the gin are not the sexiest in real life; they are dried ingredients and don’t translate well in photos.
New lessons: We’ll use more videos on all future web projects. I learned that there is more room for opportunities to use 3-D renderings and animations.
Navigation: The navigation is driven by large visuals. Each menu item on desktop presented an opportunity to share more images of Empress Gin. The Our Story page has a nice carousel that shows the Empress Gin recipes in a cool 360-degree view of each botanical.