Collecting Spirits for the Bottle Rather Than What’s Inside
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Collecting Spirits for the Bottle Rather Than What’s Inside

More enthusiasts are buying spirits collectibles for the keepsakes themselves.

Thu, Jan 20, 2022 11:15amGrey Clock 4 min

Collecting spirits is by no means a new pursuit. But these days more enthusiasts are buying spirits collectibles for the keepsakes themselves, as opposed to the liquid delights held within.

There are collectible decanters and unique bottle designs, limited-edition labels and artwork, and partnerships with fine purveyors of all manners of crafts. From the lovers of kitsch and those who enjoy completing hard to find sets, to the loyal aficionados of particular beloved brands, more people are collecting beautiful bottles and collaborations than ever.

An Old Trend Is New Again

Old Overholt, a classic rye whiskey brand, teamed up with Steinbach, a German manufacturer of fine wooden crafts, to produce a unique, highly limited run of nutcrackers. Fashioned in the likeness of Abraham Overholt, who founded the brand over two centuries ago, the nutcracker is standing behind a whiskey barrel and a sack of rye grain while holding a bottle of whiskey. The collaboration was tied to the holiday season this year, as a means of buying a whiskey-centric gift for a loved one that isn’t merely a bottle to drink.

“A collectible piece of craftsmanship like this offers whiskey drinkers an entirely new way to celebrate and display their love for the brand beyond a rare bottle,” says Bradford Lawrence of Beam Suntory, Old Overholt’s parent company. “To my knowledge, no other whiskey founder has been immortalized as a nutcracker like this, and so we’re thrilled to be able to offer a fun, new item for enthusiasts to seek out, get excited about, and show off to friends and fellow collectors alike.”

While an affordable brand might seem like an odd match for a premium collectible, it’s actually somewhat of a tradition within the world of American whiskey. Ceramic decanters of bourbon were all the rage in the 1960s and 1970s, with Wild Turkey and Jim Beam in particular releasing a litany of them. As journalist Aaron Goldfarb explained, the original idea behind them was to create an avenue to increase sales in the face of whiskey’s waning popularity in an era which saw vodka’s meteoric rise.

The tides have turned in recent years, and there are certain whiskey brands that have the opposite problem, a dwindling supply that can’t keep pace with fervent global demand.

That’s the case for Hibiki, the much sought-after blended Japanese whisky produced by Suntory Whisky. With several of its age-statement labels removed from the market due to that supply issue, one way it remains at the forefront for collectors is through the release of limited edition bottles. The 2021 limited edition of Hibiki Japanese Harmony features a flowing floral design, with 24 different blossoms depicting the 24 micro-seasons of the Japanese lunar calendar, atop the brand’s signature 24-facet bottle face.

Glenmorangie, meanwhile, released a limited edition of its 18-year-old single malt with a design from flower artist and botanical sculptor Azuma Makoto. He was inspired by Glenmorangie’s floral flavor palate and interpreted that taste into a piece of art with 100 blooms, including specific aromas from the whisky. The sculpture, dubbed Dancing Flowers of Glenmorangie, was photographed and featured on the label and gift box of the special edition Glenmorangie 18 Azuma Makoto bottle.

It seems like every major brand wants to get in on the fun. Angostura teamed up with specialty leather goods purveyor Clayton & Crume for a special cocktail kit in the form of a stylish leather dopp bag, with a number of handy accessories included. Standout cocktail bar Death & Co. teamed up with Jameson for a Cocktail Courier holiday kit which includes the Death & Co: Welcome Home cocktail book, bottles of Jameson Black Barrel and The Glenlivet 12 year old, and ingredients for several signature drinks.

Craft Goes Collectible

While large, global brands have a built in fan base that collects special-edition offerings, even smaller and craftier brands have been getting into the collectible arena. Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin released a limited edition ceramic bottle r with a style which reflects the oriental botanicals used in the spirit, such as gunpowder tea.

“With this bottle, our founder PJ Rigney wanted to pay homage to the traditional Chinese pottery that would have been used in tea ceremonies for hundreds of years—it was at one such ceremony that PJ first came across the gunpowder tea that sparked what ended up as the recipe for Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin,” says Conor O’Brien of The Shed Distillery. “If you look closely at the bottle you can see some iconic scenes from the village of Drumshanbo, as well as The Shed Distillery itself.”

With regulations for selling and shipping alcohol direct to consumers loosening up in many parts of the U.S., partially due to the pandemic, Westward Whiskey launched a first of its kind national members club. The Westward Whiskey Club was launched in 2019, but was extended across 30 states this year thanks to that shifting legal landscape. Members, who can opt to receive one or three bottles per quarter, receive exclusive club-only whiskeys with unique cask finishes, and bottles adorned with eye-catching metallic plaques.

“For some time now, we have received requests from Westward enthusiasts to engage with our brand and team on a deeper, more personal level, so we’re excited to offer them a platform to join our community,” says Thomas Mooney, Westward’s founder and CEO.

Reprinted by permission of Penta. Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: January 15, 2022.


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The Fremantle cottage rewriting the blueprint for conjuring space

You’ll never guess where they found a little extra room when renovating this west coast house

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There was a time, not too long ago, when the most important must-have for would-be renovators was space. It was all about space to be together and space to be apart.

But as house prices increase across the country, the conversation has started to shift from size for the sake of it towards more flexible, well-designed spaces better suited to contemporary living.

For the owners of this 1920s weatherboard workers’ cottage in Fremantle, the emphasis was less on having an abundance of room and more about creating cohesive environments that could still maintain their own distinct moods. Key to achieving this was manipulating the floorplan in such a way that it could draw in light, giving the impression at least of a larger footprint. 

See more stories like this in the latest issue of Kanebridge Quarterly magazine. Order your copy here

Positioned on a site that fell three metres from street level, the humble four-room residence had been added to over the years. First order of business for local architect Philip Stejskal was to strip the house back to its original state.

“In this case, they were not quality additions,” Stejskal says. “Sometimes it is important to make sure later additions are not lean-tos.”

The decision to demolish was not taken lightly. 

“Sometimes they can be as historically significant as the original building and need to be considered — I wouldn’t want people to demolish our addition in 50 years’ time.”

Northern light hits the site diagonally, so the design solution was to open up the side of the house via a spacious courtyard to maximise opportunities to draw natural light in. However, this had a knock-on effect.

A central courtyard captures northern light. Image: Bo Wong

“We had to make space in the middle of the site to get light in,” Stejskal says. “That was one of the first moves, but that created another issue because we would be looking onto the back of the neighbouring building at less appealing things, like their aircon unit.”

To draw attention away from the undesirable view, Stejskal designed a modern-day ‘folly’.

“It’s a chimney and lookout and it was created to give us something nice to look at in the living space and in the kitchen,” Stejskal says. 

“With a growing family, the idea was to create a space where people could find a bit of solitude. It does have views to the wider locality but you can also see the port and you can connect to the street as well.”

A garden tap has also been installed to allow for a herb garden at the top of the steps.

“That’s the plan anyway,”  he says. 

A modern day ‘folly’ provides an unexpected breakout space with room for a rooftop herb garden. Image: Bo Wong

Conjuring up space has been at the core of this project, from the basement-style garaging to the use of the central courtyard to create a pavilion-like addition.

The original cottage now consists of two bedrooms, with a central hallway leading onto a spacious reception and living area. Here, the large kitchen and dining spaces wrap around the courtyard, offering easy access to outdoor spaces via large sliding doors.

Moments of solitude and privacy have been secreted throughout the floorplan, with clever placement of built-in window seats and the crow’s nest lookout on the roof, ideal for morning coffee and sunset drinks.

The house has three bedrooms, including a spacious master suite with walk-in robe and ensuite overlooking the back garden. Adjustable blades on the bedroom windows allow for the control of light, as well as privacy. Although the house was designed pre COVID, it offers the sensibility so many sought through that time — sanctuary, comfort and retreat.

Adjustable blades allow the owners to control light on the upper floor. Image: Bo Wong

“When the clients came to us, they wanted a house that was flexible enough to cater for the unknown and changes in the family into the future,” Stejskal says. “We gave the owners a series of spaces and a certain variety or moods, regardless of the occasion. We wanted it to be a space that would support that.”

Mood has also been manipulated through the choice of materials. Stejskal has used common materials such as timber and brick, but in unexpected ways to create spaces that are at once sumptuous but also in keeping with the origins of the existing building.

Externally, the brickwork has been finished in beaded pointing, a style of bricklaying that has a softening effect on the varied colours of bricks. For the flooring, crazy paving in the courtyard contrasts with the controlled lines of tiles laid in a stack bond pattern. Close attention has also been paid to the use of veneer on select joinery in the house, championing the beauty of Australian timbers with a lustrous finish. 

“The joinery is finished in spotted gum veneer that has been rotary cut,” says Stejskal. “It is peeled off the log like you peel an apple to give you this different grain.”

Rotary cut timber reveals the beauty of the natural grain in the kitchen joinery. Image: Bo Wong

Even the laundry has been carefully considered.

“The laundry is like a zen space with bare stone,” he says. “We wanted these different moods and the landscape of rooms. We wanted to create a rich tapestry in this house.”

The owners now each experience the house differently, highlighting separate aspects of the building as their favourite parts. It’s quite an achievement when the site is not enormous. Maybe it’s not size that matters so much after all.


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