The Cairn Distillery

Bringing a family vision to life.

Gordon and MacPhail had an ambition to add a second distillery to their portfolio. So in 2017, with the new Speyside site secured, the challenge of creating a brand to support and launch a celebrated international single malt scotch whisky was underway. 

Here’s four highlights from our work so far: 

01/ What's in a name?

Naming is the most challenging part of a brand project. Availability and copyright conflicts are tricky to navigate. And as a global brand, practical things like pronunciation are important. But it should also have meaning. The distillery and visitor experience, perfectly located at the Gateway to the Cairngorms, aims to become a landmark for discovery and excellence – creating a legacy of building for the next generation that represents the very best of modern Scotland today. We needed a name that reflected this, and we found one.

02 / Early stakeholder engagement

As an independent, family-owned company, this project was close to the hearts of many in the business. From legal teams dealing with naming, to project managers responsible for getting the distillery opened on time and on budget, to shareholders and family members who were integral to realising the family’s vision – we knew the key to our success and timely approvals was early engagement with all these groups. Close collaboration and (over)communication won the day.

03 / Building solid foundations

Yes, you need to differentiate from your competition, but ‘uniqueness’ is overvalued in the brand world. This is even more pronounced in the whisky category – how to be different in a category where everyone looks the same? Every brand purports to have something ‘unique’ about their process of making whisky. But this was to be a brand built on vision and attitude. Everything we created – from the materials sourced, to partners we worked with – helped bring this vision to life.

04 / Flexibility, consistency and longevity

Architects and experiential designers, glass manufacturers and distillery managers, photographers and film producers – each played their part in creating a suite of core master assets to be used across all channels and touchpoints. The process needed detailed planning and lots of collaboration (again). Designed with flexibility, consistency and longevity in mind – the output stands the brand in good stead in the run up to launch and way beyond.