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The Glenlivet unveils new visitor centre designed by Blacksheep

The iconic Scottish whisky maker’s distillery in Speyside has undergone a major renovation, immersing guests in the company’s rich history.

02/11/2021 5 min read

Created by George Smith in 1824, The Glenlivet is the original Speyside single malt, renowned for its heritage as a visionary within the single malt category and contributing to the biggest volume growth of the single malt category worldwide.

Harnessing raw materials directly from nature, Blacksheep has crafted a distinctive and dynamic visitor experience. The Blacksheep team has articulated the rich authenticity of The Glenlivet brand and, with a focus on hospitality, has broken down whisky traditions to define a series of innovative experiences that expand the enjoyment of whisky to a new generation. The result is an intimate and welcoming new home for The Glenlivet.

‘The visitor centre is spread over the ground and lower floors of the distillery,’ Blacksheep’s Tim Mutton tells us. ‘We were responsible for the interior and experience design, which takes direct inspiration from the wilderness of the Cairngorms National Park landscape that surrounds The Glenlivet Estate in which the distillery sits.

‘We had wanted to create a distillery or winery experience for some time, so it was an incredible opportunity to be asked to get involved. We feel that what set Blacksheep apart was that the Founders and Head of Brand both grew up in Scotland and had a love for whisky and, as an agency, we have a deep understanding and respect for the food, drink, and hospitality industry.’

‘We received a client brief and a deep immersion session and, while we very much respected what was given to us, we feel that it’s a design agency’s responsibility to look beyond the brief and surprise and delight a client partner and to help them see things in a more dynamic and successful way,’ he reveals.

‘We set out to make The Glenlivet Distillery the number one whisky experience in Speyside for both guests and staff. We wanted to communicate and embrace The Glenlivet brand vision and mission into a unique set of design sensibilities in an engaging and eloquent way. We also wanted to make the new visitor experience centre in Speyside a modern dynamic destination within the international whisky market.’

Visitors enter the experience at the reception, where they are greeted by a spectacular custom chandelier – by London based florist, Grandirosa – which is made from local dried wildflowers. This sits above a large table with hand turned legs designed by Blacksheep and made by Glasgow’s Elmwood Projects from antique bleached oak. From here, visitors then embark on a guided explorative journey through a series of spaces that bring the story of The Glenlivet to life.

To the left of the reception lies the Lounge, which acts as a waiting area ahead of the tour and features comfortable sofas and armchairs in a blue upholstered fabric. These are complemented by leather lounge chairs and deep-buttoned poufs. An intricate, bespoke, hand-crafted plasterwork inspired by Scottish foliage and nature, created by the master craftspeople at Locker & Riley, sits above a feature working fireplace, giving the room a welcoming domestic ambience. The Lounge also includes a display of George Smith, the Founder of The Glenlivet, and his original pistols from The Glenlivet’s historical archive are presented in a bespoke cabinet, which has been designed by Blacksheep. All the paintings on display are from The Glenlivet’s private collection, further adding to their story.

The History Room features a triple height illuminated bottle wall alongside graphics of the key people in The Glenlivet story. A concealed sliding door hides the entrance to the Speyside Room: which Tim tells us his favourite element of the scheme, featuring a dramatically sweeping indoor field of barley, also by Grandirosa. This is the whisky’s key ingredient and has been harvested and preserved at one of the local farms that supplies The Glenlivet. The walls of the space feature large LED screens that tell visitors more of the story. Distinctive stained oak hand carved panelling has been used throughout, evoking the inside of a whisky barrel and adding to the overall ambience of the space. Blacksheep also developed a 3D routed landscape of the Glenlivet valley, overlaid by a motion graphic projection, bringing the distillery’s local area to life.

 

The Provenance Room provides visitors with an interactive masterclass in the distillation process. Set within one of the original washback drums, the room features a digital animated ceiling and stone water pump, enabling tasters to immerse themselves in the manufacturing process.

The Tasting Room is a dramatic circular space with a round custom walnut table at its centre. A sculptural central display rises from the table displaying a selection of The Glenlivet whiskies. The room is wrapped with a circular walnut counter and stools, which face the central table, reinforcing the room’s theatrical purpose. Copper inlayed tasting notes on the countertop provide tasters with background on the whiskies being sampled.

The Sample Room is The Glenlivet’s premium retail space. It is arranged like an old-fashioned apothecary, with a central wooden display of The Glenlivet’s finest collections. At its centre sits The Winchester, a £19K bottle of The Glenlivet whisky in a bespoke cabinet, again designed by Blacksheep. The Provision Room is The Glenlivet’s second retail space, offering an extensive range of whiskies including the Distillery Reserve Collection.

 

The Drawing Room, The Glenlivet’s atmospheric and relaxed onsite bar, echoes the design of the Lounge, with a series of sofas in red fabric and lounge chairs with customised upholstery. Here, visitors can sit and enjoy some of The Glenlivet’s definitive single malts, whilst admiring a bespoke mosaic floor by Scottish artist and ceramic maker, Helen Miles, which celebrates Scottish history. A large custom drinks cabinet in the room is inspired by the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

The Smugglers Hideout is an elevated private space for tasting the finest bottles of The Glenlivet, which can also be used as a private space for a unique tasting experience and features another custom dried flower chandelier and a custom oak counter fronted by eight leather topped bar stools. The walls are wrapped in bespoke wooden shelving, which display 83 hand-crafted clay pots by Whichford Pottery, created to replicate those that were historically used to smuggle The Glenlivet through the Scottish hillsides many years ago.

The visitor experience also includes The Glenlivet Warehouse, featuring the distillery’s whisky casks. A custom lighting scheme by Into Lighting brings a touch of drama to the space and celebrates the casks’ precious contents. Following in the footsteps of its founder, George Smith, and his legendary hospitality, the new visitor centre reflects his high standards and welcoming nature. Using innovative technology, combined with exclusive bottlings, immersive tours and whisky tastings, the new space brings visitors an experience like no other. From exploring the art of whisky making and showcasing rare editions, to reflecting The Glenlivet’s heritage throughout the interiors, the new visitor experience pays homage to be the original mark of quality for Speyside single malt.

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