Purple Creative brings a splash of colour and luxurious leather to Glenfiddich branding

Imagery for the Glenfiddich 21 Year Old and Rare Collection created in complex and considered photoshoots

Purple Creative has completed another major project for Glenfiddich, creating beauty imagery for the Glenfiddich 21 Year Old and the brand’s exclusive Rare Collection.

Purple has worked with Glenfiddich for nine years, with highlights including the creation of the world’s first virtual distillery tour and the brand’s new visual identity.

For this beauty photography project, Purple commissioned the photographers Ted Humble-Smith and Benedict Morgan.

The two shoots were completely different, but both had complex ideas and involved huge attention to detail.

From the brief to the beauty imagery for the 21 Year Old single malt took four weeks, involving bottles, balloons and lots of paint. 

The Rare collection, worth £1,200 to £5,000 and presented in an Italian hand-made leather box, demanded an image that had to be premium in execution. 

Glenfiddich 21 Year Old 

“Our brief was to create a beauty image for the Glenfiddich 21 Year Old,” explained Purple creative director Gary Westlake. “It’s a rare and unusual whisky which is given the ultimate finishing touch, by being finished in Caribbean rum casks."

A copy line, Raised in Scotland. Roused by the Caribbean was created by Purple, and was the inspiration behind the final approved visual and colour concept.

“Our image shows the 21 Year Old bottle in the foreground, with elegant and textural Caribbean ‘splashes’ behind it, showcasing the varying colours of a Caribbean sunset,” explained Westlake.

“The textural splashes were created using coloured paint, but we had to be careful not to evoke a white spirit cocktail shoot – which would be too young and not premium enough.”

After a long search, Purple chose Benedict Morgan for the shoot, a technical and experimental still life photographer.

Morgan explained his approach, “Purple were very open to ideas and feelings about the shoot, and because it was inspired by a previous shoot I had done with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra which also used paint, we already had a lot of the technicalities ironed out."

"The colours we used are inspired by the Caribbean sunset, and we’ve used movement to express the electrifying energy of the region. The ultimate aim is to capture lovely incidental moments of impact, which feel convincing.” 

Purple worked with Morgan and his special effects prop maker, Jack Kirby, to prepare the ingredients prior to the shoot.

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First the team had to create the paint with exactly the right texture; a paint-dyed water mixed with a thickening substance was used to get the ideal consistency.

After much testing, they were happy with the looser feel the liquid achieved, which seemed to mimic billowing fabric.

“The first day of the shoot was all about experimenting, seeing how the paint splashed and working our the best ways of achieving and capturing the resulting colourful paint explosion,” said Westlake.

“The studio seriously resembled a mad experimental laboratory more than an ordered set. In fact we were all wearing lab coats to avoid getting stained.” 

“We filled small balloons with the paint liquid, suspending them above the set," said Gary Westlake. "The balloons were manually swung towards our target to control the impact, and give us a cleaner and more refined look.

“We tested various targets - from Blu-Tack covered in pins to make the balloons burst, to the bottle on its own. The one that worked best was a golf ball with pins, as it created the beautiful undulating shapes we were after. The pins encouraged the balloon to explode in such a way that the paint dispelled in the different directions we needed.”

“I use an Arca Swiss M2, which is a large format camera with bellows front and rear as standard," explained Morgan. "It is fantastic, because you can be looking up or down at something without moving the camera, meaning you get perfectly straight linear shots, without moving."

"I really wanted to make the bottle feel heroic and iconic for this shoot, and when you're low down and looking up at it you get that feeling - as opposed to when you look up through a normal camera, where the bottle shape tends to curve at the sides.The Arca allows me to see the entire bottle without looking up or it changing its shape."

"The other major consideration when you're shooting movement, and you’re trying to achieve perfect crisp focus on liquids, is that you have to be mindful of flash duration," said Morgan.

"You have to capture it to freeze the movement. But standard flash won't work for something like this."

"Normally the duration of light is delivered at 1/100 of a second, whereas this was delivered at 10,000 of a second – so quick that you're able to catch it completely pin sharp. Without that speed the image would be fuzzy.”

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The team were able to really accentuate the textural feel in post production. 

“We did use Photoshop to select the best explosions, but I always work in an analogue way as possible,” revealed Morgan. “So we can legitimately say that we achieved all these shapes in camera, then placed them perfectly next to each other at the end.”

“It was so difficult choosing the best bits of everything to create one final image – there were so many beautiful moments and unique splashes. It took ages to analyse and make sure we have captured what we need – and then we did multiple compositions to choose exactly the right balance that would complement the line, ‘Raised in Scotland. Roused by the Caribbean.’”

"This is one of the most memorable and powerful images we’ve ever created," added Westlake. "It dynamically captures the feeling of the Caribbean rum finish in a very contemporary and bold way, as well as being super premium in execution. The drinks industry relies on imagery, so having such a bold, dynamic and colourful image will really help the Glenfiddich 21 Year Old stand out.”

The Rare Collection image

Running with a ‘modern yet luxurious’ theme of contemporary craftsmanship, Purple and Ted Humble-Smith created an image that visually represents the hand-made leather box the Rare Collection is sold in, but in a more abstract way by using rolls of undulating leather swatches. 

It also had to incorporate and adhere to the Glenfiddich visual identity colours of ‘new make white’ and ‘pagoda copper.’ 

Purple worked with Glasgow-based Andrew Muirhead & Son to source the leather cow hides, and used Winter & Company for the Noble nubuk leather, which matches the inside of the presentation box.

Purple commissioned leather expert Candice Lau to ensure the leather and stitching would look as luxurious as possible. Lau created different stitch types and Purple picked the one that best matched the pack. 

Each leather hide is very expensive, so each incision had to be carefully mapped out. Candice Lau then carefully cut and stitched half of the leather before the shoot, and the other half on the day. It was vital to get an exact cut with no fraying.

Leather isn't the easiest material to style, as it’s not rigid – so Purple used lots of double sided tape to hold the leather in place to create beautiful organic and fluid movements. It was also important to test the copper foiling and make sure it had a premium finish.

The shoot took two days – the first was used to prep the shot and the other to capture the image.

A major part of the shoot was to bring out the new brighter and whiter Glenfiddich visual identity, which was balanced by the warmth of the leather. Extensive pre-production discussions took place about lighting. 

"I like to physically build the whole thing for real, or as much of it as possible,” said Ted Humble-Smith. “We may shoot in stages and construct the image in retouch, but the bottle was in that set, and that’s very important to me. The devil is in the detail, and that shows when things go big.”

“The camera I use is a hand-built mini technical camera by Plaubel,” added Humble-Smith. “Lenses came courtesy of Schneider Digital, and it was captured on a Phase One P65+ digital back."

There was as little post production as possible, according to Purple's Gary Westlake, who added, “It makes the shot more realistic, but there were a few fixes that could only be made after the shoot, including slightly warming up the image.”

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