Manchester creative agency LOVE has unveiled its latest work for James B. Beam and its new distillery tour as part of the brand's multi-million dollar renovation of its campus in Kentucky. We learn more about the fresh creative direction and strategy that is helping to chart the history of American whiskey.
If you happen to have a fondness for spirits, then you'll probably be aware of the famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail, an initiative launched in 1999 by the Kentucky Distillers' Association that helps to promote the bourbon whiskey industry in the Southeastern region of the United States. It's essentially a map featuring 18 distilleries, and one highlight is James B. Beam Distilling Co. and its 400-acre site in Clermont.
Given how much competition there is, the brand approached LOVE to help it reinvent its visitor experience, one that helps to bring the famous whiskey brand's history to the fore but would also make it the stand-out stop of the popular trail. The core strategy, then, was about celebrating and elevating the Beam family legacy and heritage and its eight generations of Master Distillers for more than 227 years.
David Palmer, owner and executive creative director at LOVE, says: "The new visitor experience is about conveying the Kentucky warmth, the soul and the spirit of the brand in different ways. The key to the project was understanding the family and its human connections. The relaunched tour reflects the scale and achievement of the family but also mirrors its humbleness and craft. It is real, honest, and tactile while also providing quieter moments for reflection."
On visiting the new tour, now named Beam Made Bourbon, you meet the entire family of the James B. Beam Distilling Co.'s portfolio, which includes small-batch bourbon fan favourites such as Knob Creek, Basil Hayden and Little Book. You'll also be greeted with transformed existing spaces and the addition of new experiences – all relaunched with spatial, experiential, graphic and signage designed by LOVE. It is a new space that focuses on the quality of ingredients and the care in selecting them. It also conveys the huge scale of the brand's production while highlighting the enduring craft and pride that goes into it.
David adds: "We have created the foundations of what a brand experience can be for one of the world's most successful distilleries. It draws on the idea of legacy but also paves the way for the future. We loved the idea of this grand family and keeper of an iconic American brand that keeps marching on."
The scale of the new experience is something that stands out with a vaulted space featuring a triple-height ceiling and a waterfall highlighting the limestone-filtered water it takes to make some of the world's leading bourbons. It also features a vintage car reminiscent of the one Jim Beam used to drive home a sample of his special strain of yeast every night for safekeeping. Every material and touchpoint denotes craft and attention.
Also standing proud on the campus is The American Outpost (formerly known as The American Stillhouse visitor and retail center), with everything from interactive experiences to the tags and labels conceived by LOVE. Inspired by a sign for the original retail building, it is the first and last stop for visitors and allows them to learn about the Beam family through an interactive heritage wall and photo booth.
Other campus highlights include The Kitchen Table bar and restaurant, inspired by a family photo of the Noes around Jim Beam's actual kitchen table in Fred Noe's house. It is purposely built and positioned with the back porch overlooking the beautiful views of the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, offering a welcoming spot for locals and visitors. LOVE's creative direction informed all spatial and interior elements, from the elegant wood and leather details to the warm and welcoming lighting.
"The James B. Beam Distilling Co. is an industrial factory on the one hand, but surrounded by the beautiful scenery of rural Kentucky on the other," says LOVE's Creative Director Russell Ashdown. "Consumers clearly come looking for both – to deep dive into Beam Made Bourbon, and perhaps for a chance to switch off."
Finally, the Fred B. Noe Distillery is the new home to the company's small-batch whiskies and future innovations. The building features its own distillery, classroom in collaboration with the University of Kentucky, meeting room, VIP bar and VIP blending space.
The project, which is surely a hero portfolio piece for LOVE, builds on the Manchester agency's previous work in creating a new identity for the JBBDCo. parent company in 2019 to re-establish it as a consumer-facing brand.