Japanese minimalism and Scotch provenance: LOVE designs new Wildmoor whisky brand

Amid the rising popularity of Japanese whiskys, LOVE has designed a new brand that combines two cultures while staying true to the category's time-honoured codes.

Manchester-based creative agency LOVE has designed a new luxury whisky brand from scratch in collaboration with William Grant & Sons (WG&S). By merging Japanese minimalism with Scotch provenance, LOVE has brought a modern yet timeless look to the sector. The range features four blended Scotch whiskies contained in textured bottles that draw inspiration from topographical maps.

WQ&S approached LOVE after building up a large stock of high-aged Scotch whiskies, asking for their expertise to help them develop a fresh, new brand proposition fit for the modern market. The drinks company described these whiskies as "flavour maps of Scotland", and so LOVE saw an opportunity to create a brand that embodies "Scotland's wildest places", delves into the history of Scotch, and taps into opportunities within culture globally, according to LOVE creative director Chris Jeffreys.

He reveals that "every possible name under the sun was taken", except for their favourite: Wildmoor. It was chosen for its strong, emotive character and assimilation with the elemental, rugged wilderness of Scotland. Jeffreys notes that it also evokes "a certain heathery sweetness that is the signature flavour profile of the range".

Decades-old visual codes, such as gold foils, bold, masculine colours, and "heather and weather" photography, flood the Scotch sector. While some of these core codes could be retained to foster credibility, LOVE took a more disruptive strategic approach.

Japanese minimalism and Scotch provenance – two important pillars in Wildmoor's identity – seem worlds apart on the surface. However, the studio identified a niche creative gap in the market. "Formulating where the most compelling business opportunities lay for Wildmoor, we found an emergent urge for escapism and a return to nature among young city dwellers in Asia," says Jeffreys.

"There was already a strong passion for whisky here, but for the cool minimalism of Japanese brands like Hibiki, not Scotch."

According to the National Tax Agency, whisky exports from Japan totalled 14,250 kilolitres in 2022, over 15 times the volume for fiscal 2006. Some attribute this to Japanese whiskies – like Suntory's high-end Yamazaki products and Nikka Whisky Distilling Co.'s signature brand Taketsuru – starting to win awards at international competitions around this time.

LOVE noticed Scotch was missing an opportunity by not behaving like its "cooler Japanese whisky cousins". Before Wildmoor, Jeffreys says it was not capturing the same "pureness and connection to nature", so LOVE borrowed codes from the Japanese whisky category and used them to "break the category moulds and create a brand that appealed to both sides of the world".

This approach saw the Scotch brand step away from the "tourist-friendly imagery of sun gilded glens and tartan of traditional Scotch" in favour of a "raw, elemental, and more minimalist version of Scotland", Jeffreys explains.

Wildmoor's "chiselled from stone" aesthetic aims to give the enduring, timeless quality currently missing from the category. It balances the drama of the Scottish wilderness with subtle optimism and confident, adventurous messaging.

"Since our initial focus was on Asia and the cultural movements happening there, we wanted to capture Wildmoor's Scottish provenance in a way that would appeal to consumers led by the cultural zeitgeist," says Jeffreys. "The concept can also resonate globally – we hope it speaks to anyone with a discerning eye for something authentic, rugged and real."

The bottle was key in setting Wildmoor apart and showcasing this sector-first aesthetic. It looks as if it has been cut from stone and innovatively oozes luxury credentials.

To achieve this, Jeffreys describes how LOVE took "an open-source relief map of Scotland, which was then transferred onto the bottle using open-source topographical Scottish landscape models to capture all the elemental textures and forms so it would act as a physical panorama of its rugged beauty".

Both the brand's logo graphic device and wordmark play with typographic overlaps. The linking of the two 'o' characters nods to two whisky barrels being blended while the "cinematic terrain" of the bottle carries through to the brandmark, where 'W' and 'M' characters are used to construct "a Scottish pinecone form", according to Jeffreys.

With the wordmark, LOVE wanted to give a sense of valleys, mountain peaks, waves, and moorlands. The wordmark and logomark also appear in black across almost all applications, making it stand out even more among competitors.

Further positioning Wildmoor as something new and different, the photography comprises "elemental" shots taken in the epic wilderness of Scotland. LOVE owner and executive creative director Dave Palmer led the design team 3000ft up the Black Cullin Ridge on Skye to photograph the content for Black Mountain.

"The images we captured of the vast ridges and valleys of the Scottish Highlands along with the toned-down, natural colour palette we used help to reinforce Wildmoor's brand identity and the visceral, naturalistic vision of Scotland we wanted to conjure", says Jeffreys.

He reinforces that everything was created from scratch with Wildmoor and that the project required "significant collaboration between agency, WG&S' own New Product Development team, and marketing to get the right solution." While the design did undergo many tweaks, the LOVE design team is happy that the final product was faithful to their initial concept.


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