The age collection | Ancient art and craftsmanship

05 Dec 2015
4 min read
FOUR speaks to British architect Sally Mackereth and carpentry specialists Jack Badger, to find out how they came to be involved in the newest collection from royal salute whisky that retails at £30,000 and has only 21 sets in existence…

Combining timeless tradition with contemporary understanding, Royal Salute have introducedTheAgeCollection.TheAgeCollectionis a showcase oftheblender’s art and time’s subtle craftsmanship.Theyoungest blend contains only whiskies 21 years or older.Theten blends ascend, year by year, to 30 years old – with each telling its own story, fromtheblend of whiskies created in long closed distilleries totheblend warmed bythelazy sun of sleepy sherry casks totheblend bouncing withthecrisp energy of first fill American oak barrels. It is, like a life well lived, a true and lasting adventure.

With this in mind thecollection alsocomes mounted on a rare handcrafted plinth,designed by celebrated British architect Sally Mackereth and carved by carpentry specialists Jack Badger from 8,000 year old Neolithic wood. Each blend rests in a hand crafted crystal bottle, made with techniques dating back tothefirst century AD.

Sally Mackereth

What influenced your design of The Age Collection plinth and the materials you used?

The rich dark timber we have used is from ancient trees that have been trapped in the rich peat of a riverbed in Croatia, which has been preserved it for 8,000 years from the natural decaying process. To witness the tree trunks being raised from their watery lair, like magnificent pre-historic beasts, is an extraordinary sight. To have the opportunity to work with this ancient wood is a great privilege and the piece that we have designed consciously celebrates the beauty of nature and the passage of time.

The power of Royal Salute Whisky develops over time – how is this reflected in the materials you used?

Both the Neolithic bar and The Age Collection plinth are made from an incredibly rare wood known as Morta or Abonos. The grain and depth of colour in this majestic wood is revealed by the design, where the whisky bottles nestle in hand carved recesses and plinths, reminiscent of the uncompromising natural surroundings of the Scottish highlands.

Can you expand on the design approach for The Age Collection plinth?

Attention to detail throughout the design process extended to creating a new identity for the collection. For instance, the font uses the classical letterform used on pillars and ancient buildings, but with small elements of some letters missing, giving the feeling of time-weathered stone.

What is it about the material that’s special?

The wood is so beautiful and so incredibly old – I feel, it tells its own story, which transcends culture and time. It has a certain power that touches the soul and does not require explanation. There is something very humbling to be surrounded by nature with such a deep history. The design required a simple but strong idea to enhance this inherent magic.

What does the art of craftsmanship mean to you?

Working with a material, which arguably belongs in a museum – to have the ancient, the authentic and the natural all in one thing is highly unusual and very exciting. This bespoke piece has been hand-crafted bythe finest British carpenters, the Jack Badger team, whose love and respect for this exquisite rare timber have ensured its remarkable beauty as a finished sculptural piece.

How do you see the role of design in reshaping and modernising iconic British brands?

Good design is paramount in all walks of life. The best design identifies and resonates the core values and strong integrity of a brand to give it a contemporary relevance where its traditional roots are celebrated for generations to come.

Jack Badger

How has the Neothlic bar influenced the creation of The Age Collection plinth?

Like Royal Salute whisky, which is matured in barrels of oak, both the bar and the plinth have been constructed using ancient morta oak sourced from the River Sava in Croatia, some of which can be over 8,000 years old, similar to what we sourced and used for the Neolithic bar. The varying tones of the wood from golden through to a deep rich tone, is a result of being buried for thousands of years in the silt at the bottom of the River Sava. The reaction that occurs between the tannins in the oak and the minerals in the earth contributes to the overall aesthetic of the designs.

How did you select the best type of wood?

Working with this wood is not for the impatient. After its long, slow marinade in deep waters, each whole tree trunk is slowly brought to the surface by divers and dried for up to ten years. We went across to Croatia to examine every plank in the wood yard at least twice before selecting the perfect grain, colour and thickness for the design. Once the wood was back in our workshop in Glossop, we then had to spend days sorting and grading the timber to ensure we had enough to create the project before we even cut one piece.

What were your visual references when you designed The Age Collection plinths?

When selecting the timber, we took note of the colour graduations in the design and selected the right type of timber to match, from the lighter, younger wood to the darker, older wood. The varying tones are used to indicate where each of the bottles from The Age Collection is placed, reflecting the age of the whisky. Working closely with Sally Mackereth to marry the design and use of wood in the plinth was crucial.

How important is sustainability in your work?

Sustainability is really important to us and we always strive to use locally produced materials wherever possible, as well as using reclaimed timber wherever possible. To find the morta wood, the Jack Badger team had to travel to Croatia’s Sava River where a local wood-yard sends drones along the course of the river searching for ancient, buried trees. As a company with deep environmental roots, the Jack Badger team avoid short haul flights where possible – so we travelled to Croatia by sleeper train, a journey that takes a full 24 hours.

How did your knowledge of Royal Salute influence the creation of The Age Collection plinth?

The concept of time was a big influence. Working with wood 8,000 years old, we appreciated the history and uniqueness of the materials we were using. Like the creation of ten whiskies spanning The Age Collection, it’s with time that beautiful things are born. We must not rush the process, patience is a virtue.