Let me start with a confession: I'm not a whisky drinker. Believe me, I've tried. However, I do now know an extraordinary amount about the fascinating process of creating Scotland's luxury single malt thanks to a project with museum designer Matt Langstaff for The Macallan, the world's leading malt whisky brand.
Matt and I worked with the Macallan distillery, based in Speyside, to create an exhibition concept based on the brand's 200-year history, using some of its unique archive and object collection to tell the story of the brand. The distillery is housed in a stunning building designed by architects Rogers Stirk Harbour + partners at the heart of the Macallan's historic estate. Visitors come here from across the world to learn more about the Macallan and its history.
One of the things I love about interpretation projects is the chance to go in depth about a subject I might not have previously thought about and that's certainly true with this one. Matt and I have been fortunate to visit the distillery to find out more about the process of whisky-making which is a true labour of love. We also visited the brand archive in Glasgow to learn about the history of the company, which was a family firm for the best part of a century. This is the first commercial project I've worked on and it's been fascinating to apply my skill set to a different context - the process of creating an exhibition and interpretive storytelling is much the same as it would be in a museum, but the language is different and the client relationship is of a different nature. We still need to focus on the project management priorities of time, money and quality, but there is a much greater focus on creativity and creative freedom, and greater flexibility to develop ideas than there is in a museum development where you're often driven by funders' deadlines and budget considerations. This project has really pushed us creatively - Matt has designed an approach inspired by the collection that is uniquely Macallan and draws on the brand's heritage and culture. The project is on hold for now as the distillery reviews its business plan following the pandemic, but it's been a great learning curve irrespective of what happens next.