There have been previous collaborations between whiskey distilleries and design studios, but perhaps none as serendipitous as Annandale’s brand new Callum 529. As its name suggests, this single malt single cask Scotch was distilled in Annandale in the Lowlands region of Scotland. It’s the creative effort of distillery co-founder David Thomson and renowned designer Ian Callum CBE.
Callum is known for his work in the automotive industry, designing cars like the Aston Martin Vanquish, Vantage and DB9, as well as the award-winning Jaguar F-Type, F-Pace, XJ and electric I-Pace. He is now the design director of his own eponymous studio Callum, working on projects with like-minded partners from the worlds of motorsport, consumer automotive, art and fashion.
Callum and Thomson originally met as teenagers while attending school together, reconnecting after nearly 50 years to work on freeing spirits. “This collaboration with Annandale aligns with Callum’s notion of undertaking projects that challenge, excite, tell a story and span all walks of life,” Callum said. “It really is a passion project with a history that goes back to my time at school with David Thomson. As with all of our projects at Callum, engineering and design work in parallel, but in this case it is the whiskey that is designed. The result is . . . something fun and unique.
The bottle’s design is an unconventional take on the familiar, a blue ceramic carafe with a natural cork stopper that’s meant to create a one-of-a-kind acoustic note when removed. According to Callum, it was about breaking with the traditional while using a neutral material that would not affect the character of the whisky. But it presented some challenges. “With opaque ceramic, you don’t have the luxury of refraction [like glass]says Callum. “The surface is all you can play with. To create impact, all elements of the design must be taken into account and bring the exterior to life.
To this effect, Callum used “organic lines and contrasting textures” separated by a diagonal slice. And that cork noise was just as intentional as the deconstructed orange tartan that seals the bottle. “The experience is a sum of tiny design and engineering intricacies that have been carefully crafted and are all incredibly important.”
Of course, the quality of the whiskey inside the bottle should match the level of care taken outside, which Thomson says it does. The unpeated whiskey was distilled in Annandale’s two small copper pot stills and matured in ex-bourbon casks. There’s no age statement, but Thomson says that’s a detail that’s often given too much weight. “There’s an ongoing debate that ‘the older the whiskey the better,’ but that’s not the case,” says Thomson. “It’s about whiskey reaching sensory maturity and delivering the best possible quality rather than reaching a certain age… Cask 529 has reached its peak. . . that is why he was selected; it’s ready to be enjoyed now. Immediacy is also a factor when it comes to acquisition, as only 230 bottles will be released, each priced at £350 (around $438).