There’s a drink for all occassions. Could be with friends, out at a bar, in a restaurant, perhaps alone. There are also drinks that you might expect to take you away from the everyday, perhaps to a quieter more tranquil place, where torrent of ice water meets the churn of the sea. Still Waters, a New Zealand distilled gin and vodka range, is very much the latter. And while the mental image conjures up the dramatic, the visual expression is somewhat far more serene, interpreted as a series of elegant label patterns. Packaging, and in particular premium packaging, has long sought to set a scene in the mind of the drinker. Heritage, provenance, craft, people and places, all are evoked in their own way through category conventions expressed through visual and material cues. Some of these conventions seem set in stone, others are fluid and subject to currents of change. You can see where I’m going with this…
Using only organic methods Still Waters distils gin and vodka from its location on the grounds of Waimarino Luxury Lodge in Queenstown, New Zealand, now commonly called Bobs Cove. The distillery takes its name from the original word Waimarino, which translates to Still Waters.
Still Waters takes grapes, not suitable for wine making, from local vineyards. These are then used to form the base spirit with water sourced from nearby glacier fields. This alone conjures up magical scenes in the mind, a wilderness; cool and quiet, except for the rushing of glacial waters and the swell of the sea. Where nature remains vast and uncontrollable, Still Waters is very much in control, every process and principle is overseen, ingredients fully traceable. The packaging, designed by Makebardo, is a beautiful articulation of these elements, in both structural design and labelling. Precise construction and subtle texture. The visual and material stimulate with purpose; a meeting of organic and precise lines. Both the natural and controlled makes for an interesting graphic/structural narrative.
The opaque bottle forms a volume distinct from other spirits. Instead, a cool grey and an expectant cold touch generates atmosphere. Rather than the spirit, it is the graphic expression that explores the liquid. A broken ice shelf or the arial view of a river deltas, it easy to let the imagination run with this. Practically speaking, these graphic patterns also functions to link a few different material elements; a booklet, a box, a postcard, a coaster and the packaging of a tumbler. It’s appealing, interesting to look at. It’s somewhat abstract but also familiar.
Materiality is used in places were the graphic would become too much. Here, the ‘waters’ pattern is applied as a blind emboss across grey and white boards, with only the subtlest typographic detail. The use of a light weight and caps appear quiet and steady with sufficient spacing to give it all breathing room. The geographical coordinates is perhaps the only trope that really slips in. Remoteness–only accessible by navigational tools–is a recurring motif across premium products (from spirits to watches to fragrances), is there for its connotations rather than its utility, helping to project the mind, just like the visual motif, into an imagined rather than literal place of stillness.