Literature and Libations Join Forces: How Copperfield London Dry Gin Was Born

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By: Theresa Christine

 

If you mix a love for academia, distilling, and old books into one, what would you get? Probably something like Copperfield London Dry Gin.

The story of the gin goes hand in hand with the inception of the distillery, though. After meeting Nude Brand Creation at the Ginposium in 2016, Katherine and Chris Smart approached them with help in launching a new distillery and spirit.

“We met with Katherine and Chris at their house in Shere where they told us all about their dedication to the craft of distilling and their passion for history as well as their collection of antique books,” explained Tom Hearn, Director at Nude Brand Creation. From their chat, he said it was clear how to proceed, even without receiving a brief. “We put together a story and some mood imagery to capture the creative idea, which Katherine and Chris instantly fell in love with.”

The team dove into research, from visiting the Charles Dickens Museum and taking a close look at old books. They also uncovered some tales and myths local to Shere, where Katherine and Chris live, to gain insight into their strategy.

“During the 1830's a local policeman from Godalming famously put a stop to a sheep-stealing ring that, legend had it, plotted and planned in the White Horse Inn in Shere,” said Tom. “This ‘Surrey Copper’ was deemed a local hero and has long been remembered. The Surrey Copper Distillery brand was born, and the mark is reminiscent of historic illustrations found on the antique book covers where historical references to recipes could be found.”

Aside from the name of Surrey Copper Distillery’s first gin nodding to Dickens, they pulled design inspiration from classic literature and antique book covers. “We loved so many of the references, and it was difficult to decide what inspiration to include,” mentioned Tom. “There are so many beautiful, old book covers, from very simple designs to overly decorative illustrations.

“For Copperfield Gin, we finally chose a very decorative style to capture the many botanicals and flavors of the gin and to reflect the liquid's intricacy and complexity. We also looked to antique books for inspiration on the ‘spine’ of the bottle, where we reference detail such as the embellishments and border work.”

But Nude Brand Creation didn’t want Copperfield London Dry Gin Volume 1 to feel unrelatable to today’s consumer. “The recipe is based on one penned by Ambrose Cooper in his Complete Distiller first published in 1757; however, with a few tweaks to appeal to and excite modern palates,” Tom said. “We took a similar approach with the design. The idea is inspired by historical literature, but there are modern touches to the design.”

The detailed illustration, hand-drawn by Alex Machin, combines a variety of interwoven botanicals used to make the gin—a sort of ingredients list done in a visually stunning way. This is then combined with a strong bookplate to help the name stand out in a lineup of other gins at a bar. An over-seal which looks like a bookmark tops everything off, giving consumers a sense of the high quality and craftsmanship which goes into the spirit.

“We were cautious about making it look old-fashioned,” added Tom, “so elements like the written notes on the reverse of the label add modernity and uniqueness. They are something to discover, only to be found when you turn the bottle around.”

Because modern print processes are built for perfection, they struggled to find the perfect way to give the label a worn, antique look. “We worked with Label Apeel, our chosen printers, to distress the foiling to give the label a worn look, and a matte varnish to dull the colors,” explained Tom. “We tried many different paper samples to get the desired effect and feel.”

The handwritten script on the inner part of the label is key to the design—they’re taken directly from Katherine’s distilling notes. In order to print on both sides, Label Apeel had to first mount the two prints together before applying it to the bottle.

Overall, the project came together seamlessly. Nude Brand Creative truly enjoys partnerships like this, realizing their clients rely on them for their expertise, from branding to picking the right suppliers.

“We love working with startups and entrepreneurs,” Tom gushed. “Often you start with nothing but someone’s vision and idea, and the process is always exciting and creative. Often there can be challenges with time and budget, but when everyone is passionate and pushing for the same end result, these can always be overcome.”


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Theresa entered the world of design through The Dieline. With a background in writing and journalism, she has a passion for discovery and cultivating human connections. Her work for The Dieline is a constant journey to deeply understand all facets of the design process and to investigate what makes designers tick. Theresa's writing has taken her snorkeling in between the tectonic plates in Iceland, horseback riding through a rural Brazilian town, and riding an octopus art car at Burning Man with Susan Sarandon as part of a funeral procession for Timothy Leary (long story). When not writing, she is planning her next trip or taking too many pictures of her cat.

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