Highland Park 50 Year Bottle and original sketch. Whisky is a jewel - where whisky and luxury design meet

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For the first time since 2018, Whisky Auctioneer is delighted to offer the inaugural Highland Park 50 Year Old for auction. This bottle, one of only 275, is the result of an exceptional collaboration between Highland Park and the artist Maeve Gillies, with each bottle hand-made with unique finishes. The lot also includes an exclusive original bottle design sketch, signed by the artist. We spoke with the artist to uncover how the worlds of art and whisky can meet, and the secrets behind luxury whisky design. 

 

Highland Park

Highland Park is one of the most recognisable single malts in the world, with a cult following and popularity that has never diminished. Based in Orkney, the distillery has over 200 years of experience in creating whisky amongst the wild landscape of the island. For their inaugural 50 Year bottling in 2010, the distillery commissioned artist Maeve Gillies to create an artistic representation of their whisky and Orcadian home.

 

Maeve Gillies

Maeve Gillies is a US-based artist, jeweller, designer and entrepreneur from Scotland. Coming from a family deeply engaged with Scotland’s arts, politics and culture, Maeve’s New York MaeVona brand of engagement rings have Scotland at their heart. As well as winning America’s most prestigious design award, the brand has become the most prolific Scottish-themed luxury jewellery in the U.S.

I love to use Design to tell stories, weaving the past into the future. My artistic inspiration comes from Scotland and my Celtic heritage, set in the global context of world travel.

Maeve Gillies

 

Maeve & Whisky

While the Highland Park 50 Year Old was Maeve’s first whisky bottle design, her passion for Scotch whisky stretches back much further. Having tasted it for the first time upon completion of her first Munro at the age of 8, Maeve considers whisky to be a great match for the Scottish landscape. She went on to use it in her professional life in the U.S., featuring tasting in jewellery shows to give foreign audiences an impression of Scotland through taste.

I’ve done whisky tastings combined with jewellery shows all across the US for my retail partners over the last 15 years. I love sharing special drams and their stories – there’s no better way to be far from home and best describe the place and landscape my rings were inspired by.

Maeve Gillies

Maeve’s contact with Highland Park started when she gave a talk for the Marketing Society of Scotland, where she met representatives from Edrington, the owners of Highland Park. After discussing her love for Orkney and Highland Park, she was asked to create a design for them.

I have loved Orkney since childhood holidays, and wanted to try to convey what was so special about the island - what makes Highland Park so unique. I had complete free design reign, but realised this 50yo was very special to everyone at the Distillery - their most important, oldest ever launch, which could help elevate their brand to a whole new level.

Maeve Gillies

Orcadian Inspiration

The Orcadian landscape and Scottish-Nordic history of the islands are integral to both Highland Park’s whiskies and Maeve’s bottle design. During the design process of Highland Park's first 50 Year Old release, Maeve thought back to childhood holidays in Orkney and explored the island and the area around the distillery. The natural, elemental style of design portrays the wild side of the island and the ubiquitous presence of the coast, with flowing lines of metal work reminiscent of flowing water or seaweed on the shore. Rather than standing alone, the 50 years mark is incorporated into the metal work, retaining the elegant style of the bottle.

I considered what was the best way I could help summarise the wild beauty of Orkney to someone who never had the chance to experience its light, its brilliance, its magic and history. I wanted to make a bottle that looked like it had been discovered washed up from the sea on the shore, wrapped in silver seaweed and tangled in ropes like a magical found jewel.

Maeve Gillies

The signed sketch shows the bottle as a part of Orkney’s landscape, rooted to the ground and standing proudly among Orkney’s famous standing stones. Although nature is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Orkney, the architecture of the island also contributed to the design. Impressive Norse-built St Magnus Cathedral was a source of inspiration for Maeve; the building was constructed with characteristic Orcadian pink sandstone, which is included in the design as a disc at the very centre, engraved with the Highland Park logo. 

I wanted to include some facet of Orcadian earth that was as powerful as the whisky. I’ve often used native stone within my work to communicate the ultimate sense of place and time. With the St Magnus Cathedral stonemason who had maintained the building for over 30 years, we gathered discs of the pink sandstone from the same quarry that the cathedral is built from.

Maeve Gillies

 

With Love from Orkney

Ultimately, Maeve’s work with precious stones and whisky are less different than you might expect. She describes whisky as a jewel, deserving a design reflecting its value and heritage. This bottle is a truly special marriage of two masters in their respective fields, with Maeve’s design and Highland Park’s whisky, harmonised in cask for 50 years, making it an ultimate collector’s item for Scotch whisky connoisseurs and art lovers alike. Deservedly, the bottle design won World’s Best Design and Best Limited Edition at the 2012 World Whiskies Awards in London. Together with the sketch, with love from Orkney, this unique auction lot offers an exclusive opportunity to own a piece of whisky design history.

I believe all these materials and their treatment helped make this bottle and its contents become such a success, and one of the most precious things I’ve ever made.

Maeve Gillies

 

Follow Maeve’s work with jewellery, whisky and more here:

www.maevona.com / @maevona for Engagement Rings

www.maevegillies.com / @maevegillies for Jewellery Design

www.seudlann.com for New Whisky Projects