In Food + Drink

Collectable Artist-Alcohol Collaborations You Should Know About

Premium spirits and champagne houses have always gravitated towards leading artists and influences, and your liquor shelf.

Two of life’s greatest pleasures – good liquor and beautiful art – have long enjoyed a collaborative relationship, to the benefit of our liquor displays. Drinkable art does double duty as both curio and cocktail fodder.

Many bottles can be striking to start with, but artists ranging from the iconic (Andy Warhol for Absolut Vodka) to the controversial (Jeff Koons for Dom Perignon) have taken paintbrush to bottle with beautiful results.

Cognac Hennessy X.O’s recently collaborated with Sydney designer Marc Newson to reimagine the classic glass decanter. Newson – who has featured on Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People In The World list and was made Commander of the British Empire by decree of the queen – kept the fundamental shape of the bottle, but replaced the signature grape and leaf design with striking straight lines.

Sydney designer Marc Newson with his limited edition Hennessy X.O bottle. Photo: Hennessy

“Straight lines seemed to me a more modern interpretation of what already existed,” Newson says.

“To me, the stripes really emphasise the strength of the decanter’s shape. When they catch the light, they highlight both the bottle and the contents, making the whole feel warmer and more tactile. Taken together, all of these design elements are meant to convey the unique, immersive experience of X.O.”

Graffiti artist JonOne’s design for Hennessy V.S. Photo: Cognac Expert

The clean cut, timeless design is completely different to the Hennessy V.S collaboration series with graffiti artists such as Shepard Fairey. JonOne is the latest artist to make over the bottle, injecting a big dose of colour and urban pop culture.

Closer to home, Rosebery based Archie Rose Distilling Co’s seasonal series with tattoo artist Horisumi (Kian Forreal) works backwards, to be led by the artist rather than vice versa. Horisumi applies his expertise in traditional Japanese tattooing techniques to sketch out label designs, which then inspires the flavour profile of the gin.

The Horisumi winter gin bottle. Photo: Archie Rose

For the winter release, a falcon perched on pine branches in front of a full moon inspired the distillery to create notes of sencha and genmaicha, with fuji apples and seaweed, in place of the distillery’s native botanicals and juniper-led signature dry gin.

Melbourne’s Starward Whisky saw commissioning an artist to create a label as a chance to capture customers outside of the typical scotch drinker. The bold, gold star constellation design especially appeals to females and young creative, says Starward’s Hannah Bambra.

“We don’t think that the modern whisky drinker fits the narrative that people assume, so we wanted a design that doesn’t just appeal to that old world, old white man whisky drinker,” she says.

The original Starward Whisky label designed by Che Douglas. Photo: Supplied

Designed by Melbourne artist Che Walker, the bottle illustrates the “new world” whisky status of Starward, incorporating a boot design as a nod to founder David Vitale’s Italian heritage.

“There isn’t any cursive writing, it doesn’t pretend to be old or be Scottish in heritage, and it has gold foil and beautiful illustrations,” Bambra says.

“I’m passionate about getting young people and females, who have previously been left out of the conversation, to drink whisky. The Starward label is obviously a whisky but it isn’t afraid to be different. As a result, a lot of our drinkers have found us, rather than the other way around.”

One of Andy Warhol’s many designs for Absolut. Photo: Absolut/Pinterest

Perhaps one of most famous artist-alcohol partnerships is that of Andy Warhol and Absolut Vodka. The vodka launched in America in 1979, and Warhol’s first design premiered in 1986, adding instant gravitas to the brand in both artistic and prestige markets.

Piper-Heidsieck cemented their reputation as the go-to champagne for the fashion pack with limited edition commissions by Jean Paul Gaultier. The French haute couture designer sexed up the red label in two looks; a black corseted-red vinyl case, and a black Eyes Wide Shut-inspired fishnet eye mask number.

Campari’s vintage advertising prints have experienced as revival as modern-day art pieces in both bars and homes. The aperitif’s Art Label Collection reworks the prints into contemporary special edition bottles worthy of space on any shelf. For 2012, Italian artist Ugo Nespolo took inspiration from Leonetto Cappiello’s Spiritello print from 1921. Late Italian artist Fortunato Depero’s original works inspired the 2014 and 2015 designs, based on one of his 1928 graphic design sketches, and an sketch of Campari’s pavilion International Exposition in 1933 respectively.

Jeff Koon’s with the Balloon Venus created to house Dom Perignon’s rose champagne. Photo: Stéphane Cardinale/LVMH

For true art lovers, it’s hard to look past Jeff Koon’s legendary collaboration with Dom Perignon. Koon’s Balloon Venus, a balloon-shaped chromium stainless steel sculpture piece, was based on an Austrian artefact dating back to 23,000BC. He created five smaller 127cm high versions of the original, cast in transparent coatings.

Dom Perignon’s chef de cave, Richard Geoffroy worked with Koon’s to meld the magenta and red versions into a limited edition Balloon Venus case for the champagne house’s 2003 rose vintage, which later inspired an entire exhibition based on the collaboration. The limited edition cases sold for upwards of $26,000 and even after the last drop of champagne is drunk, remain a truly beautiful piece of art for your mantle.

(Lead image: Archie Rose’s Horisumi winter gin bottle/Archie Rose Distilling Co)

Published 12 July, 2017