Steel Bonnets – Blended Malt Whisky

Derrick Lin


Design: Hedley Mcewan
Creative: Philip Tait
Project Type: Produced, Commercial Work
Client: The Lakes Distillery
Location: Newcastle, UK
Packaging Contents: Whisky
Packaging Substrate / Materials: Glass Bottle and Steel Tin
Printing Process: CMYK, Varnish, High Build, Foil, Glass Forming

The home of the Lakes Distillery is the Lake District National Park and World Heritage site in Cumbria. As Cumbria borders with Scotland, the idea began to form of creating a cross-border blend; a marriage of fine English and Scotch single malt whiskies. What was an original idea would indeed become a world first.

From the outset, we wished to create a brand and packaging design that reflected the rugged nature and toughness of the ’Steel Bonnets’ but also had a simple beauty and understated modernity.

The bottle itself is bespoke, a brand so unique had to have its own original bottle. An iconic image of a Border Reiver on his rearing Hobelar horse, wearing light armour and Morion helmet, with his ‘lang spear’ poised and ready to charge, is moulded in relief into the glass of the square shouldered bottle. This refracts ambient light, creating moving shadows and highlights that literally bring the horse and its rider to life.

The branding of ‘Steel Bonnets’ features this self same ‘lang spear’ which has been incorporated into the design to create a recognisable logo. The logo and associated labelling is deployed using a reflective steel-coloured foil.

Your bottle of ’Steel Bonnets’ whisky comes in a beautiful ‘steel case’, with embossed details and delicate patternation to represent the engraving commonly found on ‘Brigardine’ light armour of the period.

The pack is completed with a small yet highly informative document in black with reversed text. This sits beautifully in the black ‘flocked’ interior of the steel tin. The leaflet contains a concise history of the Border Reivers and the ’Steel Bonnets’ brand story.

What’s Unique?
With a brand so unashamedly focused on the past, it may be difficult to recognise innovation within its make-up, but if you look closely you will surely see innovation as clearly as we do.

The times in which we live are becoming ever more centred upon ’experience’ rather than mere possession. We believe our ’Steel Bonnets’ brand provides such experience, not just a bottle of whisky. There is a deeper meaning to ’Steel Bonnets’, it has soul. We feel that the innovation present in ‘Steel Bonnets’ is the concept itself. It is the concept that keeps it in tune with the times.

A whisky ‘blend’ is often merely a journey of discovery in taste and in the balancing of flavours.

Steel Bonnets is this, but more.

It is a blend of nations. A blend of the finest English and Scotch single malt whiskies. This is in itself innovative, as a blend of the two has never been done before.

Until fairly recently there would have been no opportunity, as there were no English distilleries. Now that there are a small number of English distilleries producing whisky, you would have to ask, ‘why would you? What would be the point of a blend with Scotch?

The Border Reivers give us our point, our reason to be. Four hundreds years of inter-fighting but also intermarriage. A cross-border blend of family, community and nation. ‘Steel Bonnets’ is literally the embodiment of a blend, making it truly unique and therefore, truly innovative.