Interview: Sacred Spirits on the Spinach brand book

Sacred Spirits creates some of the world’s most celebrated spirits. The founders of this London boutique distillery, Ian Hart and Hilary Whitney, and their small team work using an innovative vacuum distillation process and produce a range of unique gins, vodkas and whiskies. Recently the team asked Spinach to create ‘Sacred by Nature’, a stylish brand book to tell the company story and its evolution from a small batch microdistillery to a global brand. The London creative agency was also tasked to re-design the company website. We caught up with Hilary to find out more.

Sacred by Nature

How did the story of Sacred come about?

My partner, distiller Ian, and myself started Sacred in 2009. We were among the first of the ‘new wave’ of distillers. In fact, hard though it is to believe now, when we started we had difficulty in persuading potential customers that consumers would be interested in gin – it really wasn’t at all fashionable then! I remember accosting a twenty-something acquaintance to try Sacred and he commented that it was great but ‘who on earth drinks gin these days?’

Sacred by Nature

It must have taken quite a bit of courage to carry on then…

Yes, but we refused to be discouraged and kept on plugging away. For many years, Ian did all the distilling from our house in Highgate, north London. It was around this time last year when we decided that we need more space. We have since acquired additional premises above The Star pub in Highgate, where we also have a small bar.

Sacred by Nature

What prompted the decision to commission and create the ‘Sacred by Nature’ brand book?

We had been completely self-financing the business until then. It was at this point when we decided it was time to seek some external investment. We wanted a piece of communicative literature to distribute to customers and possible investors – one that reflects our brand image, ethos and feel.

What made you decide to work with the creative team at Spinach?

Sacred was featured in the book ‘The Life Negroni’, written by Leigh and Nargess Banks and published by Spinach. This is when we initially came across the London creative agency.  I became very curious about Spinach as it seemed to be involved in several really interesting projects. So, I signed up for the Spinach newsletter and was impressed by the team’s work for other brands. They are very knowledgeable about the importance of a brand’s heritage, and are brilliant at placing whatever that brand happens to be in a wider context of not just drinks and cocktails (although they do that too!), but travel and lifestyle too.

Yours is a unique distillery. The Sacred family of products are produced in a novel way, and the book captures this entrepreneurial spirit, as well as Ian and your passion and personal involvement with the brand. How closely did you work with Spinach in creating the content?

Once we had agreed that Spinach would produce our brand book, the two directors Adam Thomas and Leigh Banks came to visit the new distillery to get a feel for the space, what we do and understand the direction we wanted Sacred to move towards. The creative team then took some initial photographs at our premise, followed by several meetings at the Spinach studio in Hackney to nail down the editorial content and decide which images worked best.

Sacred by NatureThe images and photography work well in highlighting this. What brief did you set for Spinach?

From our point of view there was not a particularly formal brief. Ian and I have always really admired ‘The Life Negroni’ – and not just because it has a section dedicated to Sacred! So, the brief was roughly to create something on similar lines, but with its own character and a broader focus on Sacred.

The brand book was swiftly followed by an intuitive and engaging website, also created in collaboration with Spinach. How was the process managed?

The brand book had already been completed by the time Spinach started working on our website. They therefore had a pretty good understanding as to how we would like the website to look and function. For instance, as well as reflecting the feel of the brand accurately, we wanted to have an online shop that a third party could operate on our behalf, if necessary. We also wanted to be able to add or edit any editorial content ourselves easily. Spinach gave us several visual presentations of what the team thought we were looking for, and we would say ‘no!’ or ‘yes!’ or ‘sort of – but not quite!’ until it all fell into place. It was quite a fun process and Spinach came up with several possibilities we would never have thought of ourselves.

Brand books are a great way for a little self-reflection and seeing future possibilities. What are you most proud of with the project?

The photography is fantastic! And ‘Sacred by Nature’ does a great job of distilling (no pun intended!) the essence of Sacred.

Take a closer look at what we do at Spinach and get in touch.

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