Bringing together whisky and good friends

Peter Arkle – the Man Behind the Name on anCnoc’s New Whisky

Peter Arkle's anCnoc Barrel It’s not every day that you get a limited edition series of whiskies named after you, but this is exactly what happened to Peter Arkle when anCnoc got in touch with him to collaborate on a project for them. In Part 1 I got the inside story from anCnoc as to how the project came about and some information on the anCnoc Peter Arkle 1st Edition. In this part I catch up with Peter and we have a conversation about his beginnings, his design process and what it feels like having a whisky named after yourself.

Do yourself a favour and watch the video below if you haven’t seen it before reading the full interview.

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Did you watch the video? Pretty good isn’t it? It really sparked my interest in the collaboration and was the catalyst to me writing these two posts. Hats off to Foundlight Productions for a great job. Now let’s get on with the interview!

WTF: Please give us a bit of a background on yourself – Peter Arkle – Illustrator Extraordinaire

anCnoc Drawings by Peter Arkle - It's anCnoc Time PA: I grew up in Penicuik( a smallish town ten miles south of Edinburgh in Scotland). When I was 19 I moved to London to go to art school at S. Martin’s School of Art and then, later, at the Royal College of Art. I studied illustration and then, after school, in 1993, began working as a freelance illustrator. At first I had to have other work on the side (as a picture framer, coffee shop worker, bookseller, market researcher, etc, etc).

In 1995 my girlfriend at that time got a job in New York with Amnesty International so I moved to New York with her. We were originally meant to stay for 3 months, that became 6 and then two years and then I got a green card so stayed. Moving to a whole new city was really good for my work – it woke me up and made me extra excited about doing new things. After a few years in New York I was able to support myself with just my illustration work. I met my wife, Amy, in New York (she’s originally from Detroit). anCnoc Drawings by Peter Arkle - Research Notes

anCnoc Drawings by Peter Arkle - Tasting We now live together in the East Village of Manhattan with two cats. I work for all kinds of clients: Lots of quick turn over editorial illustrations for magazines and newspapers, some longer textbook projects, advertising now and again, some work for lawyers, hairdressers (Bumble and bumble) and all sorts of other random people, including the very nice people at anCnoc.

WTF: Do you still have strong Scottish ties/roots?
PA: My wife and I always get back to Scotland to see my family there and for me to have a refresher course in being Scottish at least once a year. We try to go in the summer for weather reasons.

WTF: Whereabouts in New York is home?
PA: Manhattan’s East Village.

anCnoc drawings by Peter Arkle - Bottle Cork

anCnoc Drawings by Peter Arkle - Talking Stag WTF: I believe that you mentioned shortly before landing the job with anCnoc that working on a whisky project would be a dream come true. Did you really say this?
PA: Yes. A couple of months before I was offered the anCnoc job I was talking to some art students and was asked what my dream job would be. I replied that I would love to design a whisky bottle.

WTF: How did the partnership with anCnoc come about?
PA: I am told that it began with Googling of “Scottish artist new York.” My name popped out along with some of my work for Bumble and bumble––probably the holiday gift boxes I did for them a while ago. anCnoc’s branding agency contacted me. I sent them some samples and then we met in Edinburgh (in summer of course). That went well and they then invited me to visit their
Knochdhu distillery.
anCnoc Drawings by Peter Arkle - anCnoc in a Glass

WTF: Is it the first time you’re designing packaging for a company?
PA: I have done drawings for packages for Brooks Running Shoes and Bumble and bumble hair products. This is the first package I have done that has my name embossed on it in shiny letters.

WTF: Do you travel extensively for your work, or do you make use technology (e.g. Skype) for meetings?

anCnoc Drawings by Peter Arkle - Barley PA: Most of the time I am sitting at my desk in Manhattan looking at images of things I have to draw on Google. It’s rare that a client has time or the budget to fly me anywhere. Most of my dealings with clients (even local ones) are done via email or the phone. There are local people that I have worked with for years that I have still never met. However, I do LOVE it when someone can afford to send me somewhere. being in an actual place is always way more inspiring than imagining being in a place.

Time magazine once flew me to Ohio to spend an afternoon watching new voting machines being demonstrated in a supermarket. Moscow’s Snob magazine flew me all the way to Moscow to
hang out and have fun (and write/draw about it) for a week.

WTF: Can you walk us through your process of capturing the essence of the whisky & distillery?
PA: Basically I try to collect as much information as possible: Written notes, doodles and sketches and tons of photos.

WTF: I really appreciated two comments you made in the video: 1. When talking about how you work you stated that it was “an evolving, rambling process” – does this sum up your design process? How does that gel with working to a spec?

PA: My work really is an “evolving rambling process.” It’s just that sometimes for some jobs this evolution has to happen really quickly.

Sometimes in less than an hour for some editorial jobs. I usually have start with some kind of basic idea and try to get that done first but often that will lead to another simpler or cleverer idea. There is no real science to this.

anCnoc Drawings by Peter Arkle - Sketchbook

Sometimes I am in the middle of scanning one drawing when I look at it with new eyes and decide on doing a totally new drawing. One drawing tends to lead to another – how quickly and how many times that can happen depends on the budget and time constraints of a particular assignment. Art directors often tell me that they need to have a finished drawing really quickly and then say “…but I want you to have fun.” So, I have learned lots of ways of having fun very quickly.

WTF: And 2. You also said that “try to look at things from a different angle” – this definitely comes across in some of your more whimsical drawings/concepts – the “wellies with tails”, “anCnoc rat” and “ageing diary”. You really seem to have had fun with it. Does this apply to all the projects you work on?

anCnoc Drawings by Peter Arkle - Dunnage Warehouse PA: I work for clients who work in a wide range of ways. Some tell me exactly what they want me to draw and others give me total free range to do whatever as long as it’s interesting. I between those extremes there are lots of different ways of working. I’m glad that I don’t have to work in the same way all the time. Sometimes when I’m tired (remember I basically draw all day five days a week) it can be great to just have to draw and not think so much – for example I am asked to draw some portraits from photos so all I have to do is to make sure my drawings look like the people.

WTF: What kind of brief did anCnoc give you?
PA: AnCnoc gave me a fairly open brief – the only thing was that whatever I did had to be about anCnoc and had to fit on their bottle and cardboard tube.

WTF: And were you given free reign with regards to the end product?
PA: Yes. But I sent them lots of ideas so they had plenty of things to choose from.

WTF: In the video, you stencilled your name on a cask in the stencilling room. Is that going to be filled with whisky for you? 🙂
PA: Ha! I wish it would be. I keep asking them about that but have no definite answer yet. I would love to visit the distillery in 12 or 16 years and find a cask of whisky sitting there for me. Wow, I would be 60 years old then! Eek!!
anCnoc Drawings by Peter Arkle - anCnoc Cask

WTF: Have you tasted the whisky named after yourself – the Peter Arkle 1st Edition? How would you describe it?

anCnoc Drawings by Peter Arkle - Bottoms Up PA: Yes. I have very much enjoyed tasting the whisky that my name is on. Good thing too eh? I actually really like the regular anCnoc (12 and 16 year old) bottlings. They have a lovely complex flavour. I do not have the ability to name different notes like a professional whisky taster
– just to say that I love all that complexity. I can then describe the 1st edition whisky as being like that but even deeper and even more complex.
One word: “Magic”

WTF: How does it compare to the other whiskies in the anCnoc range?
PA: So interesting that you must taste it but not so interesting that you will not also want to taste the full range of anCnoc whiskies.
But when tasting any of them think of the complicated things that have happened to make that whisky. Think of the time it’s been sitting in a dark warehouse. Think of the distillery working all day all night, all year… and smile.
anCnoc Drawings by Peter Arkle - anCnoc Samples

WTF: Can you tell us more about future the Peter Arkle releases?
PA: There will be a 2nd global release (with another of my drawings on it) in late August/early September of this year as well as a travel retail pack which will be launched in October of this year. This will include a travel-themed drawing by me. As for 2013… who knows!?

WTF: And what about release dates & markets?

anCnoc Drawings by Peter Arkle - Stillhouse PA: Due to complex alcohol regulations in Sweden that I don’t really understand they were only allowed to alter the package in Sweden but not the liquid inside. So in Sweden you can only get a limited edition packaging of the regular 12 year old anCnoc. It’s a reversed and simplified version of the 1st edition ingredients drawing – printed on sliver on a black background. Very simple and graphic. Very Swedish.

WTF: Did/do you get to enjoy a dram on your rooftop looking out over the city?
PA: It’s been too cold for rooftop sitting and drinking since I got the 1st edition but soon I’ll get to do that. For the moment I am happy to be sitting at my desk sipping and answering these questions. All interviews should be fuelled by really good single malt whisky.
anCnoc Drawings by Peter Arkle - Pipes. Lots of Pipes

WTF: Finally, what was your most memorable experience of the project, albeit working at home, or over in Scotland.

anCnoc Drawings by Peter Arkle - Draw, Drink & Pose PA: The launch party in Glasgow was really good fun. All the lovely people I worked with on this project were there and I got to see the film (made by Alan Stockdale of Foundlight) about the project for the first time. It is so well shot and he did such a nice editing job, cutting out all my rambling and making it look like I just say clever things. And my mum was there too. It was a great ending (or was it just the beginning?) of a great project!

A huge thank you to Peter for indulging my curiosity and finding time in his schedule to share his story with me and for the sketches from his anCnoc sketchbook – the very drawings he made while at the distillery.

I find it fascinating that a Google search can lead to you having your name appear on a bottle of whisky – I can’t wait for a distillery to approach me for a Whisky Tasting Fellowship bottling! 😉


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