Gin palaces

Two designs present the perfect cocktail for airport retailing of gin

Duty free drink retailing is an fiercely competitive sector and one that’s always looking at innovation. On p99 you can see what Portland has done for some of Diageo’s premium brands. Here we created a fictitious brief centred around gin and gave it to two consultancies – Sheridan & Co and rpa:vision – to see what they would make of it. Big thanks to them.

Sheridan & Co

Gin, especially London gin, deserves a gin palace. So that’s what we have designed, leveraging the history of the spirit and its links to London while educating customers about the unique qualities of the London dry style.

We took inspiration from the gin palaces that were all over London in the 1800s. The lavish interiors, full of mirrors and glass, were designed to stand out in the thickest smog and were full of detail, some of which we’ve used to link our concept to the historical London story.

We formed an illuminated glass wall over a traditional-style backdrop to create a contemporary take on the gin palace. This glass wall is cut through to reveal a striking band of colour and a long brand engagement zone. Historical facts are printed on the glass wall and a large graphic explains the history of London gin and the gin palace.

On the back wall we have created an engagement zone where customers can discover the differences between brands by sampling the fragrance of each gin. Each brand has an area with tasting notes, images of their key botanical ingredients and a porcelain dipping rod.

Customers are invited to read about the unique flavour profile of each brand while sampling the fragrance. The images help prompt the botanical fragrance in each brand. Once customers appreciate the botanicals it’s easy to talk about their unique suitability to cocktails.

The tasting area at the front of the site provides an engaging area for product demonstrations, while take-away cards suggest London bars that offer the perfect gin cocktail.

Bottoms up!

Rpa: vision

Dark copper orange and contrasting charcoal grey are used to create an eye-catching, striking space. The gin production process is referenced with illustrations of the copper stills used for distillation of the spirit and copper is used to highlight and frame the product.

Premium product and visual merchandising pieces are displayed like artworks in individual, illuminated glass display cases. The hand-tooled copper frames of the display cases emphasise the unique nature of each London dry gin with their individual details and quirks. These display cases are interspaced with recessed open shelves to allow for the mass stocking required by airport retail.

The etched glass screen provides a nod to the glazed doors of the gin palaces of old and creates a more intimate bar-like space perfect for product demonstrations. Examples of the botanicals used in London dry gin are preserved under the glass top of the demonstration bar and graphics, reminiscent of 19th-century engravings, on the wall behind the bar describe the qualities each botanical brings to the gin. Open display shelves on the front of the bar highlight the product being demonstrated and serve as sales space when there is no demonstration going on.

Dark, rich colours create a feeling of warmth and the dark backdrop to the illuminated display areas allows the product to sparkle and stand out. Copper channels in the floor and ceiling, combined with copper feature lights, tie the space together visually and create a unified sales area.

Typography reminiscent of London street signs is used to tell the story of London dry gin, its history and its links to the city, as well as recommendations by retailers for the perfect gin for the customer’s needs. The modern feel of the space emphasises that London dry gin is not just a drink with heritage but also a drink for today.


This article was first published in fx Magazine.





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