On a damp October evening in Glasgow, we're escorted down a a misty lane to a stately manor house. Our host, Lord Von Hendrick, is a jolly geezer. Big sideburns match a boisterous attitude and mirror his Spanish wife's larger-than-life personality. Their home is staffed by a motley assortment of butlers and bumbling old military folks. The aura is, decidedly, a little odd.
The evening ends with spoons of ether.
Bompass & Parr, culinary alchemists with a taste for historic recreation, provide the food… the menu draws from a 1912 dinner at London's Savoy Hotel and includes a sumptuous assortment of eel pies and the duos signature jellies. The evening ends with spoons of ether. (Yes, they've served an almost forgotten 19th-century drug).
A truly usual night.
Unless, you are guests of Hendrick's Gin. Distilled near the famed Turnberry Golf Course, Hendrick's is a peculiar small batch gin infused with rose and cucumber. The spirits that form the finished product come from two distinct stills, the Bennet Still and the Carter-Head Still, accounting for an unusual smoothness and imbuing a historical note (the stills date back to 1860 and 1948 respectively) to this still young brand.
Hendrick's was launched in 1999, the child of a master Whiskey distiller, and trades on a glorious mix of the bizarre. Drawing from 19th-century curiosities and a unique twist on steam punk, Hendrick's is about finding fun in the unusual.
“We create experiences that truly highlight the spirit of Hendrick’s Gin, embracing our unusual process and the tremendously peculiar characters it takes to get from botanicals to that delicious cocktail in your hand," says Dave Welty, Hendrick's Gin Commander Of Special Operations, explaining it all, "Our desire to interrupt the ordinary and celebrate our brilliantly unusual world is something that we believe should be reflected in everything we do.”.
Dave Welty studied history at The Ohio State University. Eventually he landed in New York City, finding (fittingly) a peculiar way to invest his peculiar interests. As Hendrick's Gin Commander of Special Operations, Welty brings to life the brand experience in through a range of weird and wonderful special events. Among them, the famous Enchanted Forrest.
Complex spoke to Welty to learn more about life as a Special Commander and designing the Hendrick's experience.
You are Gin Commander of Special Operations, a lofty title. How would you describe your role and what you do?
How did you begin working with Hendrick's?
About 4 years ago, I was hired to design and execute the Hendricks “Boneshaker Bar” at Newport
My official role as Gin Commander of Special Operations, ties into my lifestyle as well as the levels of creativity that come with pushing boundaries and creating delightfully disruptive programming.
Boat Show —and I’ve been working on this impossibly wonderful gin, joyfully spreading it’s unusualness ever since. Obviously, it was love at first site —and taste, as I naturally developed a strong connection to Hendricks’ distinct sensibilities.
The brand has some unique quirks. How do you move from these cues to decide on what experiences best express the identity of the gin itself and the underlying story?
Our peculiar and unusual tendencies commence at the beginning of our magical gin making process. Our crafty master distiller Leslie Gracie (with long flowing grey hair almost 11 cucumbers long!) has perfected the Hendricks secret recipe and process, so from the first bottle, we knew it was never going to be just any gin.
We’ve always believed that the deep inside our dark mystical apothecary bottle there is a brilliantly peculiar world trapped inside. That’s the exact experience we try to recreate with every event, experience, interaction a friend or fan has with the brand. It’s like they’ve walked into a parallel universe or they’ve just bumped into someone from that parallel universe, and they get such a uniquely memorable experience during that brief interaction it’s impossible for them to walk away without a certain bemused fascination – or at least ask walk away asking themselves what the hell just happened?
What are some challenges in creating brand environments?
The challenge we face as being a curator of curiosities is creating an environment that isn’t for everyone but is for everyone all at the same time. We make no excuse for the oddities, foibles and follies that we indulge in. Although a shovel player may not be for everyone, we know that people enjoy that we innovated that concept and respect that we never shy away from what we really enjoy —all while encouraging them in to partake!
Hendrick's has a terrific sense of history, but also a grand sense of fun. There is some absurdity in the aesthetic, not revisionist but a quirky view of what I might call neo-Edwardian with a steam punk lens. Would you agree?
Yes, that’s part of it! But not all of it. Hendrick’s is timeless and placeless —a little bit of everything. And, although we revel in its aesthetic, peculiarities exist in many forms, fashions and centuries. Especially, this year… keep your eyes peeled as you will be surprised and delighted by the places we go and the people we meet as we explore this wonderfully odd world of ours!
Tell me a little about sourcing materials for the installations? How do you find props, etc? How do identify the write people to help realize the installations?
When looking to host a most unusual experience one must look for the most unusual talent to help bring to life our most peculiar little gin. As far as sourcing, we work will brilliant designers, wood workers, graffiti artists, and cultivators of the slightly bizarre to build out and actualize these grandly wonderful worlds we have imagined for ourselves. Other times, it’s me going to Obsura Oddities and Antiques to pick up a taxidermy squirrel or prosthetic leg from the turn of the century. The greatest part of it all is it never comes from one place. For a truly original experience, you must find originals to create something truly special!
The Kentucky Derby is coming up this weekend, what do you have planned as you bring Hendrick's to Louisville?
Imbibing some Tipple Crown Punch with Kentucky Derby go-ers and joining in on the glorious celebration! In case you aren’t able to swing by to chat about horses, sideburns and gin at the races, here’s a wondrous —and sure to be popular— party guest to invite to your derby viewing.
Tipple Crown Punch
Hendrick’s Gin, Lillet Rose, fresh strawberries, fresh lemon juice, St. Germain, Peychaud’s Bitters, sparkling water.
3parts Hendrick’s Gin
2parts Lillet Rose
2parts chilled water
1part fresh lemon juice
1part strawberry puree
1part St. Germain
2dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Top with sparkling water to taste
*Garnish punch with large ice block, lemon wheels, quartered strawberries, and fresh rose petals.
*Garnish each serve with 1 fresh rose petal and mist of rose water.