To honour and promote the timeless principles of craft in this part of the world, single malt Scotch whisky brand The Balvenie has launched The Balvenie Connoisseurs of Craft, an initiative to promote craftsmanship in Southeast Asia through the establishment of a conducive ecosystem for creation, apprenticeship, and the advocacy of crafts.
Artisanal craft is seeing a revival around the world; from leatherwork to bespoke jewellery, or glassmaking to metal smithing, the maker movement – a respite from the boringness of today’s largely mass produced products – has taken off in a way that even William Morris, the father of the arts and crafts movement of late 19th century, would never have dreamed possible.
The Balvenie Connoisseurs of Craft puts together a specially curated list of different craftsmen to form The Balvenie Collective, each of whom specialize in a specific craft such as carpentry, printmaking, industrial design, leather crafting, metalwork and shoemaking. Spearheaded by The Balvenie in conjunction with homegrown creative agency GOODSTUPH, craft collective The General Company as well as public relations firm Ketchum, the campaign will also see these talented individuals will also be put in a common space so they can all learn, explore and draw on each other’s strengths to progress in their respective fields.
Such brand association to craftsmanship isn’t new to The Balvenie; in fact its core brand message centres around its five rare crafts – their own homegrown barley, the use of its own malting floor (on of the last of its kind in the Scottish highlands), having their own coppersmiths to maintain their stills, leveraging on the expertise of their coopers to maintain their casks, and the malt master David Stewart’s expertise and experience.
“The Balvenie is a premium handcrafted whisky and they rely heavily on the expertise and experience of their craftsmen to create the very best whisky possible. Craftsmanship is so pivotal to the brand that it is a natural inclination to want to preserve and encourage the growth of it,” shares Eugenia Tan, director of strategy at GOODSTUPH, who helped conceptualise the campaign and make it reality. “Sadly, craft in Southeast Asia has been facing an image issue for decades where people see craftsmanship as an outdated and unrespectable art form; and due to that, master craftsmen are unable to find apprentices to pass on their precious and rare skills to,” she opines.
The Balvenie’s Connoisseurs of Craft shares the same spirit and philosophy with a similar campaign in the United States, where the whisky brand partnered chef, author and raconteur Anthony Bourdain in a series of short films titled Raw Craft featuring makers from around the country.
“Instead of putting our money in yet another marketing campaign, we decided to put it where our mouth is and invest it back into the craft community,” explains Sijie Leaw, regional brand manager at William Grant & Sons (which owns the Balvenie brand). “With the Balvenie Connoisseurs of Craft, we hope to fulfil our mission to preserve the art of handcrafting, restore the value of craftsmanship and encourage its appreciation in Southeast Asia.”
GOODSTUPH’s Tan believes the success of the campaign relies on the right selection of craftsmen, which will be pivotal to building the right community. “We wanted to support craftsmen who needed help to tide through the initial jump between the corporate world and running their own businesses as we knew that this is the biggest pain point for these craftsmen,” she says.
“By championing craftsmen in the region, we hope to drive appreciation for the handcrafted, own the craft conversation and by doing so build an association to The Balvenie’s own craft credentials and grow the brand’s audience,” Leaw concludes.
The craftsmen from The Balvenie Craftsmen Collective will share their knowledge and experience with the public through a series of workshops where members of the public can sign up at subsidised rates. More information can be found at www.connoisseursofcraft.com.