When London-based designer-maker Gareth Neal was commissioned to create “the ultimate dram chair” for The Glenlivet distillery, he turned his attention to synergies between his own work and the artisan creation of The Glenlivet Nàdurra, a single-malt whisky crafted in small batches using 19th-century production methods: “Natural materials, hand-crafting and a beautiful simplicity lie at the heart of what we do.”
Neal travelled to Speyside to experience first hand the production of Nàdurra (meaning “natural” in Gaelic), including the new Nàdurra Oloroso, the first bottling in living memory to be matured solely in ex-sherry casks at The Glenlivet distillery. “The location was incredible and I was also inspired by the oak casks and the way tannins in the oak flavour the whisky,” he says.
His chic, contemporary Dram chair perfectly reflects the character and the materials involved in the production of this connoisseur Scotch whisky: American white oak was chosen for the chair frame and Aberdeen Angus leather selected for the sling seat. Neal turned to the last tannery in England using natural oak-bark dyes to colour-match the sling seat with the whisky’s golden glow, while the chair’s oversized arms are sufficiently wide to hold a whisky glass. Meanwhile, the distillery’s copper stills inspired the tiny copper rivets fastening the sling to the frame. “Over time the leather will take on the shape of the sitter and will age peacefully and gracefully,” says Neal of this heirloom piece.
“I wanted the chair to be pure, light and delicate to reflect the nature of the whisky,” he adds. “Enjoying a dram is a moment of escapism and I wanted the chair to take you, metaphorically, to a place of nature and relaxation – perhaps sitting dreamily by a river watching salmon leap.”
The chairs (£6,200 each) will be individually handmade to order at Neal’s studio using turned components, dowel and tenon joints, hand-finished leather and rivets. Collectors can choose whether to have tiny copper details (where their dram will nestle) on the right or left arm and each chair will be etched and numbered.
A prototype will be on display from Tuesday October 14 to Wednesday December 24 at The New Craftsmen, an organisation that represents and sells the work of Britain’s finest craftmakers and also arranges bespoke commissions. The Dram chair will then take up residence at The Glenlivet distillery in Scotland, remaining on public view.