Enter the archives: Discover how Glenfiddich’s iconic logo and packaging has evolved through the years

23 September 2014

Recognised wherever a bottle of Glenfiddich is being enjoyed, our triangular bottle and iconic stag have long been known across the world as marks of distinction and quality.

However, styles and practices are forever changing and the Glenfiddich brand has evolved to remain fresh while remaining respectful of our heritage.

We caught up with Paul Kendall, our archivist at The Glenfiddich Distillery. It’s Paul’s job to safeguard our family history, ensuring that each generation’s chapter in our family story can be enjoyed by generations yet to come. We asked Paul to tell us a little bit about how the Glenfiddich brand has matured over the years.

GF: How radically has the appearance of Glenfiddich’s branding changed over the years compared to other single malt Scotch whisky brands?

PK: Glenfiddich’s packaging and bottles have changed a great deal over the years, especially compared to some other brands, which have tended to be more conservative. But this is hardly surprising. As the founder of the single malt category, Glenfiddich has always been at the forefront of development and has never been scared to make bold, eye-catching changes.

GF: How is the Grant family involved in decisions about bottles and packaging?

PK: The family has always been at the heart of every decision regarding bottles and packaging – they’re part of a committee that reviews every proposed design and makes the final decision as to which one to adopt. 

GF: The introduction of the triangular bottle to Glenfiddich’s Straight Malt (pictured above) in the sixties was a key milestone in the evolution of the brand. But what are some of the other important features that have changed over time?

PK: Three important features stand out; firstly, the introduction of the stag and secondly the introduction of the first ‘gold foil label’ (from which almost every subsequent Glenfiddich label is derived). These two things happened at the same time, in 1968, in the US market. Thirdly, the introduction of age statements in all markets and on (almost) all Glenfiddich variants from 1998 – the distillery had already produced a fair few expressions with age statements, but the move towards creating an age statement for the signature Glenfiddich represented a significant change in the brand’s ethos.

GF: How did the design and branding process work say 100 years ago, without the aid of modern day technology?

PK: Very simply indeed, the family business was much smaller in those days. Ideas were sketched out by hand on paper, and would then be passed onto printers to be finalised. The uncomplicated labels of that time reflect this simplicity. Only later did formal design by professional design teams become widespread, and with it the more complex labels of modern whisky.

GF: What's the oldest known bottle of Glenfiddich? What did it look like back in William Grant's day?

PK: An example of the earliest Glenfiddich – Fine Old Glenfiddich (pictured below), bottled from c.1903 – 1908 – is owned by a London collector. Obviously it looks very different from a modern Glenfiddich but it is still a very elegant bottle.

GF: When was the iconic triangular bottle introduced? Who designed it? What can you tell us about the design?

PK: The triangular bottle was originally designed for William Grant & Sons in 1956 by Hans Schleger, a world-famous modernist whose work continues to inspire today. The bottle was adopted for use with Glenfiddich Straight Malt for its launch in 1961. The triangular bottle was groundbreaking quite simply because it was the first triangular bottle and very distinctive at the time! It was adopted for one simple reason – it stood out from the crowd in a world of round or square bottles!

GF: How many times has the label changed over the years?

PK: Broadly speaking there have been ten major Glenfiddich label designs since 1903. But over the years there have been numerous minor changes as well as the major ones, so there are innumerable different labels out there. To make things even more complicated, it used to be the case that different countries could have their own labels, such as the American label that had the stag and gold foil design before it was adopted worldwide.

GF: The iconic stag has undergone some changes over the years, too. How has it changed since its introduction in 1968?

PK: While the first stag appeared on American bottles in 1968, the ‘Monarch of the Glen’ stag as it’s known was not introduced worldwide until 1970. Since then it has evolved gradually from label to label but a big change came in 2008 with the switch from a full colour stag to the silhouette that’s used now, instantly recognisable the world over.

GF: What's the story behind the Company Coat of Arms on all the bottles?

PK: There have actually been two Company Coats of Arms. The first unofficial design was created by William Grant in 1903. The second design (pictured below), an official reworking of the original, was granted to the company by the Court of the Lord Lyon, the heraldic authority for Scotland, in 1936. Generally speaking the Coat of Arms is a variant of the Grant Clan Coat of Arms, and clearly celebrates the fact that the Company was founded and by members of Clan Grant, who of course still own and manage the distillery today.

GF: What's the most exciting bottle you've come across in the family archives?

PK: That is a tough question! I get excited about most bottles because they all have a story to tell. However, I still get a thrill from looking at the one example the Archives hold of the original 1991 50 Year Old; not just because these 50 years olds are so rare, so valuable and in my opinion so beautiful, but because it is bottle No. 1. It’s a genuine piece of history.

GF: How do you imagine a bottle of Glenfiddich will look 100 years into the future?

PK: Who knows! Glenfiddich is so notable for its bold innovation in bottle design, the only thing one can know for sure is that it will be very different, and that it will still stand out from its competitors. Oh, and I am quite sure it will still be in a triangular bottle!

Have you got a particularly rare bottle at home? We’d love to hear about it. Join us on Instagram at @GlenfiddichWhisky to see even more bottles. Be sure to tag your photos with #glenfiddich and we’ll share our favourites.