Opinion by Richard Baird Posted 15 May 2020
Atop of Croatia’s Istria peninsula, just where the land slips into the Adriatic sea sits the tiny small-batch gin distillery of Monachus. Stone shores, botanical covered hillsides, the smell of pine and scattered pin cones characterises the landscape. Drawing on this, the natural history of Istria and the name Monachus, borrowed from Monachus Monachus an endangered Mediterranean monk seal, Swedish design studio Bedow created a visual identity and labelling for the distillery.
Monachus is a story of Anja and Luka. Their desire to move closer to the sea, an interest in distilling local fruits and herbs, time spent together forging, distilling and packaging, and a month-long experience at Mitosaya Botanical Distillery in Chiba Prefecture learning from Japanese master distiller Hiroshi Eguchi. It is on this trip the duo acquired an understanding of fermentation and maceration, about distilling and mixing flavours, picking and foraging for edible flowers and herbs, as well as bottling and packaging.
Monachus Monachus is the Latin name for the Mediterranean monk seal. With a population of less than 700 it is a critically endangered species. One individual, a female, lived close to the location of the distillery. With the intention of raising awareness of the plight of the species, Monachus borrowed the name and made the seal a mascot. Bedow have honoured this with a beautifully crafted marque. The seal tumbling in a wave, balancing positive and negative space is a lovely, playful and positive gesture, neatly set within the bounds of a circle and becoming a stamp across labels. The rough edges captures a natural landscape with an the oversized eye bringing in something of an old-world charm.
As with many distillers, the brand becomes mythology, of story and scene setting. Imagery and the words of the Monachuswebsite sets this up well, crafting a compelling story of a new life by the sea, a place of unspoilt natural beauty, a simple existence of forging and distilling, and a trip to Japan to learn their craft. This is beautifully distilled down into the labelling of the bottles through the confluence of material shape, colour and typography.
A pine cone, salt and stone, wind and waves set up a form language that alludes to geography, and weaves in something of a Japanese craft, peacefulness and serenity through shape and space. Typography and colour, a stamp and batch numbers, and the subtlety of a die cut label work together to set a tone and convey a mood which is supported and given richness through words and images online. More work by Bedow on BP&O.