Spirit Forward is a series documenting the latest releases in the world of drinks. In this edition, we dive into Chinese New Year edition bottlings that depict the Year of the Dragon, and how you can purchase them.
There’s something about the festive season that brings an air of cheer—along with the need for a stiff drink. It’s no wonder why hard liquors such as whiskies and cognacs do particularly well among the Malaysian Chinese community and become one of the biggest buyers of the market globally. This Chinese New Year is no different, with international spirits brands collaborating with artists to design some of the finest, limited-edition bottles that are perfect for any collection.
Below, we suss out some of the best collaborations and limited Chinese New Year edition alcohol bottles out there and how you can get your hands on them.
Glenfiddich — A Gift For Blossoming Futures
This Lunar New Year, Glenfiddich collaborates with Canada-based Japanese artist Raku Inoue, whose specialty lies in organic materials including flowers, leaves, and flora species. Working on the Glenfiddich core range of the 12, 15, and 18 Year Old as well as the Reserva Rum Cask 21 Year Old pack, Inoue has imbued his signature style with elements of the Year of the Dragon and the Glenfiddich art style. As this year happens to be the year of the Wood Dragon, Inoue took inspiration from the earthy element to create a flora-covered Glenfiddich stag. It is covered with “dragon scales”, which are actually leaves of the forest, created to symbolise an auspicious future in full bloom. Each of the four bottles are individually coloured to distinguish them, so you can always purchase the entire collection to display.
Prices begin at RM323.
Royal Salute — Ignite the New Year
By now, we should all know the story of Royal Salute and its iconic “21 gun salute” for the Queen’s coronation. Do you know what else is in tandem with a gun salute? Fireworks—which is what inspired the Lunar New Year collection, themed “Ignite the New Year”. Decorating the Royal Salute 21 Year Old Whisky box pack is a festive collage of Lunar New Year elements, from fireworks to peony flowers and lantern-shaped hot air balloons, and also pays homage to the brand’s heritage featuring the lion, as well as the Tower of London. Of course, the box is also in a festive red shade. These illustrations are courtesy of Chinese illustrator and visual designer, Yunshu Li, whose accolades include being shortlisted at the World Illustration Awards 2022 and winning first place at the OPPO “Seek for the Next Master” Global Design Award 2021, just to name a few.
Hennessy — Dragon’s Odyssey
This Chinese New Year, Hennessy works with Chinese artist Yang Yongliang to produce not one, but three pieces of art to adorn the Hennessy Paradis, Hennessy X.O, and Hennessy V.S.O.P bottles. And boy, are they decadent. Themed the “Dragon’s Odyssey”, Yang had a vision of the mythical dragon swimming in a sea of gold—quite like the precious cognac from the Hennessy reserves. These designs are inspired by Yang’s previous work, a digital piece also titled “Dragon’s Odyssey”. Each of the three bottles features different interpretations of his work, and all are covetable. In fact, there are only 485 bottles of the Hennessy Paradis available around the world.
To purchase any of the three bottles, head over to Hennessy’s exclusive pop-up at W Kuala Lumpur from 20th January to 18th February 2024. The pop-up also offers an immersive experience (plus plenty of photo opportunities).
Martell Noblige — The Surreal Encounter
What happens when two cultures—the swift and the dragon—meet? You get this beautiful Martell Noblige bottle design for the Lunar New Year, courtesy of fashion artist Vincent Darré. For the uninitiated, Darré spent 20 years in the fashion industry as stylist and artistic director with major brands including Yves Saint Laurent, Prada, Fendi, and more. The illustrations come with their own backstory too: ships filled with cognac are guided on their journey from France by flying swifts and are later welcomed by two dragons upon their arrival in China. The design features red and gold for festive prosperity, alongside the iconic Martell blue.
The Macallan — A Night on Earth – The Journey
Some brands may have decided to go the elemental dragon way when it comes to packaging design this Lunar New Year, but The Macallan opted for something a little less tangible—the emotions surrounding the significance of the reunion dinner. Themed “A Night on Earth – The Journey”, The Macallan roped in Chinese mixed-media artist Nini Sum to create a multi-layered box packaging for the whisky. Every layer has a meaning: the first, an expansive landscape, sees stars and fireworks in the night sky slowly progressing into a daytime scene with mountains and clouds. Open the box and the landscape changes into an urban scene with high-rise buildings, with people visiting family and friends for the Lunar New Year. The final scene features yellow and orange tones, symbolising the warmth of the lantern lights and the feeling of returning home.
The whisky is also a special, limited-edition one for the Lunar New Year. It’s a blend of the brand’s sherry-seasoned European and American oak casks alongside the American ex-bourbon barrels. The flavour profile is significant to the celebration too, with toasted oak aromas reminiscent of Sum’s Chinese New Year memories of rice popcorn vendors in Shanghai, nuttiness that brings to mind the sunflower seeds during family gatherings, and more.