Tempest Bourbon Hits A Lexington Gallery

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By: Casha Doemland

Once up a time, the American government ratified the 18th Amendment, resulting in the ban of liquor by introducing Prohibition in the 1920s. Of course, the exact opposite of what the government hoped for occurred and alcohol consumption— surprise, surprise— did not cease to end. Organized crime merely took over supplying the actual booze with mobsters like Al Capone bootlegging and creating underground clubs while government officials accepted bribes and simply looked the other way.  

To pay homage to this era of gangsters and outlaws, Jason Carne, freelance letterer and graphic designer, created the concept for Tempest.

“Tempest was a self-initiated project for a gallery show in Lexington, Kentucky I was invited to submit to where the theme and name of the show were Outlaws,” says Carne. “This could’ve meant anything from wild west gunslingers to outlaw biker clubs to the mob, but I decided to tailor my project to the bootlegger era of guys like Al Capone and create a fictitious bourbon that might have been served at American speakeasies of the 1920s.”

Even the name itself was a subtle linguistic joke at the expense of the Temperance Movement, which encouraged Americans to reduce the amount of alcohol consumption in the 1800s.

The first step in the developing Tempest was the research, a process that Carne readily admits is much easier to do when working with an established brand or company. Because this project was being produced completely from scratch, the bulk of his research revolved around time, place and aesthetic.

“I began the design process with pencil on paper, making a handful of rough sketches, concept thumbnails and layouts,” states Carne. “Once I nailed a composition I was satisfied with, I refined the sketch into something more polished, then scanned it into the computer to digitize in Adobe Illustrator. Each color was created on its own layer to make easy work for ordering the die, foil and letterpress plates.”

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Written in a modified and ornamented version of Carne's own typeface, Botanist, the label on Tempest is a true one-of-a-kind. By adorning the full design in gold against a navy blue or red background and taking the time to create fine details, this bottle is enough to grab your attention from across the room.

The inspiration for the project derived from Carne's obsession with Victorian-era trade cards and cigar labels which are known to feature gold embellishments. When it came to printing the labels, he brought on Dan Padavic of Vahalla Studios at the suggestion of his agent.

"Dan did some excellent work on these, which was no easy feat with the small details and ultra-tight registration required on this job," adds Carne.

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In actuality, the hyperfine details proved to be the greatest challenge as he often had to zoom into 800% on Adobe Illustrator to ensure everything looked great, both on a large computer screen and when printed on the small labels.

"There was a point where there was actually a lot more detail in these labels, but I had to dial back and adapt to the limitations of the print process I wanted to use,” says Carne.

Nevertheless, he persisted and is proud of the finished product. Not only did he have the opportunity to use his own typeface, but from start to finish, he had full creative control over the design.

While you’ll never have the opportunity to sample Carne’s imaginary whiskey creation, you’re probably better off, as the photographed bottles were filled with watered-down maple syrup and dye. But, Carne assured us, it’s an inexpensive alternative to filling your bottles with the real stuff.

Of course, when it comes to a conceptual design, it’s an unfortunate corner one must cut every now and again.

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