Kamm & Sons Ginseng Spirit is a unique product. Sitting somewhere between Campari and Gin, but with it’s own delicious finish redolent of grapefruit and honey, it is a completely new kind of drink that sits in it’s own category. To paraphrase Kanye: When it came in the game/It made it’s own lane.
The distiller, Alex Kammerling, has been involved with Tinder and Sparks since the beginning – full nepotistic disclosure here: He’s my brother. But the process we went through to get to the final brand and label was the same as we’d go through for any client, if not more intense as a result of the close relationship, and we felt it was worth telling the story here. It is worth nothing that for legal reasons the name had to be changed from Kammerling's to Kamm & Sons.
Alex’s professional background has always been in the drinks trade, including stints as a master barman, bar reviewer, and as ambassador for Grey Goose vodka. Being something of an alchemist at heart, he has always had a yearning to create a drink of his own. For years now his fridge has been full of small vials and bottles with arcane labels on describing various mixes of ingredients. When he got a stage where the spirit was good enough and stable enough to be commercially viable, he approached us to discuss the brand.
The target market was, as described in the brief:
25-40. Professional, moderate wine and spirit drinking, restaurant-going consumer. Occasionally buys organic, goes to the gym, looks after themselves. Aware of what they consume.
Two styles of brand were teased out of this brief.
- The Healthy Option. The drink itself is very clean and contains a heady brew of 45 botanicals and herbs including ginseng, ginko biloba and manuka honey, all of which are said to have health-giving properties. The first label reflected this by being pure white with clean, openly spaced typography and a sharp red accent colour. This was to attract the health-conscious consumers so they felt happy that what they were drinking was light (the ABV percentage is lower than most spirits) and invigorating. This route was pursued for some time but it became clear that while it may have been appropriate, it could also be seen to be faddish which led us to the second route to be explored.
- The Medicinal Option. Because of the numerous herbs and spices in Kamm and Sons that give it its complex finish, the taste is reminiscent of Victorian apothecary-style tinctures, and we felt this was a direction worth heading in. While no one is kidding anyone that drinking alcohol is a healthy pursuit, the style of this route gave a knowing nod to those times when products and advertising made wild and unqualified claims for the medicinal nature of their various compounds and potions. This route lends itself to a particular visual language and we spent a lot of time researching the styles of the time. These include wood-cut or hand-lettered type, combined with ornate flourishes and curlicues which gave the period a very distinctive aesthetic. You can see here some of the early sketches for Kamm & Sons which applied this style.
Of course, if we were going to pursue this route there was only going to be one colour of bottle: brown. With this in mind, we tested various accent colours to stand out against the glass, and a deep yellow was found to be both vibrant and modern. As you can see at this stage we were still experimenting with heavily ornate flourishes to give a sense of the botanical nature of the drink and a tip of the hat to Victorian advertising. It was felt this was rather too much for a modern label and so Alex – a keen artist himself – drew a number of sketches depicting some of the roots and plants that went into Kamm and Sons.
For typefaces we went a long way with wood-type and copperplate styles until it was agreed that we should use something a bit more up to date: Milo Extra Bold. This was clean and modern but with a nice idiosyncratic flick on the tail of the K and the R. We then modified the typeface with the cut down the middle to give it an open-face feel – a modern style with a foot in to the past – much like Kamm and Sons.
A pattern was created for use on the label and on the various media that would be a part of the brand identity. This went inside the yellow ribbon in the centre to give it some texture. But upon testing, this pattern wasn’t showing enough in the printing process, and to bring it out more would have jarred with the design and so this was also removed. However the pattern still lives a very fruitful life on the Kamm & Sons website.
As you can see the whole labelling design was an exercise in turning complexity to simplicity in the spirit of Antoine de St. Exupery words: "Perfection, then, is finally achieved, not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
As a final touch, Alex wanted a crest as part of his brand, the solution for this was staring him in the face. Several years previously, the idea for developing Kamm & Sons came to him while he was travelling with his daughter around India. While there he added extra stress to his trip by lugging around a beautiful hand-crafted cow’s heads that he had fallen in love with. This was mounted in pride of place on his wall and it was this that gave him the inspiration for the crest. Alex drew the head, and we vectorised it, simplified it and placed it on top the central ribbon to create the full label.
From the outset, the challenge of developing the Kamm & Sons brand was putting Alex’s vision onto the page. As one would expect when working with a brother there was an intensity to the relationship which made the process something of a tussle aswell as being hugely enjoyable. Alex had many ideas for the look-and-feel and our job was to channel these into a brand that people could connect with. Hopefully we did that and created something that is both appropriate and beautiful.
At the time that this post was published, Kamm & Sons is available to buy from Selfridges and Gerry's on Old Compton Street, and can be sampled in, among other places, Claridges, 69 Colebrook Row and the Savoy. I you would like to purchase a bottle – and why wouldn't you? – you can buy it from here.