Heritage, innovation, changing perceptions. Glenfiddich X Gucci Giardino

Ross with Sarah & Paolo from Gucci Giardino

Story by Glenfiddich Brand Ambassador, Ross Blainey. Follow him at @ross_blainey

I might have been just a little bit excited when I spoke to Sarah and Paolo about working with Gucci Giardino for Maybe Fest. Ok, well, maybe more than a little. Over the last few years, I’ve jumped into the fashion world with Glenfiddich, and I have learned a lot! But Gucci caught my attention more than others. The heritage, the craftsmanship, the creative direction over the years and how they have continually changed perceptions and pushed boundaries in the world of fashion and culture. It made me realise how many similarities there are with Glenfiddich and our history of creativity but also how these things can relate to bartending and everyday life. The three things it comes down to – heritage, innovation and changing perceptions.

Heritage is what we inherit from those who came before us. The knowledge, the passion, the experience, the craftsmanship. At Glenfiddich, we have 137 years of whisky-making experience. Since 1887 when William Grant had a dream of making “the best dram in the valley”. We have the 5th generation of the same family running the business and 100s of people who have spent their lives dedicated to honing their craft using the finest ingredients before passing it on to the next. We hold this very dear to us and continue to learn from those before us.

“I see Gucci as probably the most innovative fashion brand over the years. They are not scared to step out and be different. They keep the best quality but move in new directions, leading from the front and building style into culture.”

Guccio Gucci opened his store in Florence in 1921. Starting from an idea and a dream to make the most impeccable luggage after being inspired while working at The Savoy in London. Gucci has grown using the best craftspeople and the very finest of materials. Creative directors who have changed the world of style and fashion lining up for their successors to move in new directions, from Tom Ford to Frida Giannini to Alessandro Michele to the current Sabato De Sarno, have all changed the world of fashion and created a platform for their successor. Heritage that Gucci Giardino can tap into.
In bartending we have a global heritage which is more readily available than ever. In April we had 16 of the world’s best bars here to share their experience, and Salvatore “the Maestro” Calabrese and Julio Bermejo shared stories. We have such incredible knowledge at our fingertips, whether from books, online or when it’s right there in Sydney, thanks to Maybe Cocktail Festival! Learning what’s been made before us gives us a boost. Try looking at the “potato head technique” from Sam, Haley, and Mickey at Attaboy. It will give you loads to play with while learning bar heritage.

Innovation is taking what has been left for us and working out how we can make it better. In my head, it’s always, “Yeah, but what’s even more crazy than that?” How do we make changes so that we have something new to pass on to our successors?

At Glenfiddich, our heritage has been shaped by innovation. From the creation of the single malt category back in the early 60s to opening the first distillery visitor centre (both of which everyone else thought was mad!), releasing the first ever rum-finish whisky back in 2001 (Glenfiddich 21 Gran Reserva), and our most recent Awamori cask finish (Grand Yozakura 29), innovation is what we’re built on. It’s a value at the core of Glenfiddich and always has been.

I see Gucci as probably the most innovative fashion brand over the years. They are not scared to step out and be different. They keep the best quality but move in new directions, leading from the front and building style into culture. From the iconic Gucci loafer and the “Jackie” bag to huge changes in global style from Tom Ford or ground-breaking collabs, Gucci has a history of innovation that the Gucci Giardino team can be inspired by.

In bars, innovation is rife right now! Techniques and technology are better and more available than ever before. We have switching, clarifying, infusing, rotovap, carbonation rigs and other precision creation techniques. Look out for leaders in this area Like Minded Creatures (Matt Whiley, Luke Whearty and Alex Kratena) or Panda & Sons leading the way. Keep finding ways to innovate. It keeps our industry fresh, and it will put a smile on your face while you succeed.

Changing perceptions means we can surprise people and make a memorable moment for them. I learned a few things about this from the wonderful Martina Bonci and Matteo Piga from Gucci Giardino in Florence, hosting them for Maybe Festival 2024. With the heritage and innovation of the brand behind them, they still have a challenge in changing people’s perception of what a “Gucci bar” might be. You might think that you need to be dressed in the latest ‘fit or that it’s going to be super fancy, and you’re maybe not sure you’re even cool enough to be in there. Martina and Matteo showed me the real Gucci Giardino – it’s fun, vibrant and inclusive. Bringing people into the fold and showing them a good time. The craftsmanship and innovation in their drinks and service are worthy of the Gucci heritage. The cocktails, the service style, and the décor are so beautifully put together.
It reminds me of Glenfiddich’s ideology—keeping our heritage in mind to make the best dram in the valley while changing modern perceptions of who whisky is for. It’s for everyone.

So, if you’re thinking about how to become a better bartender, start by looking at bars’ heritage. Learn from the past. Look at how you can innovate to make your own mark and change people’s perceptions—that’s how we progress.

“Ongi cabiamento è l’inizio di un progresso”. Every change is the beginning of progression.

This story featured on the cover of our May edition, which is out now. To find out more about Glenfiddich and all their amazing collaborations, reach out to Ross Blainey @ross_blainey.