To some, a building is bricks and mortar. Merely a vessel for activity, accommodation or administration. And while certain forms of architecture are perhaps more aesthetically pleasing on the eye than others, buildings are still inanimate structures devoid of soul. That is to some.
+NESS view buildings as enduring custodians of a people’s collective culture, history and memory. They believe that buildings have an essence that not only helps define a skyline but a society too. As masters of their craft, Max Melvill and Jamil Randera are the talented duo that make up +NESS, illustrators whose subjects are architecture found around the cities of South Africa and beyond. Both qualified architects, it is in fact Max and Jamil’s desire to tell the stories embedded within these buildings and the city fabric that inspires them to do what they do.
The painstaking craftsmanship evidenced in their work and their extraordinary appreciation for buildings and the stories they represent, are what captured the interest of the folks at Jack Daniel’s. This year, the iconic whiskey brand has been celebrating a very special milestone associated with a building that lies at the heart of its provenance. 2016 is the 150th anniversary year of the Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. And the global campaign celebrated in cities around the world needed a South African twist for the celebration here, at the tip of Africa.
Same craftsmanship for 150 years of whiskey-making
As the first registered distillery in the U.S, Jack Daniel’s has grown from a local name in Lynchburg to an iconic global brand by remaining true to its legacy of authenticity, independence and integrity.
In 1866, Jasper “Jack” Daniel had the foresight to place his distillery at a source of limestone water flowing from a cave spring in Lynchburg. Jack Daniel’s has been at the forefront of whiskey-making ever since. Incredibly, in the 150 years of the Jack Daniel Distillery, the distilling process has largely remained unchanged and craftsmanship has never been compromised. Jack Daniel’s is the only major distillery in the world to make its own barrels.
Comprising 33 separate American White Oak staves held together by the sheer pressure of the wood’s precise arrangement alone, the task is far too meticulous to be carried out on an automated assembly line. From this exactitude of carefully crafting each barrel to mellowing each drop of whiskey through 10 feet of sugar maple charcoal, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey is made with the same process pioneered and perfected by Mr. Jack himself. Today, the quiet town of Lynchburg still produces every single drop of the world’s Jack Daniel’s, proof that mastering a craft with a focus on quality can propel a brand beyond borders and across cultures.
From Tennessee to Jozi and the Mother City
In a world where change is a constant, the incredible achievement to be making whiskey in the same way, in the same place, after 150 years has been celebrated with a global Jack Daniel’s Barrel Hunt – a global scavenger hunt to find 150 handcrafted barrels located at historic and cultural sites that have united friends of Jack across the world.
Two authentic Jack Daniel’s barrels were shipped to South Africa – one for Joburg and one for Cape Town and the locations of these were top secret. Fans of Jack in both cities had to follow a series of clues to find them, and the incentive was enticing. Each barrel contained tickets for all-expenses paid trips to Lynchburg, Tennessee to be part of the 150th Distillery Anniversary celebration, and New York to learn more about the New York bar and American whiskey culture. With each barrel’s prizes valued at over R150,000 the race was on.
+NESS were commissioned to handcraft a special series of works that showcase the facades of different locations around the cities of Joburg and Cape Town, which formed the clues that ultimately uncovered the whereabouts of the two SA-based barrels.
The tales within 2 cities
Just as stories are integral to the Jack Daniel’s brand in that they uncover the characters and events that have made the brand what it is today, so too the stories behind buildings bring them to life.
The successful Jack Daniel’s barrel hunters in Joburg made it to the legendary Kippies, one of Joburg’s most famous jazz venues and the final destination for the scavenger hunt. Situated in Newtown, well-loved Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse is said to have quipped that as an aspiring musician, when you walk onto the stage at Kippies for your first set, you know you have made it. Newtown offers a unique insight into the development of Joburg and modern South Africa. It is the source of social, political, industrial, artistic and cultural trends that have come to be associated with Joburg’s evolution. Today Kippies is a heritage site and a key part of the richly textured cultural legacy that make the Newtown story so compelling.
Meanwhile, the final Cape Town destination was a location that has been associated with popular culture since 1935. Jack Lemkus, situated in the Exchange Building in St Georges Mall, Cape Town CBD was the first company in South Africa to build relationships with brands such as Nike, adidas and Vans. The enormously popular street wear store is regarded as the place to shop for the biggest names in sneakers. The building in which it is situated, as with most old bulidings, comes with colourful stories including an underground vault that is said to have once contained untold treasure.
The spirit of Jack
If one considers that buildings and their stories around the world have outlived people and indeed centuries, one begins to appreciate the fascinating role they play in the cities that hold them.
+NESS believe that buildings are really full of life and have an undeniable power to make us feel. They believe that a building’s atmosphere can imbue a profound influence on us. This is how they personify the spirit or ‘NESS’ of a building. They split each series into three parts: all the buildings they choose either have historical significance, cultural relevance or in some way help define the respective city’s skyline.
Some might say that the Jack Daniel Distillery fulfills all three of these. We think they’d be right.