The world’s most awarded single malt whisky, Glenfiddich, have introduced a purpose-built, specialty pop-up bar in Braamfontein. Teaming up with Aparna Ramani and Taryn Kallie of interior design firm Design Republic to create the space, the The Independent Bar is presented as an exclusive establishment in which to unwind and socialise. It is a by invite-only, one-of-a-kind experience available to those who have signed up to enjoy exclusive brand offerings. Emulating a collaborative, speakeasy feel, patrons pass through a stairwell to be met with elegance and class – the seductive glow of brass lamps and leather-filled decor – upon arrival.
We spoke with interior designer Aparna Ramani to learn more about the innovative design of the opulent whisky space.
How would you describe the style of the bar? What are the key design features?
The bar is a nod to all things luxury and traditionally Scottish while subtly juxtaposing contemporary elements and local furniture pieces. The mood is intimate, low lying and dark with light and reflection used as a method for showcasing significant areas and elements. Without giving away too much there is a beautiful five metre long copper and stone bar which is highlighted by integrated brass lamps. We pay tribute to the iconic Scottish deer found in the Glenfiddich logo, in unusual tactile ways. One such element is the feature stag wall, a collection of antelope and deer heads in a variety of materials. The four-metre long Chesterfield sofa is a traditional piece that we upholstered in a rich teal velvet, a reference to the patina that develops on the copper stills over years of whisky making.
What materials were you drawn to use and why?
The materials are tactile, textured and handmade where possible, very much like the art of making whisky. We also wanted the interior to have relevance to its context – a space that reflects the beauty of Johannesburg, especially Braamfontein. So there is a sense of industrial materials meeting soft natural fabrics, wirework contrasted with luscious velvets, overall an uncluttered authentic interior. We made a solid, raw-edged gathering table out of Matumi, a uniquely African hardwood. With trunks that grow to a diameter of over two meters the slabs are spectacular. The many knots and great variety of colours make each Matumi piece an artwork.
What kind of experience have you designed with this space in mind? What can people expect to feel in the Glenfiddich bar?
Hidden in a basement in Braamfontein, the location of the bar reminds one of the speakeasies of old. Making one’s way through the upstairs gallery and descending down the staircase captures the imagination and adds to the richness of the experience. The idea was that of a surprise, a slow discovery, transitioning from the street above to a space you couldn’t have imagined was below your feet. We imagine guests to feel special and excited like they’ve discovered a secret.
How long did creating this interior take, from design to conception to completion? What was the process like?
We started the conceptual design work at the end of November last year and were awarded the project just before the year drew to an end. We officially started on site in the second week of January with our team producing drawings for the contractors from various parts of the globe while on holiday. Overall from start to finish it was a three and a half month process, including a month or so of the builders break in December. The practicalities of furnishing a basement with narrow staircases and tight corners proved to be a bit of a challenge. Many of our larger pieces had to be designed in such a way that they could be transported in sections and assembled on site. Despite the extra effort required, we feel that the space needed these large pieces to create impact and drama.
How did you incorporate and honour the brand’s style while also satisfying the particular location: Johannesburg. How does the bar respond to its position in Braamfontein?
We were inspired by the family history of Glenfiddich as well as treating the space as a translation of the traditions and progressiveness of the brand. It’s exciting to think of guests arriving and how the space will be used. We love working in Johannesburg and felt many ties between South Africa and Scotland during the process – from the use of animal skins in traditional dress to the way both countries have a strong sense of pride and a warrior spirit. We aimed to create a luxurious, contemporary interior with elements that represent Glenfiddich’s long history, timeless whiskey making process, as well as, their presence in South Africa today. There is an interesting street interaction with the gallery space upstairs – throughout the design and installation process we were approached with curiosity, so many people eager to know what was happening in the space.
Find out more about the Glenfiddich Independent Bar over here.
This article is made possible by Glenfiddich.