Ballantine’s Space Glass

Twelve months ago we set out to design a Space Glass for the future of whisky, and write a story about the future of us.

Ballantine’s has always been an innovative brand, and over Work Club’s history of having them as a client we’ve reinvented the tattoo and the t-shirt. This time we wanted to get closer to the product. A piece of technology which would connect the brand more closely to the consumer, at the point of consumption.

Introducing the first whisky glass engineered for use in microgravity…

So how do you even begin designing a functional Space Glass?

No one has ever made a whisky glass for space before. As a digital agency we were certainly not the ones to solve the astrophysical problem. We needed to find an engineering partner. Ideally someone who understood the challenge was greater than how we’ll consume liquids in space, but rather how we’ll live as a spacefaring society. The Open Space Agency is dedicated to ‘accelerating the citizen era of space exploration’ which made them the perfect partner for the brief.

James Parr from Open Space Agency gives a lesson on fluid dynamics to a meeting room full of people used to talking about marketing and advertising.

For OSA founder, James Parr, this project marks a new era in the space program, focussing for the first time on connoisseurship. Since 1827 Ballantine’s have stayed true to the way founder George Ballantine first made the whisky — we needed to ensure that legacy lived on for centuries to come. There’s no way we’re drinking a premium whisky out of a plastic bag once we get to Titan! The Space Glass ensures we’ll take the elegance and ritual of whisky with us.

Essentially the Ballantine’s Space Glass works using surface tension, which pulls the whisky down to the base of the glass and then up through the helix capillary to the mouth piece.

To see the full specs read this over here. There’s a lot of detail on the thought process behind the design over here too.

My favourite feature of the Space Glass is the magnetic rose gold base. The material is super premium, and is a lovely link between the copper used in the whisky distillation process, and yellow gold which is used in off-Earth manufacturing for its anti-radiation properties. The magnet is a stroke of design genius - although not super functional here on Earth, it will come in handy when you want to put the Space Glass “down” on a wall or ceiling of a space bar.


Yes, the Space Glass does work in microgravity. We checked.

Due to early starts, late finishes and kid-the-day-before-Christmas levels of excitement, I estimate none of us got more than five hours total sleep over the two days we were in Bremen testing the glass.

While the integrity of the design is of course important, so is it actually working in microgravity. There are several ways you can test such things without actually going to space, and we settled on the ZARM drop tower in Bremen, Germany. Basically what they do is throw the experiment down a vacuum sealed tube where it free floats in weightlessness for 120 meters (or a few short seconds).

Filled with months of anticipation and nervous excitement we stood in the ZARM mission control room ready to hit the green “drop” button and see if the project has been a success.

Three…
Two…
Die Lichter sind gebrochen.

The lights in the drop capsule had broken. If we performed the test now there would be no conclusive data…

Scheiße.

We’re all used to working late nights, but its fair to say that German scientists are not. Regardless the wonderful ZARM team worked tirelessly for hours, and hours to get our experiment back up and running. We performed the final catapult drop at about midnight. The test went better than any of us had anticipated. You can see the results here:


Upon first hearing the Space Glass idea our producer, Tom Hoad, was furious — and he left a sticker on my glasses case making it very clear how ridiculous he thought the project was. To his credit, he then managed to produce a functioning Space Glass, an epic future fiction film and all the bits around the edges without any further complaint. Absolute hero.


Making Space Glass famous

At the heart of this project is a product innovation, but surrounding it is a story about the future. Of taking whisky with us, wherever we go.

There’s something so simple and timeless about the serve of whisky. About sitting around with friends and a dram, reflecting on how far you’ve come, and where you’ll go next. We wanted to tell this story in film, set hundreds of years in the future. On the moon of Saturn.


It was really important that our hero represented a future we could all believe in — we choose Alessandro because being mixed race he looks like he’s from “Earth” not any defined country or culture.

When writing sci-fi it’s important not to rely on the tropes of the genre. Rather than thinking about advances in technology, to consider how we advance as people. And acknowledging that in many ways we’ll be exactly the same kinds of people we are right now. We’ll stay true.

The film is based on a poem “To the Generation Knocking at the Door” which is as old (and Scottish) as Ballantine’s Whisky itself. This poem, although over a hundred years old, tells a story that will be true for many years to come…

Telling the Space Glass story

James Parr founder of the Open Space Agency, and Sandy Hyslop, Ballantine’s Master Blender meet for the first time.

Throughout the creative process we always had a sense that this was a story with many angles. Dirt & Glory Media helped elevate the way we worked. It turns out if you have an exciting idea, exciting contributors are quite keen to get involved. Nigel Brown and Ben Moss pulled together a bunch of smashing editorial which speaks to many different audiences.

There’s a podcast for whisky connoisseurs.
A design piece for engineering enthusiasts.
Visions for bars of the future for sci-fi fans.
Future cocktail recipes.
An interview about the future of mixology.
And an article on the importance of dreaming about the future.

All the content is housed on a Medium publication at BallantinesSpaceGlass.com.

Top three illustrations are by Marie Marie Bergeron, the bottom two gifs by Gustavo Torres.
To the generation knocking at the door
Break — break it open; let the knocker rust:
Await no summons; high hearts and youth are destiny enough.
The mystery and the power enshrined in you
Are old as time and as the moment new:
And none but you can tell what part you play,
Nor can you tell until you know your way,
For this alone, this always, will succeed,
The miracle and magic of the deed.
- John Davidson, Glasgow 1905

For me personally the project has been an important reminder that the future isn’t something you wait to happen, it’s something you have to write for yourself.


It’s an honour to have contributed to the infamous Work Club mug legacy.

All credit to Joe Corcoran, for the second mug in this line up.