Tatler Exclusive: Interview with Viscount David Linley
The Chairman of British luxury brand Linley and auction house Christie’s UK talks about his design inspirations and the uniqueness of his latest bespoke masterpiece: the Linley for Penfolds Wine Case
To commemorate its 170th anniversary, Australian winemaker Penfolds collaborated with British luxury brand Linley to produce a bespoke wine case for the limited release of the 2010 Bin 170 Kalimna Shiraz. Penfolds paid homage to the birthplace of founder Dr Christopher Rawson Penfold in England by holding the launch in London on 1 May.
We find more about this special partnership from David Linley, Chairman of Linley and Chairman of auction house Christie’s UK. David is the son of Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, and Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdown, and nephew of Queen Elizabeth.
David Albert Charles Armstrong-Jones, Viscount Linley, known professionally as David Linley ©Penfolds
1. How did this partnership with Penfolds come about?
A commemorative wine, such as the 2010 Bin 170 Kalimna Shiraz, was deserving of an equally formidable encasing. This required a global artist collaboration with a master craftsman to release a vision of unparalleled distinction. A collaboration inspired by the secret craft of winemaking and one that celebrates the birthplace and founder of Dr Christopher Rawson Penfold.
As a British luxury brand – Linley was approached by Penfolds to develop something unique to celebrate the 170th anniversary of Penfolds and specifically, the limited release of the Bin 170 Kalimna Shiraz. The collaboration symbolises the new world, bespoke luxury craftsmanship and a celebration of the birthplace – England – of Dr Christopher Rawson Penfold – the founder of Penfolds. Inspired by Max Schubert’s ‘secret’ Grange vintages, the collaboration also celebrates the ‘secret craft’ of winemaking passed down from generation to generation.
2. Tell us more about the uniqueness of the materials used for the Penfolds wine case.
The inspiration behind the timber selection was developed around the concept of telling the story of the collaboration between Linley and Penfolds though materials.
The main timber used in the box finish is fumed eucalyptus, a species of timber indigenous to Australia, the home of Penfolds. The interior of the box has been designed to pay tribute to a key part of the winemaking process; it has been styled to create the feeling of an oak barrel, similar to those used in the maturing process.
Much research was done to source the high grade of veneers needed for this kind of exacting construction. This is an area of expertise for Linley so we were able to use our pre-existing resources to meet the brief.
Penfolds 2010 Bin 170 Kalimna Shiraz and the Linley for Penfolds Wine Case ©Penfolds
3. How long did it take to produce the wine case and what were the main challenges faced?
The design process began in June 2013 so it has taken almost a year of discussions, designs, amendments and production.
The boxes took approximately 80 man hours each to hand-craft but additional complexity lay in the engineered locking mechanisms which took a further 40 hours each to make, polish, engrave and plate.
One of the biggest challenges was the number of people involved in creating each box. We had to allow enough time for each craftsman to complete his part before piecing it together. We worked with cabinet makers to construct the box, leather workers who clad the nickel mounts, Blacksmiths who crafted bespoke metalwork, marquetry experts who created the intricate decoration, engineers who invented the locking mechanism and stone cutters who cut and polished the jade, all with precision and meticulous attention to detail.
4. Tell us more about the secret drawer – why did you decide to include it and how challenging was it to build the drawer?
Secret drawers have become a Linley trademark over the years so including it in the Penfolds box was us putting a Linley stamp on it. I have always been fascinated by the mechanisms used to cleverly conceal hidden compartments within furniture; it is something that I discovered as a boy when my grandmother challenged me to find a secret drawer in a desk.
Secret drawers and hidden compartments encourage interaction and result in a piece of furniture having character rather than merely being an object. The secret drawer in the Penfolds box gives it wit and charm; something unexpected, which makes people smile.
The 2010 Bin 170 Kalimna Shiraz sits snugly in the Linley for Penfolds Wine Case ©Penfolds
5. What's unique about the bespoke Penfolds Wine Room at the Linley flagship store at 60 Pimlico Road? What can people expect when they visit?
We have explored in great detail the best way to store fine wine in a manner that celebrates both the precious liquid and creates an environment that will sit comfortably in an enthusiast’s home. In collaboration with Penfolds we selected a combination of the finest materials including fumed eucalyptus, stained walnut, antiqued bronze, leather in a grey tint from the unique Linley palette, hand chosen from selected hides and complemented by Satinato finish Nero Oreo granite worktops.
The furniture and the bar are custom-designed display pieces that developed from our Evolution collection and combine effortlessly to add to the theatre that is the celebration of fine wines in the 21st Century.
Clients can expect to see an exemplary showcase of British craftsmanship and how it aligns with the fine Australian wines that Penfolds has to offer.
6. Where do you get your inspiration when you craft/design furniture?
Inspiration comes from everywhere and I am often surprised by what I find inspiring or intriguing. I have always found London a very inspiring place to be, both in terms of architecture and culture. I am fortunate enough to spend a lot of time at Christies, where I am Chairman, and I gather inspiration from art, furniture, wine, watches and the tremendous depth and breadth of knowledge that one cannot help but be influenced by. I also love to travel and I collect ideas from wherever I go to bring back to the design studio.
I enjoy stirring things up with the Linley designers, I challenge them to design things and see what they come up with. Most of it is for fun and to stimulate fresh ideas but sometimes the result is something we then put into production. One example was the Linleyheight chart which was the result of a brainstorm a few years ago and has been a best seller ever since.
Penfolds 2010 Bin 170 Kalimna Shiraz stored in a wine cellar ©Penfolds
7. What do you think is the upcoming trend in British furniture/accessories design?
Rather than a particular design trend, we are seeing that more of our clients are looking to invest in key pieces of furniture and accessories that they know they will want to live alongside for many years to come. Buying furniture is not so much about buying off the peg pieces of furniture that fit with transient trends and then changing them once they go out of fashion, but buying pieces that will stand the test of time both functionally and aesthetically.
To read about how Australian winemaker Penfolds teamed up with British luxury brand Linley to produce a unique wine case for the limited release of the 2010 Bin 170 Kalimna Shiraz, get a copy of Singapore Tatler July 2014 issue from newsstands or purchase the digital version on Zinio or Magzter.