Neri&Hu has designed a distillery and brand home for China’s first whisky, in Emeishan, Sichuan, China. The Pernod Ricard Malt Whisky Distillery puts in place a timeless architecture, inspired by the site itself and its unique components, blending together whisky-making and the landscape into one holistic narrative.
Speaking to the core values of a visionary new brand as well as the material and cultural heritage that it aspires to sustain, the project is located in the rich context of Emeishan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most deeply spiritual places in China. Inspired by the topography of the land that holds agricultural terraces in some areas, and steep rock cliff in others, the scheme is an interpretation of its context. Surrounded on three sides by the winding Liu Creek, and with a direct vista to the peak of Emei, the design translates the constantly changing relationship with both mountain and stream. Generating pathways and routes, “the visitor journey blends together panoramas of the mountain and perspectives of the river into the distillery experience”.
Alongside a deep appreciation for site’s natural resources, the project is also an embodiment of the refined sense of artistry embedded in whisky-making and blending, which is in dialogue with Chinese traditional craftsmanship and appreciation of materials. -- Neri&Hu
The three buildings housing the whisky production facilities are integrated into the natural slope at the north side of the site. While the main industrial buildings are placed at the edges of the site in order not to obstruct the natural surroundings, the tasting experience building is partially submerged into the ground. Moreover, pitched roofs are covered with clay tiles, an ode to vernacular architecture and the five subterranean tasting rooms surround a domed courtyard with a water feature in the middle. “Three concentric brick rings are perched atop the dome, with stepped layers alluding to the rippling of water, the originating source of the whiskey, spreading across the site from this centralized point”.
In the visitor’s sequence, the final discovery is a restaurant and bar, “cantilevered on two sides, one corner hovers over the river bank and offers guests inside yet another different perspective of the impressive nature around”. Creating a harmonious balance between the architecture and the landscape, between industry and visitor experience, between mountain and water, Neri&Hu’s project “embodies the essentially Chinese concept of the dichotomy of two elements that exist in opposition yet complement each other”.