Visit the Chuan Malt Whiskey Distillery by Neri & Hu
Neri & Hu’s Chuan Malt Whiskey distillery revisits Chinese tradition
When Shanghai-based architecture studio Neri & Hu won Pernod Ricard’s competition to design a house for its first whiskey distillery in China three years ago, Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu’s vision was to combine the values of a new innovative brand with the cultural heritage of its location. As a result, Chuan Malt Whiskey Distillery, bridges advanced technology and Chinese tradition, located in its idyllic rural location.
The architectural site, in Sichuan Province, is nestled amid a meandering stream and terraced fields overlooked by the imposing and spiritual Mount Emei – a magnificent Unesco World Heritage site – and reflects traditional philosophy Chinese of the interdependence between mountains and water. This not only presents a deep understanding of nature, but also expresses its metaphorical power.
Chuan malt whiskey distillery
The complex itself symbolizes this natural formation in many ways. The buildings of the distillery are a reinvention of everyday traditional Chinese architecture, while the visitor experience spaces reflect the elements of the terrain. The distillery comprises three long, parallel buildings on the north side of the site, nestled into the slopes, while the roofs are supported by a modern concrete post and beam structure. The descending roofs are made from reclaimed clay tiles to give an effect of permanence.
There are two visitor experience centers in the complex, which are adorned with strong, primary geometric shapes – the circle and the square. The ‘circle’, a tasting experience building, is partly underground, with five underground tasting rooms surrounded by a dome-shaped courtyard with a central cascading water feature. The top of the dome protrudes slightly from the ground, topped by three concentric brick rings evoking the silhouette of Mount Emei. Further down the slope, the “square” volume of the restaurant and bar is cantilevered on two sides with a corner leaning over the stream.
The design of the Chuan malt whiskey distillery also pays homage to the site’s natural resources. The boulders removed from the ground during site grading were recycled to fill the rock faces. In addition, other materials – concrete, cement and stone – are a nod to the minerals that can be found on the site. The craftsmanship of the whiskey, appropriately, provides the theme of the interiors, with tools such as copper distillation jars and aged oak barrels evoking the rich sensual comfort of the famous spirit. §