Ahead of the Curve
One could certainly call John Galvin a master craftsman, however, it would be more accurate to say that he works at the apex of artistry, engineering, and innovation. John is a story-teller, but with materials, rather than words. His work can often be understated at first glance, but reveal themselves via complex and theatrical opening mechanisms, and thoughtful details and inlays.
John's understanding of wood - its grain, its form, sculptural properties - as well as its effects on maturation and finish - means he can create highly original, conceptual works that showcase priceless bottles.
The studio's commitment to sustainability also means they work in ever more innovative ways with other industries, for example, using offcuts of metal from Bentley's factory, for their recent Bowmore project.
John also notes that he has no desire to start mass producing any of his pieces and is focused on sustainability, sourcing his materials from Scotland as much as possible. "It's never about quantity. It's always about innovation and using unique materials in a different way."
What is, perhaps, most exciting about John's practice is that he endeavours to make things that other engineers believe are impossible, and then commissions machines that will help him achieve his visions. Everything that leaves John's warehouse is the epitome of bespoke. John and his team have set their own standards in production. "If we believe that someone could make a better version of the same product, it won't leave the workshop."
John founded his business fifteen years ago, initially garnering a reputation for creating beautiful furniture (he still runs a furniture company, Faolchu, with fellow designer, Derek Wilson). However, when John pivoted to the world of whisky, he not only found his calling, but a host of clients with whom he could collaborate with at a new level.
"I have no interest in trends," he says. "Art is subjective, so you want to make something that really caters to one specific customer personally."
One example of this approach is The Macallan - The Reach. Launched last year, it is the oldest Scotch whisky ever released, necessitating a truly remarkable presentation. John's cabinet in which the sculpture is encased was crafted from wood from a fallen elm tree that was growing on The Macallan Estate in 1940.
What is the secret to becoming the master of his craft? "Pure devotion," says John. "Luxury is when you put your passion and time into a piece, and this then lands with the consumer. With our work, you see a reflection of our heart and soul in everything we do."
What John and his team put together are exceptionally rare pieces of art. The passion with which John speaks about his craft, his colleagues, and the potential of his industry moving forward makes it clear that this is a man who has devoted his life to pushing his art to the outer limits of what is possible.
What's next for John? Of course, he's working on a number of top-secret projects for various whisky brands.
He's also opening a second studio space, retro-fitting a beautiful Victorian warehouse in the Southside of Glasgow. Long-term, John wants to continue focusing on how he can be as sustainable as possible in his work, sourcing as much as he can from Scotland. Perhaps most importantly, however, is for John to keep growing his wonderful team - who he "would be nothing without" - in Glasgow, with a focus on skilled apprenticeships. He has a lot of faith in the future generations and the potential that they hold. For John, "the goal is to create a legacy that lasts well into the future."