LOUISVILLE, KY—Friday, November 17, 2023—The Frazier History Museum is opening a special holiday exhibition Wednesday called Spirited Design: Old Forester’s Mid-Century Decanters. Curated by Brown-Forman Archives, Spirited Design brings the full collection of Old Forester decanters, packaging, and advertising together for the first time. It takes you behind the scenes to learn about the designers and processes that brought these designs to life.
“We’re fortunate to have this partnership with Brown-Forman Archives to bring this amazing exhibition to the Frazier in time for the holidays,” senior director of engagement Casey Harden said. “It has also given us the opportunity to display some newly acquired midcentury cocktail dresses and tuxedoes we received from the Kentucky Science Center earlier this year.”
The decanters were designed by two artists: first, Ernst Spuehler, 1950–53; then Raymond Loewy, 1954–69. Known as “the Father of Industrial Design,” Loewy had a design style characterized by streamlined forms, clean lines, and an emphasis on function. His projects included the Shell logo, the Greyhound Scenicruiser bus, and the Lucky Strike cigarette package.
The 150th Anniversary Old Forester decanter will also be on display in Spirited Design. Inspired by Raymond Loewy’s original Old Forester decanter designs, the 150th Anniversary decanter was created to commemorate Brown-Forman Corporation’s milestone anniversary in 2020. The final product was released to members of the Brown family in 2020. Yesterday, Old Forester released a limited number to the public via drawing with a newly designed gift box for $2,500. They sold out in fourteen minutes! However, one fortunate guest at Wednesday’s Spirited Design Opening Party will win the right to purchase a bottle. Tickets to the opening party are available at fraziermuseum.org for $25.
The release of the decanters during the holiday season paid homage to the historical decanter line.
“When Old Forester released these decanters in the 1950s and 1960s, the brand was ahead of its time,” Old Forester master taster Melissa Rift said. “Even today, the designs are timeless. Consumers visiting the Frazier exhibition will enjoy seeing and reading about the attention to detail that went into each holiday release.”
Frazier visitors who tour Spirited Design will learn about the history—and Kentucky origin—of the cocktail party, the association of Bourbon with the holiday season, and the role Old Forester played at the forefront of the decanter craze of the 1950s and `60s. Wall panels and installations will chart the history of the annual Old Forester holiday decanter series, which ran from 1950 to 1969. On display will be a collection made up of each year’s decanter, holiday gift boxes, advertising material, replica ads, a recreation of an in-store display for the 1957 decanter also known as the “Sputnik decanter,” and two six-foot-tall replica holiday packages like those used to launch the holiday decanters in the 1950s and `60s. Infographics will chart the decanter process from conception to design to release.
During the 1950s and `60s, the closely guarded designs were unveiled at annual holiday sales meetings. These presentations were often as lavish as the decanters themselves, including performances by actors, specialty films, original music, and giant reproductions of the packaging.
ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
Spirited Design: Old Forester’s Mid-Century Decanters
November 22, 2023–2025
Third Floor, Frazier History Museum
Curated by Lizzy Standridge, Assistant Corporate Archivist, Brown-Forman Archives
The 1950s and 1960s were a time of modernization in America. Many families began moving to the suburbs and the nation was captivated by the Space Race. The economy was booming, and more people had purchasing power than ever before. Design of the time reflected this rapid modernization.
As an established eighty-year-old brand, Old Forester made the bold decision to embrace this innovative and modern design. It temporarily shed its signature label and bottle to create unique holiday decanters that could be showcased on consumer’s bars beyond the holidays as part of the growing cocktail culture.
These decanters and packages were created by famed designers, most notably Raymond Loewy who embraced the sleek, modern aesthetic of the mid-century modern design movement.
Spirited Design brings the full collection of Old Forester decanters, packaging, and advertising together for the first time. It takes you behind the scenes to learn about the designers and processes that brought these designs to life.
ABOUT THE 150TH ANNIVERSARY DECANTER
Inspired by Raymond Loewy’s original Old Forester decanter designs, the 150th Anniversary decanter was created to commemorate Brown-Forman Corporation’s milestone anniversary in 2020.
The design process began in 2018 as a creative brief with information such as objective, budget, and timeline. Brown-Forman Design used this information to create a work in progress (or WIP) that presented several design concepts.
After soliciting feedback, the designers selected one concept to refine. After months of work and countless iterations, the final product was released to members of the Brown family in 2020.
In 2023, Old Forester released a limited number of the 150th Anniversary decanters to the public with a newly designed gift box. The release of the decanters during the holiday season paid homage to the historical decanter line.
The new box is made of wood salvaged from 119 West Main Street. Brown-Forman operated from this building on Whiskey Row from 1882 to 1919. Nearly one hundred years later in 2018, Brown-Forman returned to this site and opened the Old Forester Distilling Co. in the same space.
For press-approved images of the exhibition, selected objects, and logos, visit this Dropbox folder. For media inquiries, contact Frazier communications and research specialist Simon Meiners at [email protected] or (502) 753-5668 (office).