Celtic Whiskey Shop

Helping an early adapter convert a single idea into a multi-million Euro business

For 20 years, Ultra Design has been taking business concepts and ideas and turning them into fully-fledged brands and working businesses. This was one of our early projects and shows how the practices and approaches that we still use today are rooted in delivering best-practice branding and communications for two decades. 

Celtic Whiskey Shop is now a world leader in whiskey retail and was one of our first clients as an ambitious young agency in 2003. Back then, we worked closely with Ally, the company founder and proud Glaswegian to develop a vibrant and rich brand identity. This would help to establish and drive-on their city-centre retail location, alongside designing a new ecommerce site.


With a retail premises in the heart of Dublin 2, our client needed his new brand to stand out in what was already a competitive international market. Celtic Whiskey Shop needed to differentiate itself from existing whiskey retailers through a distinct origin story and unique branding, while making sure this traditionally luxury product is seen as accessible to all.

It was the early stages of the ecommerce revolution, so a thriving digital sales channel within a distinct website was required. This was a complex new market entry assignment and our team at Ultra Design were up for the challenge.

Programme of work

In our early discovery workshop, we listened closely to the founder to fully understand their retail concept and get a clear picture of their vision for the shop. We took these thoughts and began to design an initial visual identity that took in to account the heart and soul of the project and its distinctive differentiators. ‘Irishness’ and heritage is a tricky message to communicate without going overboard. And we set about incorporating the branding along a theme of uisce beatha, the literal Irish translation of whiskey, meaning water of life.

Rolling out this identity, logo, and personality to the shop-floor required close collaboration with the architect and shop fitters. From point of sale signage and interiors to the shop front and colour scheme, we wanted the new store to become the centre-piece of the brand itself. Stationery, packaging, and product collections were designed with promotional literature. And these all told the story of a unique retailer, dedicated to the art and heritage of whiskey. 

When it came to digital strategy, we advised our client on the huge opportunity that was there to build an online store as we felt this would attract and connect with customers and whiskey enthusiasts from around the world – in what were the early days of ecommerce. And once our strategy was agreed, we designed and handed over initial website designs to a web development partner agency. A fully secure and user-friendly online shop with over 100 products was then built, and was generating revenue within weeks.

Results stand the test of time

Just like the wonderful products on sale in the whiskey store, our brand identity aged very well too. Within 12 months of launching our brand, the company was turning a healthy profit both in-store and online.
As an early project for our team at Ultra, it was a fast learning curve and we are proud to say the brand has gone from strength to strength. In fact, ten years after the launch, the company was recognised as ‘2013 Best Retailer, Worldwide' in the World Whiskey Awards. The story of Celtic Whiskey Shop shows that great ideas can truly meet their potential with the right combination of expert branding, commercial know-how and genuine passion.

Ally Alpine

The work we did with Alan back in 2003, on what was to become the Celtic Whiskey Shop, gave us the confidence and clarity to see through our start up phase to become an established retail brand with a strong market position. 

Ally Alpine CEO, Celtic Whiskey Shop