Magazines can open new parts of life to the reader, especially when they have no opinion towards a certain topic. Take Alquimie, a ‘periodic research & analysis of wine & beverage culture’, as an example.
I have no interest in the culture of alcoholic drinks. But when I saw Alquimie’s elegantly-designed cover, I brought it straight to the cashier. Matte stock, silver hot-stamped masthead, premium price point… the telltale signs of a well-produced magazine.
It’s so posh that there is no advertiser on the back cover…
… nor on the second and third page.
Thought Assembly did an admirable effort in shaping Alquimie’s identity (they share the same address with Alquimie; I guess the proximity lets them work very closely, resulting in such a cohesive publication).
The reader is briefed on the four ‘chapters’ of the magazine: The Story, The Study, The Palate and The Excess.
The serif typeface used throughout Alquimie is Domaine Display, while the sans serif is called Lettera-TXT. Commendable of the editors to state the typefaces in use in the colophon. A good way to promote type foundries, too.
Editor-in-Chief Joshua Elias officiates this inaugural issue with a letter peppered with pilcrows. I find this line best highlights the intention of Alquimie:
We realise in creating Alquimie, we are not presenting something entirely new … rather, we are channelling the warmth and generosity of the many stories, bottles and people that would otherwise be left to gather dust in the cellars of human complacency.
In line with the saying ‘old wine in a new bottle’, eh?
At least five wine bottles were destroyed in the making of this issue. Every chapter begins with this shattering sight of red, akin to a ceremonial ship launching. I presume these shots were directed by one of Alquimie’s founders James Morgan.
This article was beautifully written and painted by American artist John Wurdeman. He travelled to Georgia with his curiosity for folk music and eventually set up Pheasant Tears’ Winery.
Design rules were broken when these page rules cut through the images.
The second chapter, The Study, contains three articles; each begins with the headline and related images spread across a brown paper background. Just like a study board!
Maybe I am German-biased, as my favourite article in this magazine is The Apfelwein of Frankfurt. Writer Coady Buckley explains the origins of Frankfurt’s unofficial drink and the species of apples that make the cut in the production.
Moving on to the next chapter, The Palate contains a series of beverage reviews and guides by industry experts. This is where you’ll read far-out descriptions like:
This wine has been dressed up a bit, however it seems the dress doesn’t quite fit. All arms and legs, the body and acidity of the wine are a little clumsy.
There are redcurrant and beetroot notes that provide a fruity appeal to the nose. There are also herbal notes of fenugreek and curry leaf in the background.
Curry leaf in your wine? When it comes to wine reviews, anything goes it seems.
Next up is a review of gin and serving suggestions, with more mentions of random fruits, flowers, and even potting soil.
This minimalist spread of corks from Burgundy wine bottles contains a detailed narrative of the namesake wine.
The fourth chapter, The Excess, includes the gripping story of Mark Protheroe’s experience in competing to be the world’s best sommelier. The winner for that year was a Swiss.
If there is such a term ‘hidden design’, this is an example. Black bands appear close to the page seam, perhaps to further break the two pages?
While other articles appear in the familiar long-form format (big chunks of text with images segregated in one section of a page, or in another page altogether), this article about Market Lane Coffee has an advertorial look. In a way, it is. Explained by coffee enthusiasts Fleur Studd and Toshiyuki Ishiwata, this article informs the reader of the background of the coffee supplied by the company. The only thing that’s missing is perhaps ‘ALQUIMIE x Market Lane Coffee’ as a headnote.
Alquimie maintains a certain structure throughout, but convention gets a time-out in this headline. Simple yet attractive.
Another themed shoot photographed by James Morgan. He has a talent in capturing liquids.
What’s next after reading about drinks? Make one! Sommelier Raúl Moreno Yagüe was generous to share his recipe of Broker’s Gin with Fever Tree Tonic Water. No instructions needed. The pictures cover every step. Again, James Morgan was behind the lens.
Rounding off the magazine are these beautifully-shot photos of the process of making Bocconcini in the hands of cheesemaker Kirsty Laird. Once more, captured by James Morgan.
As perfect as Alquimie can be, it is not exempted from my typo-meter. Here I have found three instances of misspellings. All share the same root word!
Thirsty for more Alquimie? Choose the subscription plan that includes wine in the mail. And while we’re on the same page, this has got to be the most well-designed call-to-subscribe page I’ve ever seen.
Many magazines don’t state their purpose of existence. If it does, it’s usually in a vague tagline. Alquimie, however, proudly prints its beliefs in black and white. Almost philosophical.
Alquimie is a prime example of how presentation makes the magazine. There are many titles out there that have strong content, yet are weak in execution. It’s a shame, to say the least. Plenty of information couldn’t reach the reader just because the cover is appalling, no respect for legibility in design, or the name of the title doesn’t capture the attention of the reader. Alquimie has elegantly addressed these concerns and convinced me that it is possible to appreciate a subject that I previously have no opinion of.
The drinker’s guide to Alquimie via Stack
Alquimie: The Most Ravishing Drinks Magazine in the World? via Chasing The Vine
Issue: 1, September 2013
Editor-in-Chief: Joshua Elias
Cover photography: James Morgan
Origin: Richmond (Victoria), Australia
Cover price: AUD18