In 1931, Danish Distillers built a factory complex in the heart of Aalborg. From the beginning, the factory was designed to market the end product – schnapps.Architect Alfred Cock-Clausen designed the factory, which is a masterpiece of Danish factory architecture.
The water of life in Aalborg
Aalborg has almost become synonymous with 'the water of life' – schnapps – not to mention the impressive Aalborg Portland cement factory.
Schnapps from Aalborg could be manufactured without the evil-smelling and poisonous raw spirits.
Copenhagen was where most schnapps was enjoyed by the thirstiest people. That meant it had to be transported right across Denmark, as the majority of spirits were produced by Danish Distillers in Aalborg.
Fortunately, the factory in Aalborg is close to both the railway and harbour. It was built in 1929-1931 to replace two older plants. When a spirits tax was introduced in 1917, it caused a significant decline in total sales in Denmark as well as mergers in the industry.
No place like home
Danish Distillers, which built the factory in Aalborg, was a company that the captain of industry, C.F. Tietgen, actively helped to establish, in 1881. The goal was to unite several small distilleries and start exporting to Spain and France. However, the company soon began focusing on the home market. Of the 206 distilleries that existed when the company was established, in 1923 most had evaporated, leaving only six. They were all owned by Danish Distillers, which also had sole rights to produce yeast and methylated spirits in Denmark, a position it defended successfully until 1973, when Denmark joined the EU.
Danish Distillers represents a company that introduced a total design concept for all its buildings, signs, packaging and vehicles in the 1920s. The goal was "discreet but assured publicity", to save time and money on all design of new factories and to make control and inspection of work processes more reliable and easier. New buildings were painted red and guidelines were set for the appearance of everything from doorframes to handles. It was thought that the design would give an "impression of the company's size, combined with a feeling of solidarity and order."
The design concept and standardisation are typical of the period, and show how a method developed in connection with production can be copied in other areas – in this case design.
The architect behind the factory was Alfred Cock-Clausen, who built the factory with the prescribed red colours – in red brick.
The corporate design covered everything from labels to buildings. The architect drew inspiration from AEG in Berlin, the major manufacturer of electric engines that had hired architect Peter Behrens as head designer in 1907.
Together, the distillery and the power centre at Carlsberg are masterpieces of Danish factory architecture during the transition from classicism to functionalism.
Small distilleries swallowed up
Danish Distillers in Aalborg represents the concentration of distilleries that happened during industrialisation, when many small distilleries were put out of business by a large limited company. This happened in many sectors, but especially clear among distilleries.
Danish Distillers is now owned by French Pernod Ricard, the second-largest wine and spirits company worldwide. Today, the company uses the name "De Danske Spritfabrikker" (Danish Distillers) as a brand and umbrella name for the schnapps and bitters products produced in Denmark, including Aalborg Aquavit and Gammel Dansk, and under this name is registered as a purveyor to the Royal Danish Court.
Danish Distillers in Aalborg has been selected as a national industrial heritage site because it:
• is a masterpiece of Danish industrial architecture
• is an early example of branding through a consciously executed design concept
• is a large limited company that managed to down all its competitors in one go during industrialisation
TIME LINE – DANISH DISTILLERS