It could be said that today’s artisanal spirits are yesterday’s craft-brewed beers, making the old-fashioned flask ripe for rediscovery. At least, that’s the thinking behind this flask, a clear container whose etched contours mirror the topography of the Tennessee hills. It may look like luxurious crystal, but in point of fact it’s fashioned in part out of a relatively new plastic called Tritan.
The Topo flask was the result of a collaboration between Ziba, a Portland, Oregon–based design studio, and the Eastman Innovation Lab, which has partnered with other firms to showcase the unique characteristics and design potential of its Tritan copolyester. "The three key trends we were focused on were luxury, reusability, and quality," says Cathy Dodd, Eastman’s director of downstream engagement and design. Based on those parameters, Ziba brainstormed a slew of ideas—ranging from futuristic fishbowls to high-end mouthwash vessels—before winnowing them down to two, the flask included.
For Eastman, the benefit was clear: By bringing in outside designers, the company could discover novel uses for Tritan it hadn’t yet explored. For Ziba, the project offered a chance to approach the design process from a different tack, using the material as the starting point, rather than trying to solve a problem. Only once Eastman decided which concepts to pursue did the design team develop a story. "With the whiskey flask, we looked at the rise of the modern gentleman," says Paul Backett, Ziba’s industrial design director. "We looked at things like heritage and origin."
Not only do the interior contours refer to the origins of American whiskey, they highlight one of Tritan’s distinctive properties—its ability to go from very thin to very thick. Also unlike ordinary plastic, it is highly durable and scratch-resistant, so instead of emphasizing recyclability, Eastman underscores reusability. "There’s nothing that can’t be recycled today if there is a system in place," Dodd says. "Tritan is to be used and kept." (The material is BPA-free, but there’s debate over whether it is devoid of all chemicals that act like the hormone estrogen.)
There are no plans as of yet to produce the flask, which has an aluminum-and-cork cap and an integrated funnel for easy pouring. But both parties would drink to the idea of licensing the design to distilleries, which could then customize it for different regions and spirits around the world, from London gin to Guadalajara tequila.