Inside HBO's Experiential Cabinet of Wonders for The Nevers

A delightful Victorian puzzle, crafted with Hendrick's gin

Photography by JleibsonProductions

In celebration of their new genre-bending series The Nevers, HBO teamed with RQ Agency to create a wildly inventive at-home experience for superfans and influencers.

Set in Victorian London, The Nevers is about a group of people, primarily women, who were mysteriously "touched" with magical powers. Each character has their own "turn," or special gift, and this influencer kit focuses on the inventive mind of one of the leading characters, Penance Adair. Penance's Curiosities + Cocktail Compendium was a splendidly crafted puzzle filled with clues, custom gifts and a full cocktail station courtesy of partner Hendrick's Gin. 

"We wanted the kit to be more than a box of goodies but a story told through a physical experience," says Kathryn Rogan, director of program marketing at HBO. "We used Penance Adair's Turn, her ability to see potential energy, as our focal point of inspiration. We set out to build something under the guiding principle of 'invention,' knowing we had to make a kit that was truly original in its conception."

The kit certainly succeeded in being original. What's so striking about the compendium is the level of detail, from the vintage design to the hidden clues to unlock the experience. "We asked ourselves, 'What would the kit look like if Penance made it herself?' " Rogan says. "We imagined ourselves opening tiny compartments to unearth random trinkets, a hum of pulsating energy. Her workshop informed our aesthetic choices and the compendium's actual functionality."

Upon arrival, all you found was a note and a set of tools for opening. Then it required the participation of your imagination. 

From there, you were left to explore this mind-bending puzzle. Included was a magnifying glass, a butterfly vial with a hidden hint, Victorian-style trinkets, a custom tarot deck, prototype blueprints, Penance's journal, and a levitating lamp.

There was still plenty of mystery ahead. After unlocking a trap door with the Ferryman's Token, fans discovered a custom tea set with a hand-drawn design, which included hidden easter eggs. The design was in the classic style of Hendrick's gin. According to Rogan, Hendrick's was the perfect partner for this project as it's a brand that "celebrates being an 'unusual' and 'peculiar' gin, qualities that apply to Amalia True, Penance Adair and the rest of The Touched." Rogan adds, "There was so much already in sync—a quirky and inviting tone, a sense of Victorian flair, a spirit of invention—it felt natural from the start."

The kit included an assortment of high-end teas and accoutrements as well as liquor infusers and bar tools. Penance's journal contained 11 cocktail recipes inspired by episodes and characters. It even recommended elixirs based on the time of day. "We wanted the contents to be both whimsical and practical," says Rogan.

But before blending a cocktail, there was one more invention to build. Using the instructions detailed in Penance's journal and the bottle of Hendrick's gin provided, you had to put together the liquor dispenser and wall mount. Then it was time to toast the adventure!

As for generating the "wow factor" with these at-home experiences, Rogan notes that so much of the success is based on the company you keep and a shared passion for the creative mission. "RQ's enthusiasm, unbridled excitement and love for The Nevers was obvious from the start and they were able to deliver a fantastic experience because of their passion," she says. "You know you've created something cool when a single unboxing video turns into a 15-panel Instagram Story."

As the world slowly reopens, Rogan has a few takeaways from this year of reinventing experiential marketing. "The details matter!" she says. "Some of my favorite kit elements are the small, thoughtful details that tease what's to come, like the Faust poster we tracked down from Production. When we go back to creating larger experiences, it'll be important to dedicate the same care and attention to those narrative breadcrumbs that fans find so special." 

Catch new episodes of The Nevers every Sunday on HBO.

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