This Year’s Design in Whisky Packaging 01

Some years ago I wrote an article, titled “Shaping Glass for Vodka”. Since then it has been one of the most popular articles on my blog, attracting thousands of readers even today. That’s amazing, as personally, I find the glass bottles for whisky much more a challenge to design. (Read also my articles of last year “Extravagance in Glass – Limited Edition Whisky Bottles”, Part 01, and 02)
Maybe the reason for this is that whisky, in an exceptional packaging, is much more exclusive, and consequently more expensive, than glass bottles for vodka, which see exorbitant designs even for vodkas, affordable, price-wise, by the average consumer.

It is a fact that spirits companies introduce the most fantastic glass bottle designs to attract consumers. Designers for whisky, vodka and high-end mineral water bottles have all the freedom they wish to create some exceptional design. We are running towards the end-of-the-year, so, I decided to give a limited overview of glass bottles. In three article sections, whisky, vodka and water, I will show the recent designs for glass bottles and their relevant secondary packaging.

According to a Mintel report about Alcohol Consumption at Home (June 2010), over a third of people (35%) in the US look for “packaging that makes consumption convenient and easy” when considering which alcoholic beverage product to purchase for consumption at home, ahead of “the packaging/bottle appears prestigious or sophisticated” (cited by 20% of people) or “the packaging/bottle appears sexy or hip” (cited by 17% of people).
However, nearly one third of all spirit drinkers like to try a new spirit brand because of its attractive or special packaging. These survey results can clearly be seen in the designs of vodka bottles. Whisky, and particularly Scottish whisky, in exorbitant designs belong to the section of very exclusive. But there are exceptions. We start we them first.

The Snow, the Black and the Naked Grouse
Even in the affordable section of whiskies you can find some beautiful designed bottles. Scottish distillery The Famous Grouse shook the whisky category with a product that should be served chilled, in a highly traditional category, usually talking about richness and warmth.
Scotland’s favourite whisky is now flanked by two very different styles of whisky appealing to a wide range of consumers and consumption occasions. Christmas 2011 will see The Black Grouse taking a leading role in the marketing activity for The Famous Grouse family, which now includes The Snow Grouse and The Naked Grouse.

Don’t think they are just funny names of the Famous Grouse marketing team. It is serious business. The Black Grouse (Tetrao tetrix) and the Snow Grouse (a Highland name for the ptarmigan, sometimes described as “the toughest bird in Britain”) are the centrepiece of the packaging, set against an authentic Scottish landscape. It was Rodger Mcphail, one of Britain’s most talented wildlife artists, who once again created the illustration of the birds, as he did previously for The Famous Grouse.

The birds have become the ‘hero’ of both the label and gift carton to provide better stand-out on shelf.

But the most interesting part is the bottle of the Naked Grouse. This edition is a different story, as it claims to be the world’s first whisky to choose taste over unnecessary packaging.
The “uncluttered design”, even without a label, “represents The Famous Grouse name with great integrity”, claims the company.
The iconic Famous Grouse image was debossed onto the face of the bottle and allowed instant recognition of the brand on-shelf. According to the glass bottle manufacturer, Allied Glass Containers, particular care was taken with the creation of the detail in the deboss, as it is so intrinsically linked to the brand.

Conscious of the need to have the visual effect of a real bird, 3D modelling technology was brought together with hand cut craftsmanship. It meant that the moulding was as intricate and accurate as possible. This included chipping the feathered detail by hand. Once inverted, the bottle reveals a grouse footprint on the base of the bottle and the words ‘please recycle’ in place of the traditional stipple.

But the Edrington Group, the parent company of The Famous Grouse distillery, went a step further. The company set out to prove that it was possible to produce a glass bottle under 400g (340g compared to the closest competitor bottle at 380g) that still supported premium features like engraving and embossing, and could cope with production line speeds of up to 600 bottles per minute.
The prototype weighs only 340g, 14% lighter than its conventional bottles, which it claims is a technical first in the bottling industry. The distiller predicts that the new glass bottles will save it over 2,160 tonnes of glass a year, and could save over 58,000 tonnes if its innovation were rolled-out across Scotland’s whisky industry.

Edrington partnered with bottle maker Owens-Illinois (O-I), Smurfit Kappa (for wraparound cases), Chesapeake Hilton (labels) and Zero Waste Scotland to achieve the weight reduction, which it said was not previously thought possible in the production of premium spirits bottles.

Edrington’s prototype was unveiled at the Scottish Waste and Resources Conference in Glasgow where business help organisation Zero Waste Scotland announced a £500,000 government investment fund for innovations that encourage businesses to target ‘zero waste’.

From your daily whisky shot, we now slowly move to the more expensive one.

Whisky in a luxury leather case
In France, Aberlour released a special edition Highland Single Malt 12 Years Old Scotch Whisky with a premium feel due to the packaging.
The whisky is contained in an embossed cylindrical glass bottle with information provided on litho printed and foil embossed paper labels. A headed bung acts as closure and is covered with a tamper evident lead foil. The bottle comes with a carry case/bag comprising a leather squared container complete with a zipped top and carrying handles. Screen printing and embossing decorates the leather.

The portable and decorative aspect of the secondary packaging makes it an ideal gift.

Dressed in Vivienne Westwood
At London Fashion Week, Chivas Regal launched a limited edition 18 Year Old blended Scotch whisky in a packaging designed by Vivienne Westwood.

One of the world’s most acclaimed fashion designers,  Vivienne Westwood used her expertise in tailoring and cutting to present the bottle as if it were a figure dressed in a luxurious three-piece coat in her unique style.

With the design of the Union Flag dating back to 1801 and Chivas Brothers roots also being traced back to this same year, the bottle is cloaked in Vivienne Westwood’s Union Jack print, as first seen in a Gold Label collection in Paris.

Chivas Regal 18 Year Old by Vivienne Westwood is released as a limited edition with only 2,500 bottles available internationally and priced from USD 495.00 duty free. The release coincided with Vivienne Westwood’s Autumn/Winter 2011 Red Label show in London.

Glenfiddich’s uniquely-coloured bottle
Stolzle Flaconnage created the new bottle for Glenfiddich in a uniquely-coloured glass for its 30 Year Old Single Malt
The bottle’s colour, according to Stolzle, has been created to “reflect the notes of sherry, fig and seductive dark chocolate” in the whisky.
The heavyweight glass bottle’s design links it to Glenfiddich’s range of aged whisky’s and carries the same embossed ’1887′ shoulder cartouche, which was created as part of the moulding process.

Each bottle bears a gold silk screen label in precious metal, which is applied by Stolzle, while the bottle is beautifully presented in a quality wood case, with a booklet on the distillery history and tasting notes.
The bottles are numbered from a numbered cask. The price seems to be some USD 298.00

Although released at the end of last year, I will include one more bottle from Glenfiddich.  In this case single malt distillery Glenfiddich partnered with renowned luxury glassmaker Steuben to create an exclusive hand crafted whisky decanter in a limited edition. Priced at USD 690 and available exclusively at the Steuben flagship store in New York, the bespoke decanter is a collaboration between Steuben’s master craftsmen and Glenfiddich master distiller Brian Kinsman, representing more than a century’s worth of artisanship, tradition and expertise.

The Steuben hallmarks of flawless design and attention to detail are combined with filigreed decorative elements inspired by some of the rarest and most precious Glenfiddich expressions.
The elegant piece also features subtle design cues that reflect the storied history of the Glenfiddich distillery, est. 1876, including the famous stag head design and the signature of its founder William Grant.

More to come. The very exclusive whisky’s in very special packages in the next article.

7 responses to “This Year’s Design in Whisky Packaging 01

    • Thanks for your comment. First of all, Jack isn’t a whisky, just a whiskey, quite a difference really (joke), secondly I have been looking at the black bottle, but there are too many innovations. I had to make a choice.

  1. Very interesting article but when we are talking about packaging for “luxury product” I can’t see any PET application
    The PET could be a good alternative way for weight reduction and it could let us have more possibility in term of shape
    But it’s true that the people still prefer glass bottle when we are talking about wine/whisky… but it was the same in the past for water bottle

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