The Design & Packaging Masters 2017 results

7th December, 2017 by Amy Hopkins

In terms of first impressions, the way a product looks can be almost as important as the liquid inside the container. This year’s Design & Packaging Masters saw an impressive line-up of bottles and boxes come under scrutiny.

Today’s spirits consumer is a scrutinous and capricious beast. With more choice available than ever before, they assess retail shelves with a brutal and meticulous eye, and are happy to flit between categories and labels – making it harder for brands to retain their interest and loyalty. In line with the pervasive trend of premiumisation in the industry, it’s clear that consumers are seeking spirits with classy and unique designs that show a clear connection to their respective categories and a strong sense of brand story.

The challenge of The Spirits Business’s Design & Packaging Masters 2017, held at Camino Bankside, was to identify and celebrate creative brands meeting this consumer desire. Assessing the entries was a panel of expert judges: Mike Axford, creative director at The Brand Foundry; Mónica García, head of research packaging at Manucore; Constantijn Huynen, managing director at Cartils; Antony Moss, director of strategic planning at the WSET; and Sarah Lagorsse Pontes, head of new product development at Amorim Top Series. Proceedings were chaired by me, Amy Hopkins, editor of The Spirits Business.

The first category to come under the spotlight was American Whiskey, which produced two Gold medals and three Silvers. Woodford Reserve Bourbon and Woodford Reserve Rye – both with similar elegant square designs – swiped Gold, winning praise for their “confident” appearances that are “clean and effective”. “This design is very impactful when you see it on the shelf,” said Huynen.

In a diminutive Aguardiente round, Mavem Arguardiente secured the first Master medal of the day for its beautifully simple appearance that evokes provenance and heritage. “I love it,” enthused Huynen. “It’s not overwhelming: it’s perfectly balanced between aesthetics and branding. It seems to use inexpensive processes, but it’s been made to feel so premium.”

The Master standard continued in the Campaign Design round, which saw judges analyse the aesthetics of marketing campaigns. The campaign for Old Forester’s partnership with spy flick Kingsman: The Golden Circle certainly sparked conversation among the panel. “This changes the face of a brand and makes it a player in the market,” observed Huynen. “If advertising isn’t about this, then what is it for?” Label 5’s Power of 5 campaign also impressed with its urban graphics, and was duly awarded a Silver.


We moved onto the biggest round of the competition: Gin, where two Master medals were awarded to two very different products. New Japanese gin brand Roku impressed with its “well­-executed” appearance that clearly communicates a brand narrative. “It screams ‘Japanese’,” said Moss. “Everything here relates to the product.”

Next up to swipe the top accolade was Pickering’s Gin Baubles, a charming product that got judges cooing. “In a decade where storytelling and nostalgia is so important, this is great,” said Huynen. “I love that the brand took the time to add some humour.”

That Boutique­-y Gin Company’s products also did very well in the round, winning three Golds and two Silvers. Lagorsse Pontes described the entire Boutique­-y gin offering as “unique and really cool”, while Huynen said the designs “take you to a different place emotionally, which is important for a brand”. Citadelle Gin, described by Moss as “visual candy”, also clinched Gold, while Boatyard Old Tom Gin secured a Silver.

Looking back on the round, judges noted the importance of having stand­-out design and packaging for brands operating in such a saturated category.

“Great design is an opportunity for a gin brand to convey what’s special about it in a very competitive market,” commented Moss. “The whole branding for gin has to stand out because artisan producers don’t have the marketing spend available,” added Axford.

Within the Liqueurs round, Licor 43’s new Gaudi­-inspired Made of Spain edition won a Silver for its “colourful and playful” sleeve. Another single medallist followed in the Pre­-Mixed round, with Everleigh Bottling Co’s Famous Four Gift Set winning Gold. “It just feels like something that would be very satisfying to open,” said Moss. “It’s a great gift.”

Moving into Rum, judges discovered another Master-­worthy entry: Boukman Botanical Rhum, whose design was praised for its ingenuity and attention to detail. “The colour is just amazing and really communicates the gin’s botanical concept,” said García. Huynen added: “It’s taking you on a journey, and every detail of that journey has been meticulously planned. There was a full creative process here.”


Angostura’s portfolio also impressed, with Golds awarded to the Reserva and 5 Year Old expressions. “The typography is clean and brings a reserva rum into the 21st century,” Axford said of the two similar designs. “It looks right, and the new bottle shape is becoming a classic – the touch points are perfect.”

El Ron Prohibido also won plaudits for its “distinctive” design. “It plays on your perception of what rum should be,” Huynen said of the Gold medal winner. “Everything the brand has done is very on purpose.”

Scotch is a category where creative packaging is more frequently reflecting innovation in the distilling industry. No longer do images of glens, tartan and historic typography lure consumers in, and judges were impressed by the cutting­edge designs on display.

Following on from the success of its sister company in Gin, That Boutique­-y Whisky Company secured the Master accolade for its Invergordon 42 Year Old expression in the Scotch round. “It’s shamelessly geeky and fun and the label is totally in line with the product,” said Moss.

Woolf Sung Collection ‘The Hunter’ also wowed judges with its intricate and sophisticated modern image, clinching a Master title. “This is a real effort by the brand to reach the consumer,” said Lagorsse Pontes. Moss added: “This is art but it also has all the whisky geek information. It’s a gentle statement.”

The round also saw Golds awarded to Highland Park 12 Year Old Viking Honour, Dewar’s 25 Year Old – The Signature, Private Collection Glenlivet 1943 by Gordon & MacPhail, and Ardmore 10 Year Old by That Boutique­y Whisky Company. Huynen said of the high-­end Gordon & MacPhail product: “This really does show a love of the liquid inside, and it avoids being gimmicky.”

Then, in Tequila, a Silver was awarded to UWA Tequila, praised for its “modern, clean and elegant” appearance.

(L­R): Mike Axford, Mónica García, Constantijn Huynen, Amy Hopkins, Sarah Lagorsse Pontes and Antony Moss

The final flight was Vodka, where Stranger & Stranger bagged the day’s last Master medal for the eye­-catching Fog Point. “The concept is beautiful and the materials are great,” said Huynen. Moss added: “This design is very playful and it’s not overly branded. It manages to be interesting and different.” Also in the round, Nemiroff Honey Pepper and Tovaritch! won Silvers.

As the day’s judging came to an end, the panel reflected on the importance of authenticity and imagination in spirits design and packaging today. “For me the best designs we selected achieved a certain emotional feeling – a clear­cut concept that hadn’t been tarnished,” mused Huynen. Axford added: “We assessed some fantastic designs that really hit the sweet spot.”

Click through the following pages for the full list of medal winners in this year’s Design & Packaging Masters.

One Response to “The Design & Packaging Masters 2017 results”

  1. Henri says:

    Thank you for the nice comments on Mavem : this is the joint effort of Brand Reveal & Megusta for the Strategy & Design part. When we worked on the project, we saw a huge opportunity to play in the world of the Portuguese Discoveries pf the XVth century. Kudos to Liliana Rocha, Mavem’s owner for her vision and courage to ignore classic aguardente stereotypes. Henri / Brand Reveal / Porto.

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