The Design & Packaging Masters 2019 results

4th December, 2019 by Amy Hopkins

The ability of spirits brands to stand out is vital, and our annual Design & Packaging Masters highlights the producers that are excelling.

In today’s crowded market, whether a spirit brand has standout packaging or not is the difference between securing a sale or being given the cold shoulder. But marketers and designers must go beyond the crude act of attention‐ grabbing and consider a number of factors to truly connect with shoppers and generate repeat business: functionality, brand story and sustainability among them.

Standard‐sized bottles and boxes don’t offer much room for brands to communicate their message to consumers, so they must be creative yet clear. For the spirits world’s new players that do not have an established following, excellent packaging is even more crucial. And likewise for global brands, design updates allow them to remain relevant in a rapidly changing market.

Gathering at Andaz Studio at Andaz London Liverpool Street for The Design & Packaging Masters 2019 were four independent judges: Hugo Mesquita, sales and marketing director at capsulated cork stopper producer Amorim Top Series, which sponsored the competition; Ara Carvallo, portfolio director at Distill Ventures; Elise Craft, Whisky Squad coordinator; and Melita Kiely, deputy editor of The Spirits Business, who chaired proceedings.

The Design & Packaging Masters 2019 is sponsored by Amorim Top Series

The competition set out to assess all aspects of design and packaging, with entrants spanning a number of spirit categories. The panel awarded Gold and Silver medals, as well as the top Master accolade.

The first round up for assessment was Vodka, which produced two Golds and five Silver medals. According to Craft, Gold medal winner Absolut Elyx “tells its story very well” with some “gorgeous” design cues. Meanwhile, the Absolut Juice Editions were praised for their “creative and simple” designs that remained connected to the Absolut brand. Judges also highlighted Silver medallist Gradusnik Vodka for being “bold, risky and different”.


By far the biggest round of the day was Gin, which came up next, and produced 10 Master winners. “Beautiful” Fieldnotes Organic Gin impressed with its attention to detail, classy colours and “really nice” embossing. Two Lone Wolf gins by BrewDog also secured the Master title: Lone Wolf Cloudy Lemon Gin was believed to be an excellent example of “clear and contemporary” design, while its stablemate, Lone Wolf London Dry Gin, was similarly lauded for its edgy branding, and “organised” label information. Also in BrewDog’s spirits portfolio, Zealot’s Heart Gin won a Master medal for its originality and “super strong” brand story.

The panel also enjoyed Knut Hansen Dry Gin’s “regional and old fashioned” design, as well as its use of ceramic materials, which they said “appeals to sustainability”. The packaging for Theodore Pictish Gin was said to “convey all the messages about what’s in the bottle” through its “less is more” aesthetic. The Teasmith Gin, meanwhile, was said to be “beautifully restrained and thoughtful” in its design, and Pink Pepper Gin impressed with its “very clever” box packaging that doubled as a cocktail menu. “I’m super impressed; the user experience and customer experience are completely amazing,” enthused Craft.

Lind & Lime Gin from The Port of Leith Distillery pleased judges with its “perfume bottle‐like” appearance and “good grip”.

Rounding off the Master medals for the Gin round was “classic” and “easy‐to‐hold” No.3 London Dry Gin. The category also yielded nine Gold medals, with judges expressing particular interest in “confident, well executed” Penderyn Brecon Gin – Chocolate Orange; “detailed, elegant” Slingsby London Dry Gin; and “clean, smart” Loch Ness Legends. Herbie Gin also secured a Silver medal. Judges were unanimously impressed by the diversity of the round. “In gin, you really need to stand out through all the packaging elements, the labels and closures,” Mesquita said. “It’s probably the most elaborate category we have today.”


The next round was Tequila, which produced two Gold medals and four Silvers. “I like the attention to detail,” Craft said of Gold medal winner Cenote Añejo Tequila. The rest of the entries were praised for their strong traditional designs and standout bottle shapes, but the judges would have liked to see more examples of innovative and elegant packaging. In the Mezcal contingent, Se Busca Añejo Mezcal won Silver for its “premium look” and “good texture”.

The Master standard resumed in the Rum round, in which the 700ml bottle of Neptune Rum won the top accolade for its exemplary storytelling. “This is quite disruptive for the category,” said Mesquita. The brand’s larger 1l bottle was awarded Gold, as was “fresh and authentic” El Supremo and “gorgeous” Five Hundred Cuts Botanical Rum. Two more Silver medals were given in the rum focus.

In the Cognac category, the “simple but beautiful” Ferrand 10 Générations bagged the Master accolade after impressing the panel with its intricate illustration subtly depicting the generations of the brand’s founding family. “It’s like a piece of art,” enthused Craft. Carvallo added: “It’s very baroque, but it works.”

L‐r: Hugo Mesquita, Ara Carvallo, Melita Kiely and Elise Craft

Then came another French spirit category, Calvados, in which Avallen Calvados, entered by Wonderworks, bagged a Master medal. In particular, the judges lauded its modern label design and protective cardboard packaging. “This is the most sustainable packaging we’ve seen today,” said Carvallo. “It shows it can be done. Sustainability should always be a big part of the criteria when you’re designing, and if you’re going to be a design leader, you have to think sustainably.”

Craft agreed: “One of the things that’s changing is sustainable materials. If you’re going to make something beautiful, you have to make beautiful decisions about sustainability.”

In American Whiskey, two Uncle Nearest bottles won Silver medals, and in World Whisky, Penderyn Rich Oak secured the Master title. “This is something I’d love to have in my cupboard,” said Mesquita. “There’s something very special about it.” According to Kiely, the “elegant” look of the bottle reflects Penderyn’s position as a “modern” distiller. Its stablemate, Penderyn Rhiannon, continued the brand’s high standard, winning a Gold medal.

The penultimate round of the day – Scotch Whisky – saw Master medals awarded to two Compass Box bottles: Compass Box Stranger & Stranger and Compass Box – No Name No.2. The design of the first whisky was described as “opulent perfection”. Mesquita enthused: “This is a case of when you spend money, you get quality.” The second Compass Box bottle also impressed the judges, and was Carvallo’s favourite of the day. “It feels like it says everything without saying too much,” she said. Craft added: “This is an example of a whisky brand that knows itself really well.”

In Speciality, the last round of the day, Carpano Botanic Bitter, described as “retro chic” with a “nice vintage feel”, won a Silver medal. The judges then reassessed the top‐ scoring bottles to select a ‘Best in Class’ design. A closely contested position, Compass Box – No Name No.2 just missed out on the award, though judges agreed it was deserving of a ‘highly commended’ recognition.

The Best in Class title was awarded to Compass Box Stranger & Stranger. The panel agreed it displayed everything they were looking for in an outstanding spirits bottle: exceptional storytelling, a standout aesthetic and quality materials. “Among the excellent bottles we assessed today, Compass Box Stranger & Stranger truly stood out as a thing of beauty,” enthused Kiely. “It exemplifies spirits design at its finest.”

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

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