The Design & Packaging Masters 2021 results
No matter how good the liquid inside a spirits bottle, it’s the packaging that catches consumers’ eyes and draws them in. Our annual competition puts design under the spotlight.
It’s what’s on the inside that counts, or so the saying goes – and that is, to an extent, true for spirits. The Global Spirits Masters, for the most part, is only interested in one thing: the quality of the liquid inside the bottle.
But when it comes to The Design & Packaging Masters, the competition gets turned on its head, and instead of the spirit in the bottle, judges are purely focused on aesthetics.
At the same time, there is a lot more to take into account than what meets the eye. A top‐quality bottle design has to look good, be fit for purpose, tell a story, and be considerate of how it affects the environment.
To consider all of these elements, a team of well‐versed judges gathered at The Bridge in London. The judging panel consisted of: Bryan Rodriguez, wine and spirits buyer at Harvey Nichols; Bernadette Pamplin, spirits writer and founder of the Under the Ginfluence blog; Ivan Dixon, independent spirits consultant; Hugo Mesquita, sales and marketing director at Amorim Top Series, sponsor of The Design & Packaging Masters; and Melita Kiely, editor of The Spirits Business and chair of the competition.
It took a day and a half to judge this year’s entries – which comprised the biggest edition of The Design & Packaging Masters to date.
The competition kicked off with a round of Vodka. Three Gold medals stood out to the judges, one of which was Australian bottling Archie Rose Native Botanical Vodka. Dixon said: “I liked Archie Rose for the colour scheme and the information available on the bottle, it was quite engaging. Customers can understand what’s in the bottle and learn more – slick, minimalist and smart.”
Good Vodka also received a Gold medal. The judges liked that this bottle was “doing something anti‐corporate and different”. The third Gold went to Bear Prophet Premium Vodka, praised for its “contrasting black and copper colours”. Two Silver medals completed the flight.
In the Gin round, a strong range of designs impressed the judges. The flight produced five Masters, 10 Golds and five Silvers.
One Master medal went to Isle of Harris Gin. Rodriguez described this as a “beautiful bottle”. He added: “I love the blue tints of colour on the base that very smartly travel up the waves of the bottle. The wooden stopper is big and bold; it feels quality.”
Seabourne Coastal Dry Gin also received a Master medal. The judges liked the engraving on the base of the bottle, the textures on the label and the use of natural materials for the stopper. “A fantastic design – slick, elegant, sustainable and beautiful,” the panel agreed.
Archie Rose Bone Dry Gin collected a Master medal for being a “very strong, simple and effective bottle”.
The fourth Master in the Gin flight was awarded to The Audemus Collection. The judges were drawn in by the “fun, cartoon – but grown‐up – artwork” and thought the overall look was “clever and eye‐catching”.
The fifth and final Master went to Whitby Gin, with its “gorgeous texture and striking cut‐out label sat atop smoother glass”.
The 10 Gold medallists included: “well‐executed, nice‐looking and functional” Hrafn Gin Voyager; In the Welsh Wind Signature Style Palo Cortado Limited Edition, with its “angled label, great textures and shape”; and No.3 London Dry Gin, with its “elegant, striking bottle, and unique design”.
Mesquita said: “Gin is the most premiumised category from a packaging perspective. People are less fearful of risking bold designs.”
Attention then turned to Tequila, and another Master‐worthy design joined the growing medal haul. Tiempo Tequila picked up the top award for having “that rustic Hispanic feel”. “The box is amazing, the colour is beautiful; it’s visually delightful,” said Rodriguez. “I would reuse it as a water bottle.”
Six Gold medals were also awarded in this round. Fraternity Spirits secured Gold for products including: Corralejo Añejo Tequila, Corralejo Reposado Tequila, Corralejo Blanco Tequila, and Corralejo 1821. Each bottle was celebrated for its “eye‐catching design” and its ability to “stand out on shelves”.
After Tequila, the judges had a large flight of Rum to work through. The category rose to the challenge, delivering six Master medals.
Havana Club Tributo 2021 secured the top award for its “very luxurious feel”. Rodriguez said: “At its retail price, you would expect the bottle to come in this type of packaging. The varnished box is definitely something you would want to keep and reuse.”
Havana Club Rum of Skepta also won a Master award. The packaging was celebrated for “feeling quality” with a “nice weight to it, and a solid gift box”. Overall, the judges agreed the design had a “very premium feel to it”.
Takamaka Seychelles Series also won a Master medal after impressing the judges with the range’s “brightly coloured labels” and “textured detailing on the front and back labels”. “Really beautiful,” was the general consensus.
Also impressing the judges was Eminente Reserva. Pamplin said about this design: “As a gift pack, this is absolutely amazing. The bottle and texture is stunning, and the extra glasses and canvas bag are well made, and will be reused. It’s really beautiful.”
Duppy Share collected two Masters, one for Duppy Share Spiced and a second for Duppy White, created in partnership with rapper Kano. The latter bottling impressed with its “rough and smooth textures” and “attention to detail on the bottle, depicting Jamaican scenes”. The panel felt it would “stand out well, and brought a refreshing look” to the category. Duppy Share Spiced was also liked for being “bold, bright and modern” in its aesthetics.
Ten Gold medals enhanced the scoreboard, with two going to Bacardí Rum. The brand collected a Gold for its Añejo Cuatro expression, which was described as “eye‐catching, a strong look – great bottle”. A Gold also went to Bacardí Grand Reserva Limitada, with its “smart black bottle, gold detailing” that made it feel “luxurious and elegant”.
City of Manchester Distillery Pot and Column Rum also secured a Gold or a combination of elements that impressed the judges. Of the round as a whole, Rodriguez said: “This was very strong in places. When simplicity is done well, like Takamaka, it can be very striking. But some brands are still using a lot of excess packaging. Some would benefit from being stripped back and letting the beautiful bottle designs speak for themselves.”
From there, the competition turned its attention to Cognac. Two Master designs were discovered in this heat. Bache‐Gabrielsen 5 picked up the top award for creating a “simple, but elegant” look that “used lots of sustainable materials”.
“Top notch” Maison Ferrand Selection Des Anges also won a Master medal for its “beautiful glass work” and “weighty, expensive‐feeling” stopper.
Four Gold medals were also awarded to: “Champagne bottle‐esque” Branson Cognac VSOP Grande Champagne; Camus Borderies with its “nice detailing and metallic rose gold accents”; Camus’ Return to Saint‐Aulaye, which depicted “the story of the Cognac in the bottle beautifully” on the bottle and box; and “classic‐looking” Le Portier Shay VSOP.
Pamplin said: “It’s interesting to see the evolution of Cognac and for it to move in a different way, like the Bache‐Gabrielsen 5. It’s the first time I’ve seen a brand say how it’s sustainable on the packaging in such detail. To see them start to do that is exciting.”
In the Brandy segment, a Master was won by Armenian brandy Ararat Nairi from the Yerevan Brandy Company. Mesquita was impressed by this design. He said: “Ararat did a great job. It has natural materials, the bottle fits in the box but doesn’t fall loose – and there’s no foam inside.”
In the American whiskey contingent, Olde Raleigh Distillery Blended Bourbon collected the top Master award for its unique bottle shape that was “reminiscent of a whiskey still”. The judges also noted the “great texturing on the label”.
Fox & Oden Straight Bourbon also secured a Master in this flight, and was celebrated for its bottle shape – wider at the base with a tall, slender neck.
Uncle Nearest Master Blend Edition grabbed a Gold, liked for its “premium” feel and “nice colour accents on the paper labels”.
“A great design,” said the judges. Stranahans Mountain Angel also collected a Gold award. The whiskey bottle caught the judges’ attention with its jigger‐style cap.
“Smart, sophisticated” Fordham Lee Distillery Bourbon also bagged a Gold medal. Howler Head and Zachary Edward were awarded Silver medals.
The designers went all out in the Irish Whiskey round, where five Master‐worthy designs were found. The first Master was awarded to Powers John’s Lane. With its “light gift tube, which makes for a great gifting option” and “good, clean, simple design”, the judges had high praise for this whiskey. Mesquita said: “I particularly loved this, it’s a really smart design.”
Redbreast 12 Years Old and Bird Feeder also received a Master medal for its creative addition of a “restaurant for birds”, as described by Rodriguez. The panel was completely enamoured with the metal birdcage that encased the bottle for Redbreast 12 Years, and also spotted alternative uses for the feeder, such as a lantern. “I love the idea of the bird feeder; this is such a brilliant initiative,” enthused Rodriguez. “The actual bird feeder cage is light and has multiple uses. You hope the consumer would use this for its intended purpose, or give it to someone who will.”
Method and Madness Single Malt also secured the Master award. The judges described it as a “stunning‐looking and uniquely shaped bottle of whiskey”, that “does stand out and feels like a prestigious bottle to have on your shelf”.
The Taoscan also impressed enough to win a Master medal, enjoyed for its “luxurious case” and “elaborate, eye‐catching design”.
The Brollach collected the final Master medal in this round, praised for its “beautiful presentation” and “clever, well‐executed design”, including a hidden compartment with miniature samples.
A Gold medal was awarded to Jameson Black Barrel, also from Irish Distillers.
Dixon said: “After decades of plodding along and resting on heritage and traditional laurels, the Irish whiskey market has really woken up and seen the popularity of Jameson in the US, and the influx of new world whiskies from Japan, Australia and Europe. They’re having to make moves to contemporise the packaging and appeal to younger audiences as opposed to cigar pipe‐smoking old men by the fireplace.”
In the World Whisky contingent, three bottles stood out from the rest. Grand Talon Rice Whisky from China caught the judges’ attention and secured a Master medal. Pamplin said: “The bottle is really lovely with the scale design.”
Mesquita agreed, and added: “I love the storytelling. This is a premium bottle, but not ‘bling’. It’s a nice example of how to do premium without overdoing it. There was a lot of Chinese heritage, not too much, but it linked everything together very well.”
Stauning Whisky also collected two Master awards in this flight. The first went to Stauning El Clásico with its screen‐printed bottle and “clear, descriptive” labelling. Stauning Kaos also secured the same award, praised for its “abstract black matt” detail and “striking, modern artwork”.
Among the five Gold medal winners in this heat were two bottlings from Fraternity Spirits: “elegant” Nobushi Single Grain Japanese Whisky; and “simple but beautiful” Nobushi Japanese Whisky. “The advantageous position for new world whisky is that there’s not much tradition, hence they can market accordingly to a younger audience, do something disruptive, interesting, innovative and experimental without any boundaries or reputation.”
The final whisky flight considered a small number of entries from Scotland – but two top‐quality designs were found. Master medallist London Square Blended Scotch Whisky was hailed for its “attractive box” and “nice metallic pops of colour”. Fellow Master winner Raasay really excited the judges with its design. Pamplin enthused: “This is a beautiful bottle; stunning. The paper label feels luxurious.” The bottle delivered lots of texture and incorporated “fossil‐shell embossing” adding to the overall effect. Spearhead Single Grain gained a respectable Gold medal in the flight for being “slick” with “nice attention to detail”.
The penultimate heat saw a large number of Speciality Drinks put through their paces. Pimentae picked up the first of two Master medals for Tommy’s Chilli Margarita. The pre‐mixed cocktail impressed the judges with its “eye‐catching artwork” that set an “extra‐premium” feel, something not often found in the ready‐to‐drink sector. Compass Box Rogues Banquet collected a Master medal for its “complex” design with “lots going on” – all contributing to a “very cool design”.
The judges also gave 12 entries Gold medals. Among these were Devil’s Botany Absinthe, with its “striking opaque black bottle with green label”, and High Water Hard Seltzer for its “bright colour palette”.
The final round of the competition was Liqueurs – in which the final three Masters were discovered. The King’s Ginger, with its “bright, bold ombre design” and “embossed glass that draws the consumer in”, was one of the Master recipients.
Another Master winner was Nixta, with its bottle design akin to a corn cob. Rodriguez was particularly excited by this design: “An absolute standout bottle. The shape is beautiful, the label is vibrant but still has a Mexican heritage‐style to it. This shows how to properly package a product to represent the liquid inside.”
The final Master went to Tequila‐based Vivir Tequila Café VS. The judges liked the frosted black base of the bottle against the matte black top. Golds went to: “quirky, festive and fun” Sixpence Pud; “retro” Magnolia Lab Oriental Botanical Liqueur – Roselle; and Magnolia Lab Oriental Botanical Liqueur – Magnolia, with its “traditional colour scheme”.
After assessing this year’s entries, the judges had to pick their favourite design to be crowned Design & Packaging ‘Best in Class’ 2021. With such a high calibre of designs to choose from, it was a tough decision to make.
Just missing out on the award was a bottle that stuck in the judges’ minds: Redbreast 12 Years Old and Bird Feeder. The panel continued to praise the creativity of designing a bird feeder to fit around the bottle – and one that felt high‐quality, as well.
But the winner of The Design & Packaging Best in Class 2021 title was Eminente Reserva. The judges continued to praise the “stunning” bottle design with its crocodile skin‐texture glass. The added touches to the gift pack made it a worthy winner.
This year’s Design & Packaging Masters showed that as sustainability continues to be at the forefront of consumers’ minds, it is hugely important for brands to consider a bottle design’s impact on the environment as well as its aesthetic appeal. This consideration must run from the start of the design process right through to the finished product on the shelf. Those that manage to strike a balance between sustainability and design will appear all the more attractive to today’s discerning consumers.
|Archie Rose||Archie Rose Native Botanical Vodka||Gold|
|CF Napa Brand Design||Bear + Prophet Premium Vodka||Gold|
|Stranger & Stranger
on behalf of Equal Parts
|The Highway Distillery||Highway Vodka||Silver|
|Horizons Group London||Emperor Original||Silver|
|Isle of Harris Distillers||Isle of Harris Gin||Master|
|Stolzle Flaconnage for Whitby Gin||Whitby Gin||Master|
|Seabourne||Seabourne Coastal Dry Gin||Master|
|Archie Rose||Archie Rose Bone Dry Gin||Master|
|Audemus Spirits||The Audemus Collection||Master|
|Knockout on behalf of Bacardi||Bombay Sapphire Premier Cru Mercian Lemon||Gold|
|Knockout on behalf of Bacardi||Bombay Sapphire Sunset||Gold|
|CF Napa Brand Design||Modern Love Reserve Gin||Gold|
|Archie Rose||Archie Rose Signature Dry Gin||Gold|
|Raven Spirits||Hrafn Gin Voyager||Gold|
|In the Welsh Wind Distillery||In the Welsh Wind Signature Style
Palo Cortado Limited Edition
|Signature Brands||Agnes Arber Pineapple Gin||Gold|
|Skellig Six 18 Distillers||Skellig Six 18 Pot Still Gin||Gold|
|Berry Bros & Rudd||No.3 London Dry Gin||Gold|
|Comte de Grasse||44°N||Gold|
|Horizons Group London||Butterfly Original||Silver|
|Saigon Baigur||Saigon Baigur Dry Gin||Silver|
|Liquorsmiths||Old Tom 6||Silver|
|Knockout on behalf of Bacardi||Bombay Bramble||Silver|
|The Favignana Flavor Company||Isola di Favignana||Silver|
|For The Love Of||Tiempo Tequila||Master|
|222 Spirits Company||Calirosa Tequila||Gold|
|Fraternity Spirits||Corralejo Añejo Tequila||Gold|
|Fraternity Spirits||Corralejo Reposado Tequila||Gold|
|Fraternity Spirits||Corralejo Blanco Tequila||Gold|
|Fraternity Spirits||Corralejo 1821||Gold|
|Tequila Gran Diamante||Tequila Diamante Range||Gold|
|Moët Hennessy||Eminente Reserva||Master & Best in Class|
|Havana Club||Havana Club Tributo 2021||Master|
|Havana Club||Havana Club Rum of Skepta||Master|
|Takamaka||Takamaka Seychelles Series||Master|
|The Duppy Share||Duppy Share Spiced||Master|
|The Duppy Share||Duppy White||Master|
|Yoshino Spirits||Minoki Rum||Gold|
|Alcohol Solutions||City of Manchester Distillery Pot and Column Rum||Gold|
|Ashgrove Marketing Agency||Jackdaw Cave Spiced Rum||Gold|
|Ashgrove Marketing Agency||Windsong White Rum||Gold|
|Ashgrove Marketing Agency||Peggy Dark Rum||Gold|
|Ashgrove Marketing Agency||Bläk Byrd Coffee Liqueur (Rum)||Gold|
|Bacardí Rum||Bacardí Añejo Cuatro||Gold|
|Bacardí Rum||Bacardí Gran Reserva Limitada||Gold|
|CF Napa Brand Design||Romero Distilling Co Dark Rum||Gold|
|Havana Club||Havana Club Cuban Spiced||Gold|
|Dark Matter Distillers||Physicist Series||Silver|
|Horizons Group London||Tattu Rum||Silver|
|Horizons Group London||Black Market Rum Blanco||Silver|
|Maison Bache‐Gabrielsen||Bache‐Gabrielsen 5||Master|
|Stranger & Stranger
on behalf of Maison Ferrand
|Maison Ferrand Selection Des Anges||Master|
|Sire Spirits||Branson Cognac VSOP Grande Champion||Gold|
|Camus La Grande Marque||VSOP Borderies||Gold|
|Camus La Grande Marque||Return to Saint‐Aulaye||Gold|
|Battleborn Spirits||Le Portier Shay VSOP||Gold|
|Yerevan Brandy Company||Ararat Nair||Master|
|Silvio Carta||Grappa di Vernaccia||Silver|
|CF Napa Brand Design||Olde Raleigh Distillery Blended Bourbon Whiskey||Master|
|CF Napa Brand Design||Fox & Oden Straight Bourbon Whiskey||Master|
|CF Napa Brand Design||Fordham Lee Distillery Bourbon Whiskey||Gold|
|Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey||Uncle Nearest Master Blend Edition||Gold|
|Stranger & Stranger
on behalf of Proximo Spirits
|Stranahans Mountain Angel||Gold|
|Stranger & Stranger
on behalf of Wooler Brands
|CF Napa Brand Design||Zachary Edward Bourbon Whiskey||Silver|
|Irish Distillers||Redbreast 12 Years Old and Bird Feeder||Master|
|Irish Distillers||Powers John’s Lane||Master|
|Irish Distillers||Method and Madness Single Malt||Master|
|The Craft Irish Whiskey Co||The Taoscan||Master|
|The Craft Irish Whiskey Co||The Brollach||Master|
|Irish Distillers||Jameson Black Barrel||Gold|
|Grand Talon||Grand Talon Rice Whisky||Master|
|Stauning Whisky||Stauning El Clásico||Master|
|Stauning Whisky||Stauning Kaos||Master|
|Archie Rose||Archie Rose Rye Malt Whisky||Gold|
|Allied Blenders and Distillers||Sterling Reserve Blend 10 Earth Edition||Gold|
|Allied Blenders and Distillers||Sterling Reserve Blend 7 Gaming Pack||Gold|
|Fraternity Spirits||Nobushi Single Grain Japanese Whisky||Gold|
|Fraternity Spirits||Nobushi Japanese Whisky||Gold|
|Ole Smoky Distillery||Blue Flame Moonshine||Silver|
|Allied Blenders and Distillers||Officer’s Choice Blue||Silver|
|Charles Edge London||London Square Blended Scotch Whisky||Master|
|Stranger & Stranger
on behalf of Isle of Raasay
|Loch Lomond Group||Spearhead Single Grain||Gold|
|La Martiniquaise‐Bardinet||Cutty Sark 12 Years Old||Silver|
|Pimentae||Tommy’s Chilli Margarita||Master|
|Stranger & Stranger
on behalf of Compass Box
|Compass Box Rogues Banquet||Master|
|High Water Hard Seltzer||High Water Hard Seltzer||Gold|
|Feels Botanical||Feels Botanical Eau De Vie Rouse||Gold|
|Chad Michael Studio on behalf of Devil’s Botany||Devil’s Botany Absinthe||Gold|
|The Alcoholic Water Company||Lilo||Gold|
|Stranger & Stranger
on behalf of Castle & Key
|Castle & Key Range||Gold|
|Stranger & Stranger
on behalf of Giuseppe Gallo
|Stranger & Stranger
on behalf of Duvel Moogart
|Villa Massa||Villa Massa Vermouth Giardino Tradizionale||Gold|
|Villa Massa||Villa Massa Vermouth Giardino Mediterranean Dry||Gold|
|L42||Lot 42 Blueberry & Lemongrass||Gold|
|Betty Buzz||Betty Buzz||Silver|
|Ole Smoky Distillery||Blackberry Lemonade Moonshine Cocktail||Silver|
|JNPR Spirits||JNPR n°2||Silver|
|Pernod Ricard||Ceder’s Rose||Silver|
|Pernod Ricard||Ceder’s Wild||Silver|
|Pernod Ricard||Ceder’s Crisp||Silver|
|Pernod Ricard||Ceder’s Classic||Silver|
|Stranger & Stranger
on behalf of Berry Bros & Rudd
|The King’s Ginger||Master|
|Vivir Drinks||Vivir Tequila Café VS||Master|
|CF Napa Brand Design||Fleur Charmante||Gold|
|Gravity Drinks||Sixpence Pud||Gold|
|Magnolia Concept||Magnolia Lab Oriental Botanical Liqueur – Roselle||Gold|
|Magnolia Concept||Magnolia Lab Oriental Botanical Liqueur – Magnolia||Gold|
|Swang||Abacaty Avocado Cream Liqueur||Silver|
|Jack From Brooklyn||Sorel||Silver|
|Sueno Drinks||El Sueño Tequila Coffee Liqueur||Silver|