Close Menu

The Design & Packaging Masters 2023 results

Before consumers try a bottle of spirits, their attention must be caught by the packaging. In our annual competition, our judges were wowed by the quality of the entries.

Spirits producers entered their creative designs into our annual competition

Spirits can come in all shapes and sizes, and in a competitive market it can be challenging to make bottles stand out on shelves. Producers are focused on ensuring the vessels their products are housed in are as special as the liquid inside, while paying attention to important aspects such as sustainability and ease of use behind the bar and in consumers’ homes.

While a drinker’s journey to buying a new spirit often starts with how eye‐catching the packaging is, it’s the small but intricate details that can secure the sale, from information about how a brand is offsetting its carbon footprint to the secondary materials that accompany it.

Judges took to the tough challenge of awarding designs in every spirit category, from gin and vodka to whisky and liqueurs, in this year’s Design & Packaging Masters. Forming the first panel were Bryan Rodriguez‐Curtis, buyer at Harvey Nichols, and Marie Cheong‐Thong, wine and spirits judge, and WSET educator.

A second panel was made up of: Ruchira Neotia, wine and spirits consultant and drinks experience designer; Anne Jones, drinks expert at Waitrose; and Alastair Cliff, strategy director at design agency Here.

Melita Kiely, editor of The Spirits Business, and chair of The Global Spirits Masters Competitions (The GSMC) led the third panel. She judged alongside Daniela Monteiro, product designer at closures maker Amorim, who joined the contest virtually.

Top accolade

The contest kicked off with a flight of Vodka, where a Master was quickly unearthed, alongside six Golds and two Silvers. Taking the top aaward was Sapling Climate Positive Vodka Refill + Return Pouch, which was praised for its refillable nature. “It is a great idea to have customers post back the empty pouch to the supplier for free,” Rodriguez‐Curtis said.

Among the Gold medallists were Lex by Nemiroff, praised for its “stunning bottle and Art Deco feel”, Royal Mash Vintage Vodka 2020, described as a “pleasant looking bottle” with a “regal style”, and the “striking” Crystal Head Vodka, noted for its skull‐shaped bottle that is often reused.

Spirits bottles
Spirits bottles of all shapes and sizes were tested

Gin round impresses

The next round, Gin, particularly impressed judges, with seven Master medals given out. The first was given to The Isle of Barra Gin, with Kiely noting: “The texture of this bottle looks like water, it’s beautiful. Inside the box it gives details about the island, the gin’s sustainability (made from a minimum of 58% recycled glass). It helps you to understand the product, the brand and where it’s made.”

Fellow Master medallist Tanqueray No. Ten was praised by Neotia for its “iconic classic bottle shape” and “perfect functionality”. Meanwhile, Cherrapunji Eastern Craft Gin won the award for being “very different and unique – love the copper colour, and bright illustrations, very in keeping of India and where it’s from”, said Kiely.

No.3 London Dry Gin impressed Cheong‐Thong with its inlaid key. She said: “Clever and interesting with a good shape and functional.” Sapling Spirits took home its second Master of the day, this time for its Sapling Climate Positive Gin.

“It looks pretty, has a pleasant image and colour palette, and I love the plastic‐free nature of the design and delivery. A nice bottle with sustainability at its forefront,” said Rodriguez‐Curtis.

Of Highclere Castle Gin, Rodriguez‐Curtis said it was “nicely decorated with a screen‐printed design. It is clear and informative, and feels good to hold. It is simply screwcapped, and works well as a bottled gin.”

Completing the Master line‐up was Isle of Raasay. Judges enjoyed its “stunning embossing and textures used on the bottle”, and its links to the ocean with a wave pattern and metallic accents that gave it an “extra luxurious feel”.

Nine Golds were also awarded, including one to Stranger & Sons Sherry Cask Gin, with its “beautifully designed label” and judges liked the addition of a perfume‐inspired garnish. Other Golds went to: Incognito Strawberry and Raspberry Pink Gin for its “well‐made box, with magnetic closure and QR code”; Bombay Sapphire Premier Cru Tuscan Juniper, with its “good lightweight glass and clear classic label design”; and Erbe Gin, which offered an “effective two‐tone ombre glass with gold accents that add a sophisticated, modern touch”.

A Mexican touch

Six Masters followed in the Tequila round, including three for Casa Obsidiana. The brand’s Blanco, Reposado, and Añejo were lauded by one judge: “Very cool concepts – looks so original compared with other bottles on the market. Each one is like a modern work of art. It makes you want to collect the lot to have them on display.”

Cheong‐Thong said Master winner Los Dias Magicos had a “nice feel, and looks expensive”, with a “beautifully designed label with a Mexican touch”. Tequila Barajas Extra Añejo was described as being “unmistakably premium”, with an authentic design and “strong brand storytelling by connecting to the Mexican ‘Talavera’ ceramic style from Jalisco”.

Lágrimas del Valle “looks like a product you want to show off in your back bar”, according to Rodriguez‐Curtis, who liked its “colour palate that feels quite Wild West, with its dark coppers, reds and dark blues”. X.A Volcan went home with a Gold, lauded for its “high‐end luxury feel” and “impressive domed ‘volcano’ embossed onto the bottom of the glass”.

Spirits bottles
Our judges looked at every aspect of design, from the closures to the labels

The Rum round revealed a trio of Masters for Bacardí, with its Caribbean Spiced, Reserva Ocho and Superior expressions securing the top award.

Of Caribbean Spiced, Rodriguez‐Curtis said: “The bottle and label have a pleasant autumnal feel to it but with some tropical fruits showing, reminding you of the tropical nature of the product. It has smart presentation and a pleasant texture on the label.”

Meanwhile, Reserva Ocho offered a “premium looking bottle with a strong Cuban identity to it” and a “very classy design and bottle with clear indication of age”. Bacardí Superior was lauded by Rodriguez‐Curtis for its functionality: “It is a light bottle, easy to hold, easy to pour, and has all the information needed on the front of the label.”

Four Golds were also given out in this round, including one for Havana Club X Places+Faces. The rum offered a “change of bottle style and colours deviated from the original – fun, bright and modern”, said Cheong‐Thong. Burdekin Rum grabbed a Gold for its “beautiful design; the quality of the illustration creates a real visual impact with intricate discoverable details to find”, said Cliff. The flight concluded with one Silver.

Cliff was impressed by the quality on offer: “A really strong flight of rums. It’s interesting to see how the exuberant category codes are being reinvented. Really high‐quality finishes across the flight, especially the intricacy of the illustrations.”

A Gold and a pair of Silvers were also found in the Cognac flight for Hardy Cognac.

Sophisticated and elegant

Meanwhile, the Brandy round brought a Master and two Golds. Burnt Faith Brandy won the Master accolade, with its “lovely shape. Clear label with nice seal. Good weight. Nice moulded bottle,” said Cheong‐Thong. The “sophisticated and elegant” Aznauri Black Barrel was also a worthy Gold recipient, offering a black matte texture combined with the glossy copper accents.

Moving on to American Whiskey, CF Napa Brand Design took a Gold for Good Trouble, and a Silver for Rimfire Whiskey. The former was commended for its shape, premium look and combination of materials.

World Whisky was a particularly strong round, with Gallus Whisky and Wire Works securing Masters. Rodriguez‐Curtis said of Gallus: “The box is lovely, and very premium, with a satisfying magnetic closure. It holds very well, and is sturdy. The bottle itself is beautiful in its simplicity.” Meanwhile, Rodriguez‐Curtis said Wire Works’ use of “corrugated cardboard packaging is a touch of genius”.

Six Gold‐worthy entries were rewarded in the Irish Whiskey heat, alongside two Silvers. Irish Distillers took home three of the Golds, including one for Method and Madness Garryana Oak. Cliff said of the product: “A striking and modern design, breaking the traditional codes of Irish whiskey.”

The Craft Irish Whiskey Co scored two Golds in the flight for The Storyteller and The Donn. Kiely was impressed by the elements used in the design of The Donn, and by its ultra‐ premium packaging.

Skellig Small Batch Irish Whiskey PX Sherry Cask Finish won Gold for its “modern, minimum packaging – perfect example of ushering in a new era of modern whisky”, said Neotia.

Jones praised the overall flight: “A very diverse set of examples, from classic design, modern clean quality design, and added‐ value packs for well‐known brands. Form and function continue to guide the most successful designs.”

The bottle’s lightness and ease of use were considered by the judges

Stunning bottle

The judges then progressed to Scotland, where a hat trick of Masters were unearthed in the Scotch Whisky flight. The first, Quiet Rebels Gordon, particularly impressed Rodriguez‐Curtis: “The bottle is stunning. I love the screen‐printed design on the glass, and the gift tube, which is simple, and holds the bottle safely.

“The label tells you it is a B Corp company, which is great for its sustainability story, and the glass also tells you that it is a zero‐ carbon product.”

The Art of St Andrews 2023 Single Malt Scotch Whisky was the next Master winner. Cliff said: “A clear concept, beautifully executed. The artistic design by Jill Calder is richly detailed, and strongly evokes a sense of place. The jewels on the bottle are beautifully done, and the aligning of the label is of very high quality. Strong, confident, bottle shape.”

Master‐winning Tullibardine 18 Year Old was applauded by Cheong‐Thong for its “sturdy box with nice old‐fashioned artwork. Looks expensive. Clean clear bottle with nice clear label. Elegant”.

Nine Golds and four Silvers were also awarded in the flight. Stranger & Stranger received three Golds, for its The Hearach Isle of Harris Whisky, described as “beautiful and elegant with a smart label”, Lagg, with its wrap‐around design and embossed shape of mountains; and Compass Box Ultramarine, with its “bold and beautiful label”.

Douglas Laing & Co also went home with Golds for its King of Scots 50 Years Old, lauded for its “elegant colourways”, and Timorous Beastie – Meet The Beast, for its “fun, modern design”.

The penultimate flight allowed Liqueurs to take the spotlight, where two Masters were discovered. Nc’nean Botanical Spirit came out on top, described as “clean, elegant and stylish” and “light and small”. Judges praised the addition of the B Corp logo, which communicated its sustainability features.

Two Golds and three Silvers were also awarded. Gold‐winning Villa Massa Vermouth di Giardino Tradizionale was noted for its “elegant design with the red label contrasting well against the black bottle”. Stranger & Stranger also took home a Gold for Dada Chapel Brhum.

The final flight of the day tested ready‐to‐drink (RTD) products, and ended on a high note with a Master for Weekend – Pre‐Mixed Range. Cliff said: “A sophisticated series of pre‐mixed cocktails. Strong craft cues throughout, evokes a sense of being a high quality and hand finished product. Elegant bottle, playful typography, and nice discoverable details throughout.”

Five Golds were given out in the flight, with four going to Bacardí. Via Carota also gained a Gold, praised by Monteiro for its colour combinaion and texture. A Silver concluded the round.

The judges’ final task was to decide which product should take the title of Best in Class for The Design & Packaging Masters 2023. After careful deliberation, it was decided that Nc’nean’s Quiet Rebels Gordon was worthy of the title. The whisky’s cylindrical cardboard tin was praised, alongside its communication around how the B Corp‐certified brand is doing its part for the environment.

Overall, the judges reflected that some of the strongest brands on display were focused on being more environmentally friendly, using less packaging or more recyclable materials, and encouraging reuse. Bottles were also praised for their ergonomic designs, incorporating lighter bottles.

Company Product Medal
Sapling Spirits Sapling Climate Positive Vodka Refill + Return Pouch Master
Stranger & Stranger Dada Chapel Vodka Gold
Nemiroff Lex by Nemiroff Gold
Royal Mash Royal Mash Vintage Vodka 2020 Gold
Incognito Spirit Company Incognito Vanilla Vodka Gold
Crystal Head Vodka Crystal Head Vodka Gold
Stoelzle Flaconnage WhataHoot Signature Vodka Gold
In The Welsh Wind Distillery Three Grain Vodka Silver
O’Donnell Moonshine O’Donnell Moonshine High Proof Silver


Company Product Medal
Isle of Barra Distillers The Isle of Barra Gin Master
Diageo Tanqueray No. Ten Master
Raincheck Earth Cherrapunji Eastern Craft Gin Master
Berry Bros & Rudd No.3 London Dry Gin Master
Sapling Spirits Sapling Climate Positive Gin Master
Highclere Castle Spirits Highclere Castle Gin Master
Stranger & Stranger Isle of Raasay Master
Incognito Spirit Company Incognito Strawberry and Raspberry Pink Gin Gold
Knockout & Bacardi Bombay Sapphire Premier Cru Tuscan Juniper Gold
Mallard Point Mallard Point Premium London Dry Gin Gold
Third Eye Distillery Stranger & Sons Sherry Cask Aged Gin Gold
CF Napa Brand Design Feather & Folly Gold
Stranger & Stranger Astraea Gin Gold
Millhill’s London Dry Gin Millhill’s London Dry Gin Gold
Erbe Gin Erbe Gin Gold
Uokka Tanzanite Gin Gold
CF Napa Brand Design Aquatica Silver
Puerto de Indias Puerto de Indias Strawberry Silver


Company Product Medal
Denomination Los Dias Magicos Master
Barajas Brands Tequila Barajas Extra Añejo Master
Altamar Brands Lágrimas del Valle Master
Casa Obsidiana Casa Obsidiana Blanco Master
Casa Obsidiana Casa Obsidiana Reposado Master
Casa Obsidiana Casa Obsidiana Añejo Master
Stranger & Stranger X.A Volcan Gold


Company Product Medal
Bacardí Rum Bacardí Caribbean Spiced Master
Bacardí Rum Bacardí Reserva Ocho Master
Bacardí Rum Bacardí Superior Master
Angostura Angostura Tamboo Spiced Rum Gold
Havana Club Havana Club X Places+Faces Gold
Denomination Burdekin Rum Gold
Denomination Pinchgut Rum Gold
DropWorks DropWorks Rum Silver


Company Product Medal
Hardy Cognac Hardy VS Gold
Hardy Cognac Hardy XO Silver
Hardy Cognac Hardy VSOP Silver


Company Product Medal
Burnt Faith Burnt Faith Brandy Master
Global Beverage Trade Aznauri Black Barrel Gold
Global Beverage Trade Aznauri Gold Reserve Gold


American Whiskey
Company Product Medal
CF Napa Brand Design Good Trouble Gold
CF Napa Brand Design Rimfire Whiskey Silver


World Whisky
Company Product Medal
Denomination Gallus Whisky Master
White Peak Distillery Wire Works Whisky Master


Irish Whiskey
Company Product Medal
Irish Distillers Midleton Very Rare 2023 Vintage Release Gold
Irish Distillers Midleton Very Rare Barry Crockett Legacy Gold
Irish Distillers Method and Madness Garryana Oak Gold
The Craft Irish Whiskey Co The Storyteller Gold
The Craft Irish Whiskey Co The Donn Gold
Skellig Distillers Skellig Small Batch Irish Whiskey PX Sherry Cask Finish Gold
Skellig Distillers Skellig Triple Cask Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey – Six18 Step Collection Silver
Irish Distillers Redbreast 12 Year Old Birdfeeder Silver


Scotch Whisky
Company Product Medal
Nc’nean Quiet Rebels Gordon Master & Best in Class
Eden Mill St Andrews The Art of St Andrews 2023 Single Malt Scotch Whisky Master
Tullibardine Distillery Tullibardine 18 Year Old Master
Stranger & Stranger The Hearach Isle of Harris Whisky Gold
Stranger & Stranger Lagg Gold
Douglas Laing & Co King of Scots 50 Years Old Gold
Douglas Laing & Co Timorous Beastie – Meet The Beast Gold
Chivas Brothers Ballantine’s X Queen Gold
Chivas Brothers Ballantine’s 21 Years Old Artist Edition – Noh Sangho Gold
Chivas Brothers Ballantine’s 17 Years Old Artist Edition – Noh Sangho Gold
Chivas Brothers Ballantine’s 23 Years Old Golden Hour Edition Gold
Stranger & Stranger Compass Box Ultramarine Gold
Chivas Brothers Ballantine’s X ACDC Silver
Uokka 17 Black Blended Malt Whisky Silver
Eden Mill St Andrews The Guard Bridge Blended Scotch Malt Whisky Silver
Stranger & Stranger Ad Gefrin TacnBora Silver


Company Product Medal
Nc’nean Botanical Spirit Master
Stranger & Stranger Dada Chapel Brhum Gold
Zamora Company Villa Massa Vermouth di Giardino Tradizionale Gold
Anora Group Gilde Juleaquavit 2023 Silver
Stoelzle Flaconnage Lister’s Lucid Elixir Silver
Tequila Cazadores Tequila Cazadores Café Silver


Company Product Medal
Weekend Weekend – Pre-Mixed Range Master
Bacardí Rum Bacardí Ready-To-Drink Caribbean Espresso Rumtini Gold
Bacardí Rum Bacardí Ready-To-Drink Spiced & Cola Gold
Bacardí Rum Bacardí Ready-To-Drink Toasted Coconut Colada Gold
Bacardí Rum Bacardí Ready-To-Drink Roasted Pineapple Rum Punch Gold
Stranger & Stranger Via Carota Gold
Bacardí Rum Bacardí Ready-To-Drink Mojito Silver

It looks like you're in Asia, would you like to be redirected to the Drinks Business Asia edition?

Yes, take me to the Asia edition No