BrewDog faces backlash over Tequila bottle
Lind & Lime Gin co-founder Ian Stirling has called out the design of a new Tequila from BrewDog, claiming it is “strikingly similar” to his brand.
Scottish brewer BrewDog launched the Tequila yesterday (Monday 12 February), named Casa Rayos. The design of the bottle, said to be a homage to the agave plant, has come under fire for allegedly featuring a design that is close in appearance to Scottish gin Lind & Lime.
Stirling, who said the news blindsided him when he found out, came across the new Tequila on Instagram over the weekend (through a post from a presenter on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch) and at first “mistook the bottle for ours and thought we were on the telly today, which was fantastic”.
Speaking to The Spirits Business, Stirling said: “I run a company too, I know it’s not easy. They are a great Scottish company as well. You don’t want to bash success needlessly and then suddenly you fall under the gaze of that.
“We’ve been pretty fortunate with the Scottish drinks industry, to be in an industry that’s pretty supportive, and so we haven’t yet accounted for a situation like this. We all have many other challenges to deal with and we shouldn’t be doing this to each other.
“I know we are all inspired to some extent by other brands, but this crosses that line with two middle fingers waving merrily in the air. They knew we’d notice, but simply don’t care because they’re a massive company and we’re not.
“You don’t catch them producing a bottle that looks like a Coca-Cola bottle. It feels as though there is a power dynamic at play. All we can do as a small producer is call it out when we see it and shout as loud as we can.”
Childhood friends Stirling and Paddy Fletcher released Lind & Lime Gin in November 2018 and opened a distillery in Edinburgh’s Port of Leith in May 2022. The product has since garnered awards for its wine-shaped bottle.
Stirling said he had also been contacted by Jack Vereker, co-founder of El Rayo Tequila, who noted the similarity between his brand’s name and BrewDog’s Casa Rayos.
Vereker said: “Creating an independent spirit is hard enough, but with tactics like these from massive companies, it makes our job even harder. It’s taken us years to build up the El Rayo brand name and distribution and, unlike BrewDog, we don’t have the budgets to buy our way onto shelves or into bars.
“I liked BrewDog, I even invested in them and felt that up until recently they generated often unwarranted negative press. Those opinions, as is hopefully obvious, have now changed significantly. If anyone is looking to buy any BrewDog shares at a significant discount then please get in touch.”
As for his next move, Stirling said he would take stock of the situation and “see what our options are”.
He added: “It’s not [in] our comfort zone. I hate confrontation. We’d normally shy away, but when something like this happens on your doorstep, you’ve got to call it out.”
BrewDog did not provide a comment when approached by The Spirits Business.
Steven Kersley: ‘significantly different’ bottles
However, Steven Kersley, managing director of BrewDog Distilling Co, addressed the claims in a LinkedIn post.
He stated that he and BrewDog co-founder Martin Dickie had worked on the development of Casa Rayos for two years.
“From inception to creation, we’ve been obsessed – both with the liquid and with the brand’s creative direction,” he wrote.
“We scrutinised every part of its development to death, going back and forth with our distilling partners in Mexico, the Orendain’s, and our wonderful design team here in the UK. We wanted to do justice to our collective ambition and bring a meaningful addition to an already incredibly diverse category.”
He noted that the “new branding hadn’t been as well received as we had hoped, by some”.
“This was down to a contention that we’d deliberately pinched our bottle design from Ian and the good guys at Port of Leith Distillery, specifically the bottle design of their brilliant Lind & Lime gin,” he said.
“Now here’s the bit where you spit out the breakfast, spray the coffee and call me untruthful. Martin and I genuinely, truthfully, didn’t draw any design connections at any stage of the creative development with Lind & Lime and I’d go a step further and say, on reflection, now having had time to look at the bottles next to each other – the bottles are significantly different.”
Kersley said the aim was to create a bottle design in tribute to Blue Weber agave while the name of the brand translates to house of rays/lightning bolt.
‘No creative cues’
In reference to the Casa Rayos bottle shapes and designs attached to the LinkedIn post, he continued: “The team of gifted creatives at the design agency we chose for this project gave us numerous bottle designs and shapes to decide from.
“There were two creative elements that were important to us, the agave leaves must feature and the colour had to reflect the true colours of the agave plant.
“The colour, mould shape, contours, glass text, label size/placement, fonts, and embossed design are all different too, plus the real cork stopper and silver Casa Rayos ring. It’s also a super-premium Tequila, not a gin.
“In this post I’ve tried to explain as briefly as I can how we approached this creative project, as an introvert it pains me to put myself into the court of public opinion, that said, honesty, I think can only help in this situation.
“With sincerity, Martin, our creative team and I took no creative cues from any other brands and we’re so proud of everything that this Tequila is and what it will become.
“I hope soon we can have a few G&T’s or T&Ts at the POL [Port of Leith] Distillery bar in Leith, it looks phenomenal. I wish Ian, Paddy, Samuel [Travers, Lind & Lime’s head of gin production] and the team all the best for what they’re about to achieve.”