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Labelling gins for maximum shelf standout

Labelling expert Karen Capey provides an insight into what independent gin distillers should be doing with their labels

Karen Capey Label Apeel

Once labelled as ‘mother’s ruin’, gin is no longer just for drinking alone or a spirit to be embarrassed of loving. It’s the tipple that people want to be seen with. The UK is the largest exporter of gin in the world, with approximately 70% of production worth £200m, going overseas to some 180 countries around the globe*. This romance the country is enjoying with gin has sparked a boom in independent distilleries, resulting in more bottles on the shelf crying out for drinkers attention. Which means that branding, labelling and packaging have to work harder to grab and hold the gin-lovers gaze.

Throughout 2013, we’ve been involved with three very different independent gin distillers and helped them to produce effective and appealing labels for their brands. Working in partnership with designers and design agencies, we’ve found that distillers are going for high finish specification for their labels to ensure they have maximum shelf appeal amongst all the competition. The brands have very distinct personalities, are from different parts of the UK and use their geographical location as a big part of their brand strategy. The
y’ve made it their business to connect the gin with their location and embrace that it’s a spirit made in a specific town, or village. Playing on consumers’ love of local produce, of nostalgic memories from childhood and by people just simply loving where they live.

As label printers we’re obsessive about creativity and like to get under the skin of all the products we work with and to get to the very heart of a brand.  In this case it was to create an experience for the drinker that begins as soon as they grasp their hands around the bottle or eyeball the label on the shelf.

The personal touch

Working with designers Blue Marlin, we digitally printed the labels for Warner Edwards, a gin brand based in Northampton. The labels are four colours and printed onto Tintoretto Gesso material, finished with embossing and a hot foil.  The tamper seal labels are sequentially numbered with bottle and batch numbers, and then the neck of the bottle is finished with a copper wire. Each batch of the drink is small and every bottle is carefully handcrafted by the distillery.

This artisan distillery producer has two different gins, Harrington Dry Gin and Elderflower Gin. The brand plays on everything being handcrafted and lovingly put together by best friends, Tom and Sion. The consumer knows exactly where the gin came from and who they’ve got to thank for it. Which can make a refreshing change from larger brands.

Location, Location, Location

The second independent distillery we worked with is Southwestern Distillery a micro distillery who handcrafted their artisan spirit, Tarqin’s Gin. We created labels for the Distillery’s two unique products: Tarquin’s Dry Gin, the first gin to be produced in Cornwall for 200 years, and Tarquin’s Cornish Patis, the very first Patis to be produced in the UK.

The labels for Tarquin’s Gin are eye-catching. They’re digitally printed using five colour onto Martelle Blanc material with the Cornish Dry having gold foil and the Cornish Patis having a silver foil. The bottles are beautifully finished with wax and each bottle is stamped on the lid with handwritten batch details – which adds to the very handcrafted finish.

Daniel Kingdom Gradwell, partner at Kingdom & Sparrow, the design agency that created the branding explained the thinking behind it: “The design reflects the artisan nature of the product whilst at the same time looks like a premium spirit. Each bottle had to stand out on its own right, as well as working as part of the range. Inspiration came from the Cornish countryside, as well as the ingredients in the products themselves.”

Great design is key

The third distillery that we’ve worked our magic on is for London-based Westmoreland Spirits, who produce Gilpin’s Gin. Bottled at Thames Distillers, the label is digitally printed out of four colours onto Martelle Blanc paper. The labels are fluted foiled in distinctive silver and embossed using a specially sourced tool from USA, which allowed us to do the intricate work involved. The labels were also sequentially numbered to add exclusivity; allowing the customer to feel they are drinking something just for them. 

Westmoreland Spirits does all its own design, which puts them in a very unique and enviable position having such great talents internally. The need for great design should not be overlooked.

This groundbreaking label now sits neatly across London in The Dorchester Hotel, Mayfair, the Mandarin Bar, Knightsbridge and Dukes Bar, St James Place. It’s also available in select wine and spirit stores across the capital.

They have since gone on to run the Gilpin’s Gin label in a miniature version, which has already been reprinted.

The label should show your personality

Brand owners must recognise the need to be different, if they are to stand any chance in the noisy world of the spirits aisle.

The trend of people to want to buy locally is being seen in the spirits market as it has been developing in the microbreweries. People want to have a relationship with the brand and where large brands are able to create that relationship through expensive marketing campaigns, the local brewers and distilleries are tapping into geography to develop the relationship. This is reflected in the supermarkets desire to strike up local distribution deals with local brands. This is now well established for the brewers and I’m confident we will be seeing something similar for distillers soon.

Top tips for gin labels:

  1. Use sequential numbers this makes the bottles special and limited edition.
  2. Own where you are based. Local products are still a well-loved phenomenon. Make it work for you on your labels.
  3. Use digital print, it’s extremely more cost effective, has a fast turn around time and is perfect for smaller print runs.
  4. Use handcrafted labels to explain what has gone into making the gin and express the individuality of the product.

*The international wine & spirits record.

Karen Capey is business development manager beers, wines & spirits division for Label Apeel.

15 December 2013