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Veteran distils military-inspired spirits

Hotel Tango, Central Indiana's first small-batch artisan distiller, is also one of the first to use the new Forte bottle offered by Owens-Illinois (O-I) as part of the glass packaging supplier's Covet Classics collection

As they searched for the right package for their spirits, Hotel Tango's owners found O-I's Forte design to be a perfect match for their unique identity and for their small but growing business needs.

Headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, the distillery was founded in 2013 by Marine Corps veteran Travis Barnes, his wife, Hilary, and a small group of friends. They use high-quality local ingredients such as Indiana-grown corn, and have the distinction of being the first disabled veteran-owned distiller in the US.

As a start-up distillery, the Hotel Tango team ran into challenges with the minimum order and lead time requirements of the first glass packaging supplier they contacted. So they turned to O-I's Covet Classics collection of timeless bottle designs. This collection offers speed-to-market and the convenience of ordering as little as a pallet at a time, without sacrificing premium design and appearance.

The timing was right for Hotel Tango products to be among the first to use the Forte bottle, which O-I introduced in February as a modern take on their classic Kaleido design. Forte's updated silhouette and taller, prouder shape create a more pronounced vertical canvas to take brand identities to a higher level.

"Everybody who has seen the Forte design is immediately attracted to it and bartenders like the way it feels," Barnes said.

After returning from three tours of duty with the Marines, Barnes took an interest in distilling as he and his wife attended law school. Their studies helped draw their attention to a new state law that opened up a short window for new craft distillers to obtain artisan distiller's permits. 

They assembled a team made up of two fellow law students, Adam Willfond and Nabeela Virjee, and friend Brian Willsey, an MBA student. The team quickly established their business, obtained their permit, and opened a distillery and tasting room in a historic carriage house in Indianapolis' up-and-coming Fletcher Place neighbourhood.

Taking their name from the military alphabet phonetics for Barnes' and his wife's first initials, they launched with a family of similarly named spirits - Golf Gin, Lima Charlie Limoncello, Mike Moonshine, Romeo Rum and Victor Vodka. A flagship Hotel Tango Whiskey is aging in barrels for an eventual debut.

All of Hotel Tango's spirits are packaged in 375ml and 750ml Forte and Kaleido bottles from O-I and sold at their Indianapolis distillery. They will also be available at Indianapolis bars, restaurants and retailers, with plans to expand to nationwide distribution.  

Barnes said the flexibility and scalability available through O-I's Covet Classics collection appealed to the Hotel Tango team: "It's good to know that we can place smaller, quicker orders now, and that we have the support and reliability of a leading global glass packaging manufacturer as we grow.”

O-I's Covet line is a collection of luxury glass packaging products and services. Covet Classics bottles are available in a variety of sizes and can be modified with embossing, coatings, labels and closures (bar top, screw top and decanter-style) for a distinguished look. Covet also offers design services to create custom looks for customer brands.


28 April 2015 - Felicity Murray The Drinks Report, editor