These days Gin lovers are a discerning lot; they don’t just seek the taste of their favourite tipple they want to be seduced by the bottle, too.
We spoke to Bernard Gormley, Co Founder of brand development company Nude, who gives the inside track on what influences bottle design, from botanicals to big ideas and bartenders.
Look along the shelves behind any bar and you will be able to spot a range of gin bottles that bear no resemblance to the others.
Bottle design is big business for gin distillers and a “fascinating playground” for designers according to Bernard Gormley, a keynote speaker at industry body The Gin Guild’s Ginposium seminar, held on the 12 May.
Nicholas Cook Director General of The Gin Guild, a member-funded industry body set up in 2012 by London’s Worshipful Company of Distillers to promote and encourage a commitment to excellence in gin distillation, said:
“Consumers fuelling the gin boom are often well-informed and curious, they want something that is exciting and new and they are just as interested in the packaging as they are in what makes the product.”
In the 18th and 19th centuries gin bottles were plain and simple, mainly made of green glass, and their contents were cheap, so cheap that it became known as ‘mother’s ruin’ because so many women drank themselves to oblivion on it before new laws changed the habit.
Today’s gin bottles bear no resemblance to their former selves. Designing them takes patience and hours of research including sampling the product, sniffing the ingredients, and paying visits to the distillery and marketing teams.
Bernard said: “First of all you need the big idea so the gin’s provenance can play a big part in its structure. Take Bombay Sapphire for example with its blue glass inspired by the gemstone itself. That is one of its key assets – it stands out from the crowd.”
Distilled in Hampshire, part of its inspiration hails from the days of the British Raj in India. It even has a picture of Queen Victoria on its label.
He also points to the structure of one of his favourite gin bottles, Tanqueray 10: “Now this bottle came as a result of a ‘big idea’ too. It has an Art Deco feel to it that is meant to remind you of the period when gin was incredibly popular, particularly in New York.
“It has these 10 facets running down the sides of the bottle,” he enthuses, “and on its bottom, the glass folds inside like a cone to resemble a lemon squeezer with the general shape reminding you of a cocktail shaker.”
He says designers always have an eye on what would appeal to those bartenders, or mixologists as they are often known, who like to show off their cocktail-making skills behind the bar, so the ergonomics of the bottle itself are really important.
“Bartenders can be very theatrical, especially in the US, so it is important to appeal to this group of people. They can have a great deal of influence so for them the design of the bottle is key,” says Bernard.
The ingredients, known as botanicals, carry huge weight when it comes to bottle design, too. One of the key ingredients in the production of gin is juniper berries, followed by a whole host of other ingredients depending on the brand.
Gordon’s Gin, for instance, contains juniper berries plus coriander seeds, angelica, liquorice and orris roots thrown in with orange and lemon peel. Bombay Sapphire contains the exotically named cassia bark and West African grains of paradise.
Another of Bernard’s favourites is Beefeater 24. Part of its name comes from the botanicals being matured for 24 hours before becoming distilled. It comes in a clear glass bottle embossed with a curling foliage pattern that gives a nod to the Asian flowers that have gone into it, and is finished off with a red-glass bottom.
He said: “Beefeater 24 gains its inspiration from the capital city to this day – and it really is a city that is on the go 24/7.”
When it comes to bottle structure, having a bespoke bottle will help the gin brand stand out. According to Bernard: “Gin is a fascinating area because it is a playground for designers, unlike Scotch, whiskey or cognac, where there are clear design codes.
“In the world of gin there are no codes. But it’s a huge investment for a start-up business so they often have to work with ‘off-the-shelf bottles’, and rely on the label design to sell their product. That, too, needs a big idea and should fit well into the world it occupies.”
Bernard will join a host of other speakers who will be talking all things gin at the third annual Ginposium seminar on 12 May 2016 at the London Transport Museum, organised by industry body The Gin Guild. Tickets for the event can be purchased by visiting www.ginposium.com.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author/authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Gin Guild. Any examples of analysis recited within this article are only examples. They should not be utilised in real-world analytic products as they are based only on very limited information. Assumptions made within any analysis are not reflective of the position of the Gin Guild.