A Label Design Guide for Distilleries

The world of spirits can best be described with one word: diversity. There are so many kinds of liquor buyers, and an aesthetic to attract each one of them. And the marketing element that captures a liquor brand’s aesthetic above all else is the label and the design. When it comes to winning brand fans quickly, designing and executing the right label makes all the difference in the world.

Label Design Guide for Distilleries
Label Design Guide for Distilleries: Tempo Craft Gin, Sid The Handcrafted Vodka, Alchemist Distiller, Resurrection Spirits

But in a world of endless possibilities, how can a distillery make strategic design choices for their labels?

Having supported many distillery clients, we know that these choices are difficult. But starting with a broad understanding of the considerations at play is helpful. What’s required in a label? What design trends could spark ideas for your team? How about the logistics of applying the label?

We have the answers!

First, what are the labeling requirements?

We may as well start with the non-negotiables: the information you are legally bound to include on your label. Knowing what needs to factor into a label can provide some helpful parameters for the design challenge ahead of you.

Here are the essentials:

  1. Brand name
  2. Class (e.g., rum) and type designation (e.g., dark rum)
  3. Alcohol content (e.g., 45% alcohol content)
  4. Name and address of the company, as per its permit
  5. Country of origin
  6. Net content
  7. A list of any colouring materials
  8. Notes about any wood treatments
  9. A FD&C Yellow #5 disclosure (if any is present in the alcohol)
  10. A saccharin disclosure (if any is present in the alcohol)
  11. A sulfite declaration (if any is present in the alcohol)
  12. A commodity statement
  13. Statements of age indicating how long after distillation and before bottling the spirit has been held in oak containers
  14. State of distillation (but this is only required for spirits made in the U.S.)
  15. Health warning statement

Second, what liquor label trends are out there right now?

We all know that gathering inspiration is key to the design process. In the world of spirits, there is plenty of inspiration out there to gather! In a market that leans towards the high end, labels which are veritable works of art are easy to find.

Label Design Guide for Distilleries
Label Design Guide for Distilleries: DeVine Distillery

Here are the trends that will be sure to spark ideas for your distillery’s design team:

Hand-Drawn Illustrations

 Illustrations are, of course, deeply on-trend across the entire spectrum of alcoholic beverages—and liquor is certainly no exception. A large liquor bottle makes for an excellent canvas for an illustrator who understands your brand’s essence. And for craft spirits, nothing says “handcrafted” like “hand-drawn”.


Paper that appears to be yellowing with age. Rustic, rich craft paper. Nostalgic fonts like the Art Nouveau-era Paris Metro. When a product looks like it has been loved for generations, it can automatically claim a certain high-end status.


Craft spirits especially tend to be linked in the consumer’s mind with local-first values and sustainable practices. If this is true of your brand, advertise it with labels that broadcast your green credibility. Choosing a label made from recycled materials and including messages about recycling the bottle can do the trick.

Surface finishes

There are lots of options when it comes to spicing up a label. Adding a Spot varnish or tactile varnish can create a 3D look or highlight an area of the label you want to stand out. Also adding one or several different colours of hot foil can create a rich elegant look that come in a a wide variety of metallic colours. Embossing certain parts of a label will create the ultimate look where an image or text is raised off the paper giving the label an amazing 3D look.

Radio Frequency Identification

By tucking Radio Frequency Identification technology behind a label for smartphones to tap, distilleries are telling rich stories. There’s a lot of information that can’t fit on a label, after all. Give your customers more opportunities to learn and engage.

Third, how can you plan for a functional label that applies well?

The last thing you want to do is invest considerable time into designing a compelling label…only to have the effect ruined by a poor application. By “application”, of course, we mean adhering the label to the bottle. What should you consider when it comes to this final stage?

Ensure high bottle quality

Depending on its level of quality, a bottle’s surfaces can be smoother or more warped. When you apply a label to a warped, wavy bottle, it can bubble and look distorted. Ensure you are using a high-quality mold to make bottles with sufficiently thick walls.

Get the right applicator for the job

Without the right type of applicator, your label won’t look quite right, no matter how well designed it is. There are a few things you should discuss with your printer during the design stage so that you won’t have trouble sourcing the right equipment.


  • Do you want a full-wrap label or a label that stamps onto a flat surface?
  • Do you have a custom-shaped bottle (i.e., with cut-outs, protrusions, etc.) that need a specialized applicator?
  • Will the label tear more easily because of its shape?
Label Design Guide for Distilleries
Label Design Guide for Distilleries: Goodridge&Williams Distilling and Lohin McKinnon

A few final words of advice

Figure out the story

Your label is only part of the story your brand should be telling. Ensure that whatever you design fits into a fully realized concept, complete with a compelling brand story. For example, if your label is leveraging the vintage trend, does your liquor connect in any way with historical events or characters? Is there an interesting history connected to your distillery?

Early collaboration between designers and printers is key

As the section on application considerations hopefully made clear, there’s a lot of planning and coordinating that must happen between your packaging partners. It’s best to start the conversation early so that everybody can make strategic and efficient choices, and you get the most out of your investment.

Speaking of starting the conversation, feel free to contact us with any questions. This post represents just the tip of the iceberg. The world of designing and manufacturing labels for spirits is a rich, creative, and innovative one. We’d love nothing more to help you explore it.

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