labels spirits

Ben Peel, co-founder of John Robert's Botanic Request, takes us through the thinking behind spirit label branding. It goes deeper than you might think.


What is the difference between fishing and good fishing? Good fishers know exactly what fish they intend to catch. By knowing this they will, over time, have discovered what colour and shaped lure is best for particular fish, which hook works best, which bait, which type of line is strong enough but can’t be caught by the eye of the fish and what rod is best to cast out.

They also know where those fish hang out and exactly what time is best to cast the line. The novice fisher throws their hook in and relies on luck.

Good fishers know their customers and so do good spirit brands. Though their rod, hook and bait are sustainably smaller. The average label size on a bottle is just under 100 square cms and every brand has approximately the same space to create something that appeals to their target customer.

On every label there is a certain amount of legalities and consumer guidelines that must be included – and mostly on the reverse - but outside of that, the label is their very own bill board in miniature. A good product’s branding should be an inch or two wide and a mile deep. It has, in a glance, to resonate with their chosen drinker.

As consumers, we can choose to not read words, but we cannot choose to not see colours – the colour palette is the brand’s plumage to lure you in. Colours evoke emotions and send signals, while ombinations strike chords, offer depth, textures, and moods. There may be connotations of joy, freshness, healthiness, creativity, coolness, beauty, minimalism, danger and sexiness, to name just a few.

Brands sitting together on a shelf or a back bar must stand out but also know how to speak, once attention narrows in. It’s that moment at the school disco when eyes meet, only for you to open our mouth and say something stupid, out of character and blow it.

labels spirits

The brand’s voice is projected through the words on its label and it has fractions of a second to say something appropriate about itself. The vocabulary has to be just right, sharp and lean, like a well-written joke that lands perfectly with its audience. The typeface must be in perfect harmony with the rest of the branding, always in step with the mood and messaging.

Then there’s the feel. The label might be embossed, de-bossed with raised tactile printing, with a lick of hot foil, or bevels that feel pleasant under your fingertips. These tactile embellishments make the words and colour lift from the label bringing it alive, elevating certain touch points and connoting emotions.

Perhaps a torn-edge handcrafted look makes you feel that the product is more artesian or even sustainable. Embossing, together with the right design and typeface could give the product a vintage, historical feel, implicitly lending authenticity. These enhancements add layers to the label - and to the pitch.

If a brand has done its research and applied its knowledge of its target audience to every fibre of its label, it has given itself the best chance of catching its customer. So, take a moment and look at the brands’ labels that really resonate with you, because the chances are the brand you’re holding is a good fisher and you my friend… have just been snagged.