scotch label design

Whiskey Label Design


Whiskey Label Design

There is perhaps no more iconic liquor than whiskey. With its rich history, countless regional variations, and rich, dark, alluring amber color, whiskey has long held a privileged position in the hearts and minds of drinkers worldwide. The best whiskey label design only complements the storied drink inside the bottle.

However, at the end of the day, whiskey is not exempt from the importance of effective advertising. The phrase “judging a book by its cover” rings particularly true for alcohol, where many consumers make decisions on new alcohols to experiment with solely based on the label design. Therefore, it is extremely important to not simply have a good whiskey bottle design but to strive for the best whiskey bottle and label design.

whiskey label design

History of Whiskey

Whiskey, also often spelled as whiskey in the United States, has a long and rich history that contributes to its public perception today.

Although there are many variations worldwide, the three unifying characteristics of a whiskey are the fermentation of grains, distillation, and aging in wooden barrels.

Origins of Whiskey

Scotland and Ireland are often viewed as the birthplaces of whiskey. According to historical records, the process of distillation was first brought to these areas no later than sometime in the 1400s. The first mention of a whiskey-like substance in Ireland was in 1405, and the first mention in Scotland was at the end of the 1400s, where we have records of a king ordering 500 bottles from a monk.

Just like most alcohols, whiskey was first exclusively distilled by monks. In the early 1500s, King Henry VIII of England dissolved the monasteries, which brought both monks and the distillation of whiskey into the public sphere. At this time, whiskey was still only used medicinally and wasn’t allowed to age, meaning that it generally would taste very harsh and unpleasant. The Old Bushmills distillery in Northern Ireland is the oldest distillery in the world, having obtained a license to distill whiskey in 1608.

In 1707, after the merger of England and Scotland, taxes on whiskey grew dramatically. The problem got worse with Parliament’s malt tax of 1725, which forced much of Scotland’s whiskey distillation process underground. Scottish distillers began distilling whiskey at night to hide from the authorities; this is how moonshine came to be.

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Whiskey Around the World

In the USA, people often used whiskey as a currency during the revolution, and George Washington himself owned a large distillery at his home in Mount Vernon.

The 1800s were a great time to be a whiskey distiller. Scottish whiskey was introduced to India, and the first distillery was opened in India in 1820. The UK passed the excise act in 1823, re-legalizing distillation and effectively putting an end to Scottish moonshine. In 1831, Andrew Coffey patented the Coffey still, which was a much more efficient way of distilling whiskey. This new invention was initially ridiculed by Irish whiskey distillers, who claimed that this new whiskey wasn’t in fact whiskey at all.

American prohibition in the early 1900s was a challenging time to be an alcohol producer, to say the least. However, the federal government made an exception for whiskey prescribed by a doctor and obtained through a pharmacy. 

Nowadays, whiskey in all its various forms is one of the most popular spirits worldwide. Whiskey contributes over 4 billion pounds a year to the UK’s economy, both by being exported and from distilleries being a popular tourist destination. There are many other regional variations as well, such as American bourbon, Japanese whiskey, and Canadian whiskey.

Whiskey’s Importance and Value

To whiskey aficionados, a well-made whiskey is no different than an artistic masterpiece to art aficionados. They are able to appreciate the subtle variations that arise between different distilleries and distilling methods, and how these variations ultimately impact that batch’s flavor. Thanks to whiskey being a truly worldwide drink today, there will always be a new regional variation or style of whiskey to savor and enjoy.

Whiskey often has the reputation of being a “manly man’s drink”, due to its rich, intense flavor coupled with a high alcohol content. However, this simply isn’t true, as many women will drink and enjoy a smooth glass of whiskey as well. Whiskey is for everybody, a statement further evidenced by its history of underground, illegal distillation.

best whisky label design

Best Whiskey Label Design

The importance of making the best whiskey bottle design cannot be understated. There are so many alcohols on the market today. This means whiskey is not only competing against other whiskies, but against other spirits, wines, and beers. A good bottle design will be eye-catching and memorable while simultaneously conveying to the consumer “Drink me! You’ll enjoy it!” However, there’s no one best whiskey bottle design: a sleek, elegant design can work just as well as an outlandish, wacky design. Down below, we have compiled a list of a few elements that a good whiskey bottle design will and won’t have:


  • Be eye-catching
    • Using bright colors or intense designs can help your bottle stand out
  • Be true to your brand
    • Consumers crave authenticity. A design that reflects your brand’s values and vision will reap dividends, especially when coupled with other marketing campaigns.
  • Get creative
    • Whiskey is often thought of as a subtle, elegant drink. This perception can handicap your brand if you stick to simple, basic designs. Get creative!
  • Be boring
    • Boring never sells. Don’t be afraid to use color or think outside the box.
  • Be afraid to update
    • Updating and tweaking your designs on a semi-regular basis can keep your bottle

Examples of Successful Designs

There are many examples of successful whiskey bottle designs. Notice how these designs are all different from each other. This furthers our point that there’s no one best whiskey bottle design. Some of our favorites include:

Highland Park 50 Year Old: This stunning design is meant to reflect Scotland’s wild and rugged elemental forces. It’s a design that draws you in and keeps you engaged as you try to decipher the meaning behind it.

That Boutique-y Whisky Company: That Boutique-y Whisky Company takes a different approach to attract wandering eyes: including short stories on its design. Simply brilliant! 

The Macallan M: The Macallan M is the gold standard for simple, elegant, timeless bottle design. It’s proof that you don’t always need to be flashy and outlandish to stand out. 

Nikka Gold & Gold: The Nikka Gold & Gold samurai head bottle pays homage to the history of Japan, and is a fun, unique bottle to look at.

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How The Brandsmen Can Help

The Brandsmen are experts in alcohol marketing. We provide full-service market access platforms for new and existing businesses in the spirits industry. Our specialized experience, expertise, and industry relationships allow us to design viable brands, gain distributor representation, and drive distribution while creating brand awareness, interest, and advocacy with consumers. We have a proven track record of success, know the opportunities and barriers, and how to navigate the rough seas of an industry that is not kind to those less qualified. If you are interested in working with us, contact us today.