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The Empiric packaging

Packaging, Consumer

Arbutus Distillery is Vancouver Island’s newest craft distiller, and The Empiric gin is its inaugural product, so package design was a crucial to a strong introduction to the market. Many small craft distilleries’ products look amateur or home-made when compared with offerings from large spirits producers, and Arbutus wanted their products to stand with some of the most famous names in the industry. This wasn’t easy. Hired Guns Creative was limited to stock bottle shapes because Arbutus is still too small to commission custom glass. Designer and creative director Richard Hatter chose a stock bottle that is uncommon in this market, likely because it is a bit more expensive. Made of thicker, higher-quality glass, it reinforces the “craft” in the craft distillery image that Arbutus is cultivating. In response to the distillery’s request that he showcase a bit of the darker, more wicked side of human nature without scaring consumers away, Hatter took a historical approach, basing the packaging on the old use of a crude form of gin to treat the plague. The frosted black bottle and black wax closure are references to the black plague, and the label incorporates ravens and touches of Haida art, both quintessentially west-coast visual elements, to create a menacing beauty. It’s a high-design concept that involves plenty of strategy—creating an individual identity for each Arbutus product that is also distinct from from the overall distillery brand will make it easy for the fledgeling company to change products down the road without having to redo the packaging of a whole product line. And that bottle? Yes, it cost a bit more, but it can be used for the entire planned Arbutus line, from Absinthe to Whiskey.

Richard Hatter, designer/creative director/illustrator; Sean Fenzl, photographer; Hired Guns Creative (Nanaimo, BC, Canada), design firm; Arbutus Distillery, client.