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Archive for March, 2011

Stolichnaya

Stolichnaya Vodka is pretty famous. And if it’s famous for anything, it’s famous for being Russian. For decades it has been glammed up as The Russian Vodka.

Over the past one to two years, however, Stoli has pretty much walked away from its Russian origin. The label on the right, from 2009, proudly proclaims Stoli’s Russian heritage and origin. By contrast, the label on the left, from 2010, sidesteps this issue. The more recent back label shows that the product is made in Latvia rather than Russia. Russia and Latvia are nextdoor neighbors, and were one and the same until Latvia regained its independence in 1991. Still, this is a big change and presents a tricky marketing challenge — that would seem to be tantamount to moving Jack Daniels production from Lynchburg to Los Angeles or Guadalajara. For such a big brand (with sales estimated near $2 billion per year) there has been surprisingly little press coverage of this issue. Back in 2006, Businessweek attempted to sort out this tale of international intrigue:

So what exactly is the row about this time? When the Russian government stripped S.P.I. of its right to the Stolichnaya brand in 2002, it also banned the company from exporting Stolichnaya vodka from Russia. That’s when S.P.I. responded by moving the bottling of Stolichnaya to Latvijas Balzams distillery in Latvia. Yet the Stolichnaya on sale in the U.S. continues to be labeled as “genuine Russian vodka.” S.P.I. and Allied Domecq testified in the U.S. court that the vodka continues to be produced in Russia, at distilleries in Kaliningrad and Tambov.

The 2010 approval also caught our eye because of the strange pairing of Baltic-Region flavored vodka with Hugh Hefner and his bunny.

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flavored vodka


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Smart Beer Labels

A few days ago I got a great email from Smuttynose. There is a lot to learn from it. Peter Egelston (CEO of this New Hampshire brewery) explained about his recent label approval for — Homunculus Ale:

In 2007, as part of our limited-release, draft-only Short Batch Series, we felt comfortable calling this beer “the Gnome,” a blatant reference to Belgium’s Brasserie d’Achouffe. (Dave, our Director of Brewing Operations explains it here.) When we discussed graduating the Gnome to wider distribution in bottles as part of our Big Beer Series, we felt it was important to be respectful of Brasserie d’Achouffe’s trademark, so we cast about for another name.

As you know, naming a beer, like naming a rock band, is harder than it appears, but everyone wants to take a whack at it. If I had a nickel for everyone who’s approached me at parties with “a great idea for a beer” over the last twenty-plus years, when all they’ve got is a name they think is clever (usually involving a pun), but really isn’t, I could probably buy a fancy dinner with a pricey bottle of wine to boot.

I suggested Homunculus, partly because it means “little man,” making it a distant synonym for “gnome,” but mostly because it’s an absurd-sounding word, the mere utterance of which is fun to do (one of my primary criteria for a successful product name). No one had the energy to argue with me, so Homunculus it was.

When we started to look at images to illustrate this name, we discovered another use for the term homunculus. In the early days of microscopy during the 17th century, when cells could be seen for the first time, the theory of “preformation” was posited. According to this theory, contained within each human spermatazoon was a perfectly formed, albeit tiny, human form — a homunculus. Having discovered this obscure fact, my partner Joanne Francis, who has designed all of our labels, ran with it, modifying an electron microscope image, turning our brewers into sperm cells, and the egg into a beer bottle.

Will anyone buy a beer called Homunculus? Who knows? People asked the same about Smuttynose years ago, and we’re still selling beer today.

If you pay close attention, you can learn a lot about life, death, art, science, religion, history and philosophy from the humblest beer label. And you can finally learn about the little man.

What’s the story with your label?

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malt beverage


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Cranberry Wine

This post will start short but is likely to grow long over time. Very long. We will try to show the enormous range of foodstuffs from which wine is produced. With each post we will add to the list, and I predict it will grow way past 50 60. Today we add Cranberry wine to the list.

  1. Agave wine
  2. Apple wine
  3. Apricot wine
  4. Aronia berry wine
  5. Avocado wine
  6. Banana wine
  7. Blackberry wine
  8. Blueberry wine
  9. Buffaloberry wine
  10. Cantaloupe wine
  11. Cherry wine
  12. Cranberry wine. Made by Horton Vineyards of Gordonsville, Virginia.
  13. Dandelion wine
  14. Elder flower wine
  15. Fig wine
  16. Gooseberry wine
  17. Grape wine
  18. Jasmine fruit wine
  19. Kiwi wine
  20. Linden flower wine
  21. Lingonberry
  22. Lychee wine
  23. Mango wine
  24. Mangosteen wine
  25. Marionberry wine
  26. Onion wine
  27. Peach wine
  28. Pomegranate wine
  29. Pear wine
  30. Pepper wine
  31. Persimmon wine
  32. Pineapple wine
  33. Rhubarb wine
  34. Strawberry wine
  35. Tomato wine
  36. Watermelon wine

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fruit wine


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Beer Label Design

Here is an experimental beer label, sent in from one of our favorite label designers. It is from Dave Bourne of Ignite Design in Portland, Oregon. Dave saw it at The Dieline and commented as follows:

You don’t need beer goggles to fall in love with this label design. Beyond the irreverent text and what seems to be their logo of an inebriated beer droplet, there is a design aesthetic that easily combines all the random graphic elements together as a cohesive unit. Who knew you could use no less than seven different typefaces and make them all work together in unison? It helps that all the graphics are gold on a simple off-white paper stock. Also, the placement of every design element fits within a grid-like structure that allows you to look at each component of the design within its own square or rectangular space.

While you’re throwing back a few of these, it’s clear that you won’t be bored with ubiquitous “Don’t drink and drive” statements or graphics of the various kinds of hops they’ve used. Instead, you’ll enjoy a little lesson in beer chemistry along with a few fireworks and an exclamation of “SWEET JESUS” possibly reminding you to pray for more of this beer when it runs out.

We blurred up some of the swear words, and you can see the unexpurgated version at the link. I like this design and would not resist buying the beer or drinking it, but I think Dave likes it more than I do. Where are the other great beer label designs and designers? What makes them great?

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malt beverage


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Tiger Blood

This, quite apparently, is what Charlie Sheen has been drinking. It is Tiger Blood Vodka, made in Hungary. No word on whether it’s the source of the Adonis DNA. The evidence is here.

Fox says the real Tiger Blood is something along the lines of mangosteen — a fruit we covered about a year ago.

Editor’s Note:  nothing in this post should be regarded as curative, therapeutic, advisable or serious.

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alcohol beverages generally, vodka


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