Packaging for Distilleries:

Making First Impressions Count Through Efficient and Attractive Packaging Options

By: Cheryl Gray

Packaging for a distillery is as important as the product. They either coalesce or collide. Successful packaging means consumers are immediately drawn to the product for the image as well as what’s inside the bottle. Likewise, the opposite is true when packaging goes awry, resulting in a product that doesn’t move. 


  Packaging experts help their distillery clients decide which packaging to choose and how best to deploy it. One of these experts is Henrico, Virginia’s CDA USA. CDA has manufactured labeling and filling machines for a variety of industries, including spirits, since 1991. Its engineering and design teams create customized packing, labeling and filling solutions for distilleries of any size.  

  CDA attracts distillery clients who need standout, state-of-the-art packaging solutions by drawing upon its versatility. Clients include producers of cognac, brandy, bourbon, rum, whisky, vodka, gin, tequila, liqueurs and more. It offers a wide range of automatic and semi-automatic machines that can handle virtually every type of bottle–rectangular, square, conical or cylindrical. Its labeling machines accommodate new technologies, including tin, transparent and mirror printed labels. 

  For micro-distilleries, production space is at a premium and accommodating new machinery can be a challenge. CDA offers a solution with Ninette 2, a semi-automatic labeling machine that applies two adhesive labels in a single operation. Compact and portable, it solves a major packaging need without taking up a lot of space, and its speed can accommodate up to 500 bottles an hour. The machine also handles different product formats, such as glass or PVC, eliminating the hassle of changing materials. The Ninette 2 works with CDA’s automatic and semi-automatic filling machines. Another model, the Ninette 1, applies a single label at a time and is also designed for small distillery operations.  

  CDA also has a range of labeling options to suit the production needs of medium and large craft distilleries. Some of the company’s clients turn to its R1000/R1500 automatic labeling machines that can label up to 1,500 bottles an hour and place up to four labels on a bottle at a time. 

  Regarding industrial size distilleries, CDA touts product solutions that can readily integrate into existing packaging lines. The company says that its evolving products of automatic labeling machines can either be added to a complete, existing line or as a dependable backup option.  


  Belmark is a Wisconsin-based company specializing in pressure-sensitive labels, flexible packaging and folding cartons. Founded in 1977, the company has grown from three employees and a single printing press to 1,000 workers in six facilities and three locations. 

  One of Belmark’s key customer service specialties is helping clients achieve high-end labels on a budget. Belmark uses its Web-to-Print process to get the look clients want within a price they can afford. For example, to achieve the quality and appearance of a hot foil stamped label, Belmark uses its Web-to-Print metallic inks. To get the look of embossing, the company uses a dual finish appearance with a spot gloss. The combination of these methods gives clients the metallic look they want without a hefty price tag. Web-to-Print makes it possible to handle orders in as little as 24 hours. 

  Belmark points to its Trident and Trident MAX processes as the pioneering technology designed by highly trained staff to create high-quality labels. The finished product boasts standout features such as enhanced color accuracy and consistency, finer detail, shorter lead times and lower total costs for mid-run and longer-run quantities. 

  Trident is a process printing method that achieves optimal results through advanced pre-press and press technologies. These technologies work together to create an attractive label with the color consistency, superior print registration and finer detail of a more expensively produced product. The Trident MAX process builds on the strengths of reduced lead times and production costs by utilizing fixed colors in fixed printing decks. Belmark says this method guarantees labels that consistently match client specifications. It also creates more vibrant printing with greater detail.


  Located in Billerica, Massachusetts, SourcePak is a one-stop shop for distillery packaging that makes branding a top priority. The company has been in business since 2002 and touts the benefits of using one source for all packaging needs. The company claims that distilleries save time and money by using one source, eliminating the need for multiple vendors for packaging supplies and services.

  Todd Wallace, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development for SourcePak, explains how it works. “We are able to provide best-in-class value by sourcing reliable suppliers, resources and pricing for our distillery partners. This enables distillers to focus on the product rather than what it is going in or how it will be shipped. Outer shippers, partitions, warehousing, JIT delivery and 3PL services ensure the packaging gets where it’s going when it needs to be there. Service is as necessary of a component as the packaging is when you work with the fast-paced and multi-faceted distilling industry. The service we offer is typically the first thing the brands we work with say sets us apart.”

  SourcePak offers a range of products and services to address design, labeling and industrial needs, streamlining the packaging process for distilleries. Services include graphic and packaging design, inventory management, product order fulfillment and distribution services. The company has an engineering and design team that can develop packaging solutions for multiple applications, from designing product bottles and the boxes used to hold them to the corrugated displays used in stores.   

  SourcePak regards the primary, secondary and tertiary levels of packaging as equals. Primary packaging holds the actual product in place, secondary packaging identifies the brand and product information, and the tertiary layer protects the product during shipping. The company provides multiple protection options for the third packaging stage, including cushion pallets, custom foam case inserts, foam fabrication and assembly and antistatic polyethylene.

  Another service that SourcePak offers is value-added packaging. These are customized packaging options, such as brandy packaged with a snifter, that create an added value to the consumer and give the spirit a competitive edge. 

Manual Packaging

  Instead of semi-automatic, automatic and outsourced options, some distilleries choose to package manually.

  Potomac Distilling Company, located in one of the newest waterfront developments in Washington, D.C., makes Thrasher’s Rum. The distillery, which opened in 2018, produces six rum varieties: traditional white rum, gold rum, coconut rum, white spiced rum, relaxed rum and a flagship green rum, the latter infused with six aromatic botanicals.  

  Owner Todd Thrasher says that besides cost, he decided to assemble his packaging manually to protect the environment.

  “We package Thrasher’s Rum in cardboard boxes with biodegradable peanuts. We strive to be as environmentally conscious as possible when it comes to packaging. One aspect that is unique about our bottles of Thrasher’s Rum is the wax seal on the top of the bottle. It was important for us to reduce the amount of plastic throughout our operation and when it comes to packaging.”

  Thrasher adds that manually packaging his products does not mean skimping on aesthetics, industry safety standards or product branding. 

  “In terms of labeling, we utilize two label colors. The white indicates a specialty label while the black indicates a release that is always available,” Thrasher says. “Our graphic is meant to evoke the ocean. The edge of the label features the sketching of ship rope, and the curved designs at the center are meant to be representative of waves. The lettering and general aesthetic are meant to be reminiscent of the labeling you would expect to see on packages being loaded onto old cargo ships. These nautical and maritime elements are personal to me. I am an avid scuba diver, and Thrasher’s Rum was actually inspired by my rum-soaked adventures island hopping as a scuba dive instructor. Our labeling and choice in graphics are a playful nod to those experiences.”

  Packaging for distilleries must meet food and beverage industry standards to ensure consumer safety. At the same time, packaging must also be attractive enough to draw consumers to the product. This careful balance requires the expertise of companies that know how to design packaging with consumer appeal in mind, meet industry and safety standards and, ultimately, allow distilleries to swiftly move inventory from shipping to shelf to the shopping carts of customers.  

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