Mucca Takes the Mystery Out of Hard Liquor with Branding for Bellemara Distillery
While plenty of people enjoy gin and whiskey, the world of high-quality spirits has long been steeped in leathery, cigar smoke-soaked aesthetics, with brands that are knowingly and unknowingly intimidating and exclusionary. With a mission of stripping away hard liquor’s opaque veneer and inviting newcomers to the world of spirits, a New Jersey distiller partnered with NY-based creative studio Mucca to launch Bellemara.
Newly opened on a bucolic farm in Hillsborough, NJ, Bellemara is an award-winning craft distillery created by a former Navy Submarine Officer and single-malt connoisseur whose passions drove him to move to Scotland for a year to earn a Masters in Brewing and Distilling from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. He returned to cultivate a new fan base for traditional spirits by creating a brand that acknowledges the distinguished heritage of single malt, while making it more accessible. After an extensive multi-day workshop, Mucca developed a strategy–applied across identity, website design, packaging, signage, merchandise and more–with a singular goal: demystify hard liquor.
“We found that to no surprise, single-malt liquor can be intimidating and often comes with its own tropes,” explains Mucca Founder and Creative Director Matteo Bologna. “For Bellemara, we needed to upend the stereotype of those stuffy oak rooms filled with ancient whiskeys. The truth is, that only appeals to a small demographic of the consumers in this broad category, so there was a great opportunity to expand the audience for this product by challenging preconceptions and creating a more accessible point of entry for the curious drinker.”
Central to this goal was the creation of a custom typeface utilized throughout all of the brand touchpoints. “Bellemara Display” recalls typography found on vintage liquor labels, and with its sensuous curves and distinct notes of Art Nouveau, it acts as a nod to whiskey’s rich heritage. Meanwhile, its geometric counterpart, “GT Cinetype”, calls upon straight lines to temper any and all curves, and ultimately speaks to the modern science behind the production of the various liquors the brand distills – whiskey, gin, and single-malt spirits.
The bottle packaging also became an important tool for promoting the brand’s engaging tone of voice with approachable label copywriting that speaks directly to the consumer. The clean label design also helped Bellemara’s whiskey, single-malt spirits and gin feel small-batch and high quality, but not overdone with embellishments. For example, by utilizing a simple two-tone color palette, Mucca was able to use one dark tone to convey the tradition and technique and another lighter, unexpected pink hue to speak to the distillery’s more youthful and unexpected approach to innovation.
The packaging’s label system was designed to expand as the nascent distillery grows and introduces new product lines. Finally, in a nod to the hand-crafted, small batch nature of the brand, a simplified neck band and hand-pressed wax seal gives each bottle a personalized finishing touch that retains a link to the Old World.
“It was important for that direct simplicity to come through not just on the website, but on the bottle too–places that traditionally make spirits brands feel unapproachable,” says Mucca Designer Sean O’Connor. “Rather than highlighting how long it’s aged for or its origin, the packaging describes tasting notes and other relevant insights to help someone feel empowered and have a better sense of whether it’s a spirit they’d enjoy.”
The result is a brand that acts as an enticing entrypoint to an insular industry too often shrouded in technical details. “The founders of Bellemara obviously have a love for spirits and we just wanted to make sure that contagious passion was reflected throughout their brand,” says Bologna. “The spirits industry needs more ‘Unboring Brands’ – brands that celebrate the tradition of distilling without being held back by its past perceptions. We were happy to play a part in helping Bellemara find a voice as memorable as its spirits.”