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Limited 'edition,' unlimited help

Distiller and importer David Sherman Corp. often relies on distributors like Saxco to help create packaging for new products. Premium, hand-packaged bourbon is no exception.
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Although container distributors are often called upon to provide components for commodity-type products they can also lend assistance for premium high-end products too. So says Meg Syberg director of marketing for David Sherman Corp. a St. Louis-based distiller and importer of beverage products.

“I’ve worked with Saxco on a variety of projects over the last few years” Syberg says. “We rely on them quite a bit for sourcing different types of glass bottles caps and corks and even some decorating. Sometimes they serve as a true one-stop shop for us. They go out and do all the legwork so I have only one contact to deal with for all the different pieces of the packaging puzzle.”

Last year Syberg worked with Horsham PA-based Saxco to find the bottle and closure for Sherman’s Ezra B Premium Bourbon a 15-year-old single-barrel limited-edition product introduced last fall. “We were looking for something dramatic and upscale for the packaging” Syberg notes. “But also the costs had to be within reason because we knew this product’s volume wouldn’t support the costs of a private mold.”

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Syberg contacted Larry Coomes a Saxco regional sales manager working out of the company’s Louisville KY office. While the David Sherman-Saxco relationship goes back more than 20 years Coomes has been account manager for the last four years. Syberg searched Saxco’s Web site and its catalog and called Coomes late in ’99. “I told him we were going to bottle a decidedly upscale bourbon at a premium price” she recalls. “Then I suggested a number of bottles and corks I had seen in their catalog.”

Coomes’s office sent samples to the distiller. “After they told us they were interested in a couple of them I checked out size pricing and availability. Once the customer had selected the bottle it liked best we began to look for a compatible cork stopper” Coomes recalls. The bottle chosen is the 750-mL flint-glass Martinique shape made by Saver Glass in France.

As exclusive United States representative of J.C. Ribiero Saxco suggested a 19-mm black plastic cork stopper from that Portugal-based cork supplier. Once approved by Syberg Coomes then had to work out shipping and delivery that would coincide with the production schedule at Sherman’s St. Louis plant.

Custom decorating

Once the bottle and stopper had been selected Syberg then focused on some bottle decorating ideas she had for the brand. She contacted St. Louis Litho a label converter she had worked with in the past and literally sat side-by-side with designer Gordon Casanova to develop the graphics for the front and back labels.

“Originally I planned to have the wax-like medallion as part of the label” Syberg recalls. “However because of the bottle and label shape a medallion didn’t look right unless it secured the ribbon around the bottle’s neck.”

Working with account manager Craig Menz the converter selected a 60# coated-one-side paper for the label that is then printed offset in six colors and covered with a thin aqueous coating. The final converting step done over the coating is gold hot-stamping before die-cutting. The smaller back label is also printed in six colors.

In addition Syberg also wanted a neck ribbon and a medallion to complete the custom look. Syberg turned to Stoffel Seals (Nyack NY) and it supplied the handsome maroon gold and blue ribbon and the maroon medallion.

Because the product’s volume would be limited to just a few thousand cases Ezra B Premium Bourbon is virtually packaged and decorated by hand. In part that’s due to the need for workers to hand-write the barrel number and bottling date in appropriate spaces on each label before it’s applied. Once labels are applied workers drape the ribbon around the bottle neck and secure the medallion with a spot of adhesive. The final step is hand-dipping the bottle’s neck in the cobalt-blue wax that provides tamper evidence. The 99-proof bourbon sells for $24.99 up to $29.99 depending Syberg says on state taxes.

“On a project like this with so many different pieces” Syberg says “you just never know when it will all be completed. That’s especially true when you have overseas suppliers. But that’s why Larry Coomes’ help is so important. He was able to arrange shipments of the bottles and corks while I worked with the other vendors on decorating.

“The reaction to this package has been very good. It’s really a line extension of our Ezra Brooks popular-priced bourbon whiskey. We were extremely pleased with how all of the essential elements fit together.”

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