In celebration of the Rolling Stones’ 50th Anniversary, premium spirits brand Crystal Head Vodka has released a limited-edition commemorative gift set in a sturdy, rock and roll-inspired carton richly decorated with Stones’ symbology. Crystal Head Vodka was co-founded by comedian and actor Dan Aykroyd, who developed the brand to “unmask the alcohol and focus on its purity.” The Canadian-made liquor is filtered three times through 500-million-year-old crystals and uses as its primary packaging a glass skull, supplied by Bruni Glass, that represents the 13 quartz-crystal heads of legend.
Designated in 2012 as the officially authorized vodka for the Rolling Stones 50th Anniversary worldwide celebration, Crystal Head worked with Universal Music Canada, and the band’s licensing company, Bravado, to create the ultimate gift set for music fans. While Crystal Head provided the graphic elements for the gift set, the company selected ASG (AGI-Shorewood Group), a supplier with extensive experience in entertainment-related packaging, to design the carton structure and the layout of the graphics, as well as provide the final package.
Explains Mark Preece, Creative Director, Structural Package Design, for ASG, “Crystal Head wanted to take a step away from the traditional liquor packaging that you see in stores and come up with something special. They really wanted to capture the essence of the Rolling Stones.”
Adds ASG Senior Vice President of Sales, Consumer Packaging, Keith Kiedinger, “Fifty years is pretty significant, and at the end of the day, the direction was to make a very significant package that would reflect that.”
During the design process, artists at ASG’s creative services division, Spark!, sketched seven potential concepts for the structure, from which three were made into renderings. The winning concept—a carton with double doors on the front fitted with a gold zipper, and a platform inside suggesting a stage, to hold the vodka bottle—was then made into a prototype. “At that point, it was a matter of applying the graphics,” says Preece.
Among the graphics are the Crystal Head Vodka logo, in a bright red typeface, along with a specially designed logo for the Stones’ 50th that features the lips-and-tongue graphic. The lips-and-tongue logo itself is prominent on the back panel of the inside of the carton. The package is litho-printed in two colors, with two hits of black, creating a deep, rich background. Spot coatings of dull and gloss are also used, with the gloss decorating a repeating pattern of the lips and tongue across the carton. Red foil stamping is employed throughout, and gold foil stamping is used on the Rolling Stones name, featured across a drawer positioned at the bottom of the carton that holds a commemorative CD.
The carton itself is constructed of 80-pt chipboard, with the material doubled and tripled in some areas for added strength. The chipboard is then wrapped with an 80-lb litho sheet, over which is applied a film laminate that eliminates any cracking on the hinges of the carton doors and provides durability. A small, vacuum-formed holder attached to the roof of the box holds the skull-shaped bottle in place within the carton. “One of the things we wanted to do with this product was protect it, because it’s a very large glass bottle,” says Preece. “So we created a box that could withstand shipping and drop testing, and wouldn’t harm the bottle.”
ASG Account Executive, Global Projects Team, Leon Hill, points to the platform inside the carton as one of the unique features of the structure: “The bottle sits there in the middle of this kind of virtual stage. So often, liquor products in value-added packaging are compressed against a side or a front or a back panel. They fit in there tightly. This fits in tightly, but is surrounded by space; it looks like something sitting on a stage.”
The other touch that distinguishes the collector’s gift set is the gold zipper on the front of the package, along the edge of one of the double doors. Harkening back to the cover of the Rolling Stones’ 1971 Sticky Fingers album, the zipper is real, but not functional. “That just would not have been within the budget or practicality of this particular structure,” says Kiedinger. The zipper is glued to the box as a decoration; the double doors of the box are held closed by magnets.
Completing the project in an “unprecedented turn time for something this complex,” according to Hill, ASG received the purchase order for the carton in mid-December 2012 and shipped substantial quantities of the finished product by the end of January 2013. In May 2013, the limited-edition gift set launched in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K., with rollouts in Australia and Mexico shortly thereafter. Says Kiedinger, “It is described to me as getting extremely good sell-through numbers, so it will be on the market until about the middle of next year.”
The Rolling Stones gift set is widely available in Canada, the U.S., and many overseas markets from $89.95 to $99.95 retail.