Following the development of its Cihuatán Nikté limited-edition rum in 2018 by boutique design studio Appartement 103, Licoreras Cihuatán, the only rum producer in El Salvador, awarded the firm with the task of redesigning its core range. Requiring deep category expertise, Appartement 103 undertook a strategic approach to portfolio management, naming development, brand redesign, secondary packaging, and advertising campaign collaterals.
Licoreras Cihuatán started distilling in 2004 with the ambition of becoming an international premium craft rum producer that serves as El Salvador’s ambassador to the world. The company sold its first bottle in 2015 and since then has been increasingly growing and surprising consumers across the globe with exceptionally crafted product profiles. However, the previous brand presentation was not conveying any personality or premiumness, making it impossible for it to compete in a crowded category.
According to Appartement 103, Cihuatán Rum “invites you to satisfy your curiosity.” Curiosity is what ties Cihuatán rum to El Salvador and to the Mayan civilization, which many centuries ago called the Cihuatán Valley its home. In the Nahuat, or Aztec, dialect, Cihuatán means “the land beside the sleeping woman.” The legend says that a goddess came to Cihuatán Valley and bestowed the land with riches and fertility. Under her grace, Cihuatán blossomed into fertile sugarcane fields and the purest of waters—the key ingredients used to craft the rum.
It is from this poetical and original myth that Appartement 103 built the base of an entirely new visual identity, using powerful illustrations as vital brand assets to convey its story. Camouflaged at the heart of every illustration lies the Sleeping Woman’s face, which is the masterpiece of the new Cihuatán icon used across all POS materials.
To strengthen the new brand positioning and offering it a deeper level of discovery, Appartement 103 developed names for each variant with its unique storytelling, in an attempt to trigger consumers’ curiosity and desirability by taking them through the odyssey of the Mayan gods.
For the Cihuatán Indigo bottle, Appartement 103 says it was inspired by Tlaloc, the Mayan God of rain, fertility, and water. Often symbolized by a snake, Tlaloc is represented on the bottle through a beautiful intertwine illustration with flamboyant colors and textures that aim to heighten consumers’ senses through an odyssey of details. Beyond the story, the illustration conveys the characteristics and personality of the rum in each Cihuatán Indigo bottle.
In contrast, Cihuatán Cinabrio, a 12-year-old rum in reddish color tones, is decorated with a symbol of Kinich Ahau, the Mayan God of the sun. Legend has it that the Sleeping Woman, guardian goddess of the Cihuatán Valley, interceded before Kinich Ahau so that he energized the valley with its heat. The Nahual (or birth signs) of Kinich Ahau were two hummingbirds, which are carefully portrayed in the bottle’s illustration.
To ensure the agency’s vision was translated accurately, Appartement 103 says all labels were printed with the highest level of detail and quality cues. The labels use embossing details with a crafted paper texture and hot foil stamping, creating a subtle yet overt premiumization across the products.
The bottles' oak wood closure is laser engraved with the Cihuatán logo, conveying an extra touch of craftsmanship and elegance.
Says Cihuatán Marketing Director Eugenia Ramirez, “Appartement 103’s team has gone above and beyond to get to know Cihuatán’s DNA, both short-term and long-term goals, and most importantly, the stories of our land. The team at Appartement 103 then translated those into packaging and marketing assets that are not only visually striking, but that also will help Cihuatán accomplish commercial and other strategic goals. Along the entire scope of the project, we have considered Appartement 103 to be a true ally, and we are thrilled with the end result.”
Adds Appartement 103’s Creative Director, Julien Zylbermann, “Since the start of the project, the Cihuatán team gave us their complete trust. Working with creative freedom while collaborating closely with our client was key to challenging rum category codes. Our team has delivered a daring brand transformation that would reconnect the consumers with Cihuatán’s deepest roots—a powerful synergy that will surely bring the brand to the forefront of the international scene.”