Luxury spirits can be defined and recognised in multiple ways, from the way the bottle is presented and its packaging to the hefty retail price and limited edition availability. So what sets St-Rémy’s new additions to the collection apart? St-Rémy VSOP and St-Rémy XO have been re-created to “match the brand’s values” of leadership, quality and craftsmanship.

The terms VSOP and XO, as well as VS and Hors d’âge, refer to the age and quality of a type of cognac. VS stands for Very Special, VSOP for Very Superior Old Pale (Reserve), XO is for Extra Old and Hors d’âge translates to Beyond Age.

St-Remy’s VSOP bottle “embodies the iconic and historical taste of St-Rémy” and appears amber-yellow in colour with golden sparks. Its notes consist of fruit aromas including cherry, gooseberry and strawberry and floral notes blended in with woody and vanillas tones.

XO is described as “rich and complex”, with amber colouring and rich red hues. Oak and vanilla aromas can also be tasted, with a “subtly spicy” flavour. The symbolic St-Rémy lion has been added more prominently to this bottle, reflecting its signature look.

Rémy Cointreau global brand director Hervé Buzon explained the motivation behind the packaging redesign. He said: “The packaging design had not been refreshed for a long time and was not supporting really anymore our value strategy. We wanted to express more quality and authentic cues, and reinforce our uniqueness as French brandy from grapes to bottle. The brandy market is flat in many mature markets then with St-Rémy we want to assume our role of French Brandy leader and take initiatives.”

Iconic bottles and the importance of design

Certain brands have mastered the art of standing out and being instantly recognisable. Some examples include Courvoisier, Disaronno and Patron, unique and iconic bottles within the luxury spirit market. We spoke to Fiona Florence, managing director of global packaging design and brand consultancy JDO, about balancing brand and packaging.

“When it comes to bottle design, if you’re not unique then you risk fading into the background. Stand-out is massively important – whether that’s on the bar or on the store shelf,” Florence explains.

There’s a delicate balance of creating something very ‘personal’ to the brand that draws on key elements

“The key point is that a stand-out design must be true to the essence of the brand. It’s got to be authentic so there’s a delicate balance of creating something very ‘personal’ to the brand that draws on key elements, whether that’s shape, colour or typography.

“There are certain product cues that instantly scream luxury but consumers are sold on the brands they really believe in. It’s the job of marketers and consultancies to create that sense of belief by drilling down into the brand essence and translating it into a visually stunning product that pulls the consumer in on an emotional level.”

Unique bottles in the Courvoisier collection

The Courvoisier collection consists of ten unique bottles, including its VS, VSOP, XO and L’Essence de Courvoisier bottles.

Global Courvoisier vice president Megan Frank said: “To signify the difference between expressions and the different aging techniques used from VS to XO, the design and pattern becomes more intricate and elaborate as the Cognac expressions get older.

Our most iconic expression – L’Essence de Courvoisier – is housed in a teardrop-shaped decanter crafted by Baccarat meant to suspend the spirit in a timeless, elegant frame.

“The spirit brings together the traditional and the contemporary, representing both the heritage of Courvoisier and its future. The packaging and spirit itself accurately captures our tradition, passion and innovation over the last two centuries.”

Luxury tequilas and crystal bottles

Gran Patron consists of a collection of three luxury tequilas – Platinum, Piedra and Burdeos, all with their own distinct look and displayed in crystal bottles.

Florence said: “The physical product is where the brand really comes to life in the eyes of consumers so getting packaging design right is absolutely crucial. It needs to communicate a sense of the brand – its values, purpose and heritage – and in a way that really connects with the consumer at an emotional level. In the luxury market, where consumer expectations around quality are incredibly high, it’s an absolute given that brands deliver a premium product and experience.” If the enjoyment of food surpasses taste and includes “eating with your eyes”, the same can be said in regards to drinks. Several factors come into play when consumers decide on a particular bottle.

Florence added: “In the luxury market, consumers are investing in something beyond just a quality product. Luxury is about indulging in a sensory experience. Details such as the weight and quality of glass, the way it refracts light, the shape and feel in the hand, the closure and the pour – these factors all combine to make a statement about the fact that this is a high-quality product that consumers can trust.

“Taking that one stage further, consumers increasingly seek out brands that offer not just an experience but a sense of theatre around the serve. It’s about elevating and celebrating the bottle. It should be both the heart of a social ceremony while also having the Insta-appeal to make it shareable on social media.”

Adapting packaging to keep up with the luxury market

Data and analytics company GlobalData identified how packaging features can make consumers willing to spend more on a particular brand. GlobalData packaging analyst Pawel Urban explained the importance of tailored packaging. He said: “For many modern consumers health and wellness are very important in their lives and those trends are also visible in alcohol packaging. Smaller formats allow better control over alcohol intake but also offer hassle-free consumption for out of the home occasions.

Attractive product design is equally important as alcohol drinking is very often a social experience and attention-seeking is more than welcome.

“For 32% of global consumers, the well-fitted pack size makes them feel the product is tailored to their needs, which may be a strong factor influencing their purchase. Attractive product design is equally important as alcohol drinking is very often a social experience and attention-seeking is more than welcome.

“Fancy shapes resulting in extraordinary presentation are noticeable, as well as various design ideas that target specific audiences, such as young or more mature consumers. New functional or dispensing solutions that help to make drinking experiences unique have been also observed.”