August 13, 2013 by Danielle Beurteaux
Frank Sinatra always had a bottle of Jack Daniel’s on hand—in his dressing room, on his plane and at home. The legendary singer become such a fan of the whiskey that he created the “Jack Daniel’s Country Club” for a few close friends, and even went so far as to have a crest designed.
When brand owner Brown-Forman wanted to create Sinatra Select, a premium special-edition Jack Daniel’s to commemorate Sinatra, they brought in design company Cue to create a distinctive package that would honor both the whiskey and the famous drinker, without crossing the line from class to kitsch. Sinatra was a Jack Daniel’s aficionado, says Brown-Forman’s Matt Blevins, manager of trademark strategy and development for Jack Daniel’s. “I felt very strongly that this needed to be a recognition of an authentic relationship,” he says. “We really did want to strive for balance in the branding.”
Chris Thomas, project director, and creative director Alan Colvin at Cue looked to that relationship to create a narrative about Sinatra’s connection with Jack Daniel’s, which reached back to his introduction to the drink in the 1960s by Jack Daniel’s salesman Angelo Lucchesi. “There was a genuine story there that we could take some inspiration from,” says Thomas.
The design discussion centered around being true to the memory of classic, Rat Pack-era Sinatra, says Colvin. “The idea of making it more classic than decorated was what helped guide us in choosing some of those finishes that were more restrained and premium,” he says.
With the help of the Sinatra estate, Cue headed to the archives and poured over vintage photos of Sinatra, researching his history with Jack Daniel’s, and looking for the telling details they could incorporate into the design and create an emotional connection between the two iconic brands.
The designers retained the iconic look of the classic Jack bottle, while customizing the label and branding details to bring a Sinatra sensibility. “We identified what parts to retain and what opportunities there were to tweak or modify parts of that silhouette,” says Colvin.
Orange details around the neck and on the labeling were added because orange was Sinatra’s favorite color—he called it “the happiest color.” A small orange fedora, an image from the Sinatra estate, is on the neck, and the “Old No. 7” usually found in the middle of the front label was replaced with the words “Sinatra Select” in white and orange. There’s additional filigree on the label and neck wrapper, also sourced from the estate, and an additional surprise: the Jack Daniel’s Country Club logo on the cap, a small, hidden detail that only appears once the bottle is opened. “We really tried to be true to that iconic structure of the brand but allow new expression to come into play,” says Colvin.
The 1-L bottle, a custom creation ordered from Bruni Glass in Milan, Italy, is an exaggerated version of the traditional Jack bottle. The neck is longer, the shoulders sharper, and the base is very thick glass, giving the bottle a sense of weight and value. “[The bottle] is tall and elegant but it’s got a heft to it, too, so it’s masculine at the same time,” says Brown-Forman art director Sam Gardner. “There’s nothing dainty about it in the hand.”
The box was custom-made by Burt Rigid Box, which has been providing boxes for Brown-Forman for 20 years. Once Burt had the design renderings, they worked on creating a box that would be a beautiful expression of the product, while durable and at an appropriate price point. And there was an additional challenge: they had to start designing before an actual bottle was available. Many prototypes later, a clamshell structure was selected, using 80-caliper board box with a die-cut collar tray and a hidden magnet closure in the collar with an orange ribbon pull tab.
Sinatra’s suits provided the inspiration for the box covering, and Cue was looking for a traditional, matte finish, says Gary Sweeney, senior vice president of operations and business development at Holliston. They chose Holliston’s Arrestox in black, a 100% cotton in a rich, jet black that’s coated and printable, but still maintains its tactile feel. “It was very important to use a durable material with color compatibility throughout the package so that as it’s opened and closed, the material wouldn’t crack and remains looking lush,” says Sweeney.
More testing ensued to meet the challenge of printing white and bright orange on deep black. Burt developed a screen print ink with the right opacity and viscosity to cover the fabric. The box is screen printed with multiple-pass, hot stamping for the silver filigree and text.
There’s an accompanying booklet, also covered in Arrestox, that tells the story of Sinatra and Jack Daniel’s and that fits in a cavity inside the front of the box. For support, a layer of polystyrene foam was used under the booklet. “The idea was to give a very luxury look but also be practical in that it was going to be holding a very heavy bottle and it needed to sustain that weight in travel and in the store on the shelf,” says Burt vice president Laura Hurd.
This was the longest project he’s worked on for Burt, says Dwayne Spaulding, creative designer at Burt. “It took a year and a half on the design but the end results obviously speak to that timeframe.”
Even the interior offers hints of Frank’s influence on Jack Daniel’s. Where the bottle rests are grooves that mirror the grooves of Sinatra barrels, the aging barrels Brown-Forman makes for this whiskey. The barrel staves are carved and grooved staves so the whiskey has deeper contact on more surface area, which gives the whiskey its own flavor profile.
Sinatra’s 100th birthday is in 2015, and now fans the world over can pay tribute to an American by raising a glass of Sinatra Select. Says Cue’s Colvin: “This is celebrating his life in a way that fits with people’s greatest memories of him and what he contributed to music and culture.”