Hands up those who’ve bought wine or spirits purely for the packaging? Yep, thought so. Up till now I’ve been pretty good about not doing this myself, but I think I may have finally met my match. Thinking Tree Spirits’ combination of magical background label and stunningly colorful hangtag – both designed by Hired Guns Creative – make for rum, gin and vodka bottles that can only be described as, well, “spiritual.”

“We worked with Thinking Tree Spirits — a start-up craft distillery located in Eugene, Oregon — to design an identity for their new company and develop a unique label template that would work for their entire product line,” says Hired Guns Creative Graphic Designer Kristen Dullum. “We settled on a front and back label with a cap strap and a double-sided hangtag, understanding that the hangtag would add a level of complication to the print production.”

Complication doesn’t begin to cover it as Hired Guns had to work with two different printers to bring this look to life.

Says Kristen, “CCL Label was responsible for printing all the labels — both sides of the hangtag as well as the front label, back label, and the cap strap. They also did the hot foil stamping on the back label and cap strap. At this point, everything was complete but the hangtag, which still needed finishing on the letterpress.” [Editor’s Note: It bears remembering that traditional letterpresses are used for finishing techniques in addition to letterpress printing.]

Twin Ravens Press then added foil stamping, embossing, die-cutting and duplexing to that gorgeous, gorgeous hangtag. Words can’t begin to describe how beautifully these colors play off the contours of the embossing.

“Twin Ravens Press created a fully sculpted emboss that really brought the artwork to life,” says Kristen. “With so many special letterpress processes already going into the hangtag, we had originally planned on a simpler emboss. Thankfully, Twin Ravens Press was able to achieve a much higher level of detail that perfectly complemented the artwork.”

That artwork – oh my! All of it was hand drawn and then colored in Adobe Illustrator to create a fully vectored design, she explains. “In combination with skillful printing on appropriate stocks, this helped to achieve very sharp lines and fine details. (The other reason to use vector, of course, being that it allows the artwork to be infinitely scalable for future applications.)

“Originally the back of the hangtag was going to be printed with letterpress, but in the end all the labels (including both sides of the hangtag) were digitally printed in 4-color CMYK by CCL Label using an HP indigo press,” Kristen reveals. “This was primarily so we could ensure perfect color-matching across all the labels, and to help streamline the production.

“KURZ LUXOR 341 Purple was used for the foil stamping on the front hangtag, the back label, and the cap strap. There is also a matte UV varnish over the top (just on everything CCL Label printed, so the foil on the hangtag is actually a bit shinier because it was added later by letterpress.)”

Finally, each hangtag was tied off with a purple cord and held in place with a tiny glue dot to keep it centered on the front label.

The result is an object that seems less a bottle of spirits and more a magical artifact from our pagan past. If those birds blinked, that butterfly flapped its wings or the center head suddenly looked up at me and smiled, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.