Book Review: “Branding: Distilled”

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By Richard Thomas

Just as the whiskey boom has become so large as to support plenty of new books about bourbon and moonshine, the micro-distilling movement has become such a tidal wave as to prompt its own crop of books. The difference is that whereas whiskey boom books fall into the category of popular non-fiction, micro-distilling books are technical and trade works.

Thus I must make this disclaimer for Branding: Distilled by Cynthia Sterling, just in case the title doesn’t already say it for me: this book is for people in the craft distilling business or those with an interest in marketing. If that doesn’t describe you, then Branding probably won’t be your cup of tea.

If that does describe you, then Sterling’s book is something you should probably read, because the booze business is no exception to the rule that having good marketing is at least as important as having good sales, if not more so. Sterling provides a clear and concise primer on defining a distillery’s identity, creating a brand, and translating that brand into the imagery presented on the bottle, including working with designers, glassmakers, printers and the oft-maligned TTB, the Federal agency that approves liquor labeling.

Providing a staggeringly attractive set of examples are the numerous photos of bottles of craft spirits, plus interviews with and asides by people who have been through this process of translating a business and product into a branded image. While I designate Branding as recommended reading for anyone entering the craft spirits industry, I also label it must-look material for bottle porn fetishists. The photography is that good.

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