A great whiskey is more than just a spirit. It’s an experience, a story told through the aroma, taste, and packaging that captures the imagination and carries you back in time. This is the art and craft of CF Napa Brand Design and their recent projects with Lightburn Spirits and F.A. Poole & Co. Distillers.
As we pull the curtain back on the Design Awards 2024 entries, we explore CF Napa’s design journey with Lightburn’s “Rimfire Whiskey” (above, left), which brings to life the untamed spirit of West Virginia, and F.A. Poole’s “Mersey Craft Spirits” (above, right) that encapsulates the thrill of exploration and discovery. In both cases, CF Napa expertly merges historical narratives with contemporary design elements, resulting in packaging that doesn’t merely contain spirits. They encapsulate stories of adventure, resilience, exploration, and courage.
Join us as we unravel these two intriguing design stories of CF Napa’s collaborative projects, discovering the inspiration behind each brand and how they have been given life, not just in the spirit they contain but in the history they convey. From West Virginia’s wild landscapes to the open oceans traversed by the Queen of Mersey, get ready to embark on a design adventure as intoxicating as the spirits themselves.
CF Napa Captures the Spirit of West Virginia
“Lightburn Spirits came to CF Napa to develop a premium whiskey from the ground up, including the name, brand story, logo, and packaging. This new brand needed to capture the beauty, people, and independent spirit of West Virginia and the crafted care put into every bottle. The name ‘Rimfire’ was developed as an ode to Eli ‘Rimfire’ Hamrick (1868-1945), a mountaineer and one of West Virginia’s most iconic figures, and provided the inspiration for the brand story:
“The spirit of West Virginia is one of resilience, wild beauty, fortitude, and liberty. It has long been a place of breathtaking landscapes where forests cover more than three-fourths of the state and rivers run through majestic mountains. Level land is scarce, and the terrain begets self-reliance—a longstanding trait inherent to the people of West Virginia.”
“Hamrick’s trades were many, but his life’s purpose was singular, pursuing adventure in West Virginia’s great outdoors. His dedication to the Mountain State inspired us to craft Rimfire Whiskey—embodying the rugged beauty of West Virginia and the strong independent spirit of its people. Rimfire is distilled with the highest quality, American-grown ingredients and aged in charred oak barrels resulting in a pure, bold, smooth-tasting whiskey.
From coal miners to backwoods bootleggers to lifelong outdoorsmen like Hamrick, the hard-working people of West Virginia carved a history engrained with independent thinkers, intrepid explorers, and adventurers who stood for freedom and persisted in the face of adversity. Rimfire is the new American whiskey proudly instilled with the spirit of West Virginia.
CF Napa researched historical bottles and glassware that would have been used in West Virginia in the late 1800s/early 1900s when Hamrick was exploring Appalachia. We selected a flask-style shape for the bottle as it reflected the style of whiskey bottles used in Rimfire’s era and was reminiscent of canteens used for carrying water on hikes. We also developed a custom glass bottle with cartouches of the brand name on the sides and back. For the label, CF Napa commissioned an illustration of the adventurous Rimfire exploring the breathtaking West Virginia landscape. Intricate gold foil details light up the drawing, branding, and whiskey information against the bold blue label. For the closure, we crafted a custom wooden T-top with an inset metal coin modeled after a West Virginia coal coin—a historic payment method from the 19th century utilized by businesses in forested areas reluctant to use their lumber to produce cash. Workers, such as miners, were paid in this metal currency which could be exchanged at the employer’s shops. The packaging design captures the region’s history and spirit of adventure, inviting the imbiber to live boldly, free, and independently.
CF Napa Captures the Spirit of Exploration
F.A. Poole & Co. Distillers came to CF Napa to refine their story and create the logo and packaging design for their Mersey Craft Spirits brand, starting with their Straight Rye Whiskey. The brand owner and proprietor was inspired by his grandfather, F.A. Poole, whose adventurous spirit led him to brave the open ocean aboard the Queen of the Mersey. The products of Mersey Craft Spirits are curated from a collection of discovered spirits from all over the world, igniting the thrill of a global treasure hunt.
Their family’s story begins with a young couple’s journey. An adventure fueled by courage and tempered with optimism, F.A. Poole braved the open ocean aboard the Queen of the Mersey, unknowingly forging a path for generations to follow. Like his parents before him, Poole sought the adventure of a new port. With faith and hope, he answered the common call of the human spirit—the call to explore, create, and offer something wonderfully handcrafted to the world. A bold entrepreneur determined to carve out a life of independent success, he soon became a successful blacksmith and, ultimately, a vibrant business owner. Today, the fourth generation of Pooles brings the same entrepreneurial spirit of adventure and exploration to the world of craft spirits.
“Mersey Craft Spirits is a new kind of spirits company: ‘We don’t distill; we explore. We seek. We find. We disrupt the status quo. Just as our namesake, Queen of the Mersey, was a catalyst for discovery, so too is Mersey Craft Spirits. We bring you a curated collection of the finest spirits from distilleries around the world, accompanied by fantastic stories of where they came from and the artisans that created them.’ Founded on the core belief that consumers deserve a better experience, they promise great service and complete transparency; you’ll always know what you’re drinking. They share everything about their products and processes, from origin to ingredients and distiller. They believe there’s a spirit of exploration in every person—discover yours with Mersey Craft Spirits.
“For the primary graphic, CF Napa drew the brand icon as a ship to honor F.A. Poole’s global travels on the Queen of the Mersey. A secondary icon was also developed for the capsule and other brand components that combine a blacksmith’s anvil, anchor, and a ship tie-down into a heraldic-inspired crest. The label design’s type and label shape usage is a take on nostalgic ship travel tickets. A recipe and bottle number emphasizes the brand’s unique curation model and limited production status and invites you to ‘explore this line of bespoke whiskeys.'”