Do Go Chasing Waterfalls with Whole Foods' Exclusive Bourbon Whiskey
by Theresa Christine Johnson on 10/17/2022 | 4 Minute Read
Bourbon drinkers, are you up for an adventure?
Then Rustic River might be just the bourbon whiskey for you—this is a rich, smooth spirit bottled at the tenth oldest distillery in Kentucky, and it isn’t trying to be anything else. Add that's why Moxie Sozo, the branding agency behind the design, expertly crafted Rustic River to fit in perfectly with the major players while still standing out as a new journey for those bold enough to try it.
Rustic River was created to compete with existing, well-known brands and sell at an affordable price. “It’s an active, outdoorsy-feeling whiskey,” said Mike Bowman, group account director at Moxie Sozo. “They wanted to hit the demographic of people who weren’t looking for old, stodgy whiskey, but something active and premium that they could pitch to different retail chains.
"Whole Foods ended up picking it up, which is enormous,” Mike added.
The Moxie Sozo team has plenty of experience in the liquor and spirits category, so they wanted to create a sweet spot in the design to appeal to bourbon drinkers craving something different. “Having that brand that is maybe a couple of dollars cheaper than competitors but looks a couple of dollars more expensive was always one of the goals around Rustic River,” said Derek Springston, chief creative officer and partner at Moxie Sozo. “You get that value, and you’d rather have this in your cabinet anyway.”
Rustic River’s clear bottle lets the tempting golden honey hue of the liquid do the talking, and copper foil adds some sophistication. The front label exudes strength and hardiness with dark colors in the background and an all-caps serif font. Other elements, though, give the bourbon a more modern vibe.
“We didn’t want it to feel like somebody found this in the attic and dusted it off,” said Charles Bloom, creative director and partner at Moxie Sozo. “It is always that interplay of maintaining the heritage and work but finding ways to update it.”
Charles explained that one of his favorite parts of working on whiskey brands is the tax strip along the top of the bottle. It’s an interesting challenge to create something unique for such small real estate—a design that doesn’t simply recycle old printing motifs but gives the brand a fresh design. “This one has a different angle, and we arranged the type in a wavy pattern that’s reminiscent of waterfalls. We found modern touches that pull it forward and make it feel revived.”
The waterfall Charles mentioned appears on the label, situated behind the text. That subtly gives the design the outdoorsy direction they wanted to take the brand in, and the image inspires a sense of place and sparks a bit of curiosity. While the team admitted it’s an amalgamation of various waterfalls in Kentucky, the falls seem somewhat familiar and almost like a location the consumer might know or want to visit.
Originally, that waterfall came forth and flowed through the wordmark, but on request from the client, the falls were situated solely in the background (the angled text, however, remains and gives the label a more natural look). The grocery chain also asked the agency to pare down the color palette in their original design from something more contemporary to the more subdued grays. Moxie Sozo explored options, and the client justified their reasoning for wanting to tone down the design, so they tweaked Rustic River’s final appearance to have the maximum appeal to customers.
“Whole Foods knows their customer,” Derek said. “They have a separate liquor store, and they knew the consumer they were targeting. We needed to ensure we were speaking to the right audience, and they could relay that information back to us.”
Visually, Rustic River offers people a bourbon that’s off the beaten path, but the drink itself is still very much rooted in tradition. Not only is it produced at the tenth oldest distillery in Kentucky, but it gets crafted in Owensboro, a city dripping with bourbon history. And for Moxie Sozo, that has proven one of the great joys of working on this project.
“Owensboro was one of the originals,” Derek said. “There is a lot of heritage where this is produced, from the late 1800s. Being able to promote Owensboro and getting the community back on the map as a whiskey producer is a big deal.”