Featured image for The Crown Royal Bag Is A Packaging Icon

The Crown Royal Bag Is A Packaging Icon

by Rudy Sanchez on 10/27/2022 | 6 Minute Read

Plenty of great things come from the commonwealth of Canada: rock band Rush, the TV comedy Trailer Park Boys, and Killing Eve’s Sandra Oh all have origins in the Great White North. And while we’d go to bat for the likes of Montreal-style bagels, ketchup chips, and poutine, there might be no better export looming large in the eyes of Americans than Crown Royal.

Originally conceived as a gift befit for a king, Crown Royal’s blended whiskey would go beyond its Canadian home, gaining international popularity. Crown Royal’s unique packaging would help propel them to a cultural icon, thanks partly to the soft and velvety purple drawstring bag that holds and protects the bottle.

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Crown Royal’s purple bags have been a part of the blended whiskey’s packaging since its inception. Created by Seagram’s executive and spirits entrepreneur Samuel Bronfman, they developed and debuted Crown Royal in honor of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth’s royal tour of Canada in 1939. Seagram's trialed over 600 blends before finding one worthy of royalty; beyond the painstaking process of selecting that perfect mix, they designed an ornately cut glass decanter to hold the whiskey, placed inside a regal purple bag with gold stitching. Ten cases were placed on the regals’ train to enjoy during the transcontinental tour.

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Editorial photograph

Distribution of Crown Royal would be limited to its home and native land until 1964 when Crown Royal would officially be exported to the United States. But Americans weren't completely in the dark when it came to the purple one, as an informal introduction to Canadian whiskey came via oil workers coming to the Gulf area with bottles in tow. To this day, Crown Royal remains popular in the Gulf region and the surrounding Southern US.

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While the whiskey has become a staple of many a bar cart, what might be most impressive of all is how the packaging has taken on a second life. Sure, the Crown Royal bag makes for a classy presentation when gifting a bottle of whiskey, but it can also get repurposed to store a handful of items. Aside from its seemingly luxurious exterior, the bag features a drawstring to keep things inside, and the material is durable enough to last years.

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Editorial photograph
Editorial photograph

What's more, the brand takes on new life as it becomes an everyday item to carry one's keepsakes and trinkets. The purple bag is as recognizable as any piece of unforgettable packaging, but it also quietly announces itself in our day-to-day lives when it becomes a tool. Just arranging wildflowers in a classic Coke bottle or putting something—anything—in a cookie tin takes on new meaning.

Tabletop gamers have had a long relationship with the Crown Royal bag. Games like Dungeons & Dragons make use of sets of dice with different numbers of sides. As any dungeon master will attest, given their shape and size, dies can be easy to lose, and the whiskey bags just so happen to be a suitable size for holding game dice, as well as other small gaming items.

“Our Crown Royal bags have evolved to have their own status. For years, we have been aware of consumers repurposing these bags to store some of their most valuable possessions, everything from titles and deeds to homes to fashion items,” a Crown Royal spokesperson told Dieline.

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Image from Utopia by Cho.

It’s not just deeds and jewelry stored in repurposed Crown Royal bags. Folks have used the bags for craft projects such as quilts, throw pillows, lampshades, oven mitts, and coasters. Custom clothing made from velvety soft Crown Royal bags is practically a given. The purple and gold combination doesn’t only look good; it’s downright regal. Everything from baby onesies, gowns, suits, slippers, jackets, and even bikinis have been repurposed from the purple pouch that keeps on giving.

And there are Crown Royal face masks too.

Outdoorsy folks that like to be out in the bush and by the water have found the practical reusing of Crown Royal bags isn't just for keeping decanters of whiskey safe. Hunters have turned the bags into rifle rests when filled with sand or to protect fishing reels. Even golfers utilize empty Crown Royal bags as club headcovers.

The bag isn't only confined to arts and crafts, DnD campaigns, or storing house deeds—people keep their valuable and illicit drugs and related paraphernalia in Crown Royal bags, a fact not lost upon the po-po. Okaloosa Sheriffs arrested Florida man Maurice Simmons after they found 177 grams of fentanyl, heroin, and cannabis in his home, with some of the substances stashed in a Crown Royal bag.

In Sydney, Montana, a Crown Royal bag seen inside a vehicle led to the arrest of Darren Joseph Brown. According to the affidavit written by Sydney police, the presence of the Crown Royal bag near a butane torch was significant because the combination has been observed in multiple narcotics investigations. Bryan, Texas residents Justin Claridy and Latrisha Adams were both stopped for outstanding warrants by law enforcement officers. In Claridy’s backpack, police found two Crown Royal Bags containing K2 synthetic cannabis and a Whataburger bag with ecstasy pills inside.

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Crown Royal bag for Coming 2 America promotion by Ruth E. Carter.

All of which should tell you that maybe you shouldn’t put your more sinful vices within their velvety confines.

Our personal stashes aside, since 2010, The Purple Bag Project, in partnership with Packages from Home, has repurposed Crown Royal bags into care packages filled with commonly requested items from military service members abroad—they even filled their millionth Crown Royal pouch in 2020. The Purple Bag Project holds packaging events and offers the option of packing a bag online

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So what are Crown Royal bags made out of anyway? There may be some plastic or synthetic fibers in the composition, but the brand doesn’t disclose what materials get used in keeping its regal allure unique. Given the popularity of Crown Royal, relaying proprietary information to potential counterfeiters could put consumers and the brand at risk.

Whatever the case, the Crown Royal bag has become a symbol and cultural mainstay, becoming more than a core brand element. The bags have found new purposes beyond whiskey in communities as diverse as tabletop gaming, fishing, fashion, and meth aficionados. It’s also the rare piece of packaging that lives beyond its initial use. While the brand certainly isn't immune to accusations of overpackaging and unnecessary secondary components, thanks to its regal design and durability, it's as treasured as the whiskey that bears its name. 

Still, just like Royal Dansk cookie tins, you’re more likely to find Crown Royal bags filled with something other than the original product.

Just make sure it isn't drugs.

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