Case Study - June 2011 May 26, 2011


Reinventing a Legacy Brand

With roots going back to the California Gold Rush, Cyrus Noble Bourbon has had a long and prestigious history. Named after a dedicated distillery worker when, intoxicated, he fell into a vat of whiskey, the Cyrus Noble brand was famous throughout the West during the 19th and 20th centuries. Backed by San Francisco’s influential Haas Brothers and promoted by the wholesale business entrepreneur, Ernest Reuben Lilienthal, Cyrus Noble Bourbon became one of the most lucrative and sought after brands in miners’ saloons, as well as in upper-class homes. Even Admiral Dewey, the hero of the Spanish American War, was a fan:


 In May, 1899, when Admiral Dewey was informed of his promotion to Admiral of the U.S. Navy, to celebrate, “He then reached for a bottle of Cyrus Noble, a sour mash bourbon, filled two glasses..." and with his friend drank a toast.

When bourbon fell out of favor in the mid-1900s, the Cyrus Noble label was shelved …until now. According to Steven Burrows, Chief Operating Officer for Haas Brothers/Cyrus Noble, the time is right to reintroduce the brand to the world. “Bourbon is enjoying a comeback, particularly with the younger demographic,” he says. “We still had the original recipe, so it was really a no-brainer.” This decision led Burrows to Erica Harrop, founder of Global Package LLC in Napa, California.  Burrows also had photos of the original bottle, the style of which the company wanted to duplicate, but with an updated look that would be relevant to a new generation of bourbon drinkers. Harrop was introduced early on to the design team at San Francisco’s Philippe Becker Design, which would produce the graphics and packaging. “We wanted Erica’s input early on not only to ensure the quality of the execution, but also to keep costs in line,” Burrows says. “She really knows her way around the entire process, from conception to sourcing the glass and finding the right closure and seal suppliers.”  Harrop presented several bottles that were close matches, but the client team selected one that was shorter, stouter, and more contemporary than the original. Burrows’ long experience in the industry also told him that the neck needed to be a little longer for a busy bartender to grab hold of.  Haas Brothers also wanted to emboss the distinctive logo—a crossed pick and shovel representing the Gold Rush and a crown representing the regal nature of Kentucky’s bourbon whiskey—into the shoulder of the bottle, perfectly centered above the label. “This was our biggest challenge on the project,” says Burrows. “We were working with antiquated equipment which had a centering device that wasn’t standard. But Erica rolled up her sleeves and quickly engineered a solution.” Harrop also navigated the process of making several custom molds until the neck was the right length and the notch that guides the bottle through the bottling line was in the exact location at the bottom to ensure the label would be adhered in the correct position, precisely centered below the embossed medallion. The final result is an elegant, handsome update of an historic original. Burrows has nothing but praise for Harrop and the design team, and plans to use them again on upcoming projects. “We only produced 5,000 cases, so we couldn’t afford any hiccups,” he remarked. “I give Harrop very high marks for customer service, customer satisfaction, and follow through. I will happily recommend her to others.”