First concocted as a mix of bourbon with fruits and spices in 1874 in New Orleans by bartender M.W. Heron, Southern Comfort is a fruit, spice, and whiskey flavored liqueur owned by Brown-Forman and is available in 100 countries. Southern Comfort has a rich history and I wouldn’t normally encourage reading through a product’s history page but this one is rather entertaining. Although on the sweet, syrupy side and popular in cocktails, Southern Comfort packs an alcohol punch that can be deceiving. Earlier this year, Southern Comfort introduced a new Caramel version to complement its other mixes like Lime and Black Cherry and introduced a new logo and packaging designed by Austin, TX-based Helms Workshop.
“We dug in and internalized the history and personality of the brand,in order to craft something authentic and meaningful for modern-day drinkers”, said designer and owner of Helms Workshop, Christian Helms. “From sifting through the vaults at Brown-Forman and breathing life back into heritage elements, to crafting a new bottle and brand language, the goal was to highlight what makes Southern Comfort unique. The result is a new package that feels confident and comfortable in its own skin, and looks great on the shelf.”
Not being familiar with Southern Comfort, my first impression was that the redesign was too friendly, as I thought — just from looking at the previous design — that it was straight-up whiskey or bourbon. After going through the site, reading the press release (a sample quoted below), and some extra Google-ing it’s clear that Southern Comfort has a good sense of humor and is trying to make whiskey-drinking a more relaxed, happy, peppy experience.
With that in mind, moving away from the more Memphis-esque and Southern-esque typography and dingbat styling of the previous logo and into a simpler sans serif with more streamlined supporting elements makes the whole personality come together in a more cohesive way. The typography is great and the subtle curve on “SOUTHERN” provides a nice visual bridge between old and new logos/labels, although I do like the single line application better (in general, not as a lock-up that should go on a bottle). The star-slash-banner doodad is quite great.
Did you notice that the bottle looks different? Well it is. In fact, ALL of the Southern Comfort bottles are different! Check out the new bottle and packaging design. The awesomeness inside the bottle hasn’t changed, but we thought it could use an upgraded wardrobe on the outside. You may notice our new look as you stroll down the grocery and liquor store aisle. Go ahead — pick one up. Pretty cool, huh? It’s the perfect combination of sweet, smooth and delicious. Swoolicious? Probably not a real word but we honestly don’t care; we just know it’s a darn good beverage to enjoy with friends.
One of the most significant new features to the new package is a unique icon on the neck and label proudly owning Southern Comfort’s position as a category of one. The new bottle shape draws from the brand’s heritage and wears the same fluted shoulders that drinkers recognize from years past.
The new bottle design has a lot more personality, it’s like it hit the gym and got broad shoulders. Along with the bulbous neck it makes for a more interesting silhouette. The labeling on the bottle is the same approach with two separate labels and although I like the new typography better there is something that made the previous version work better. The curved top of the new (top) label feels like it clashes with the bottle but, still, the overall vibe achieved is much more on point. The new neck label is probably the best new trait of the bottle.
The new Caramel bottle is extra fun, with the lovely and chunky typography printed directly on the bottle and the word all broken up. It’s unexpected and irreverent — just like the thought of a caramel-flavored liqueur. The bottom label with another alternate Southern Comfort logo is quite nice as well. The Lime and Cherry versions are equally cool. They definitely feel like something you bring to a party.
There are bonus prototypes of extra fun things like t-shirts and bandanas that all extend the visual language of the brand and play up the different tag lines of the product — “Category of One” and “None Genuine but Mine” — and introduce a small range of supporting typefaces that add to the good vibes. Overall, a strong evolution that separates Southern Comfort from all the whiskey-looking whiskey brands and mixes a bunch of new visual ingredients that set it in its own category indeed.