The Grapevine

The WSTA's views, distilled.
Harriet works as Communication Manager.

The Spirits Summit, Unwrapped


As if we weren’t cold enough in London as it is, WSTA decided to head north once again to the Packaging News Spirits Summit in Edinburgh.

 In its inaugural year, the event was showcased in the beautiful Assembly Rooms on George Street, where chandeliers hung from the ceiling above boxes, bags, glass, cases and corks – a packaging-enthusiasts paradise if you will.

 The room buzzed with chatter as delegates made their way around the stalls to explore some of the industry’s cutting edge creations. The packaging industry could easily be mistaken for dull, but packing businesses from across the world were proving how this was clearly not the case (excuse the pun!).

From innovation managers to materials suppliers – this was the meeting place for the industry’s front runners. We took advantage of the excellent opportunity to talk to businesses who produce the packaging used by many of our spirits company members, especially at the luxury end of their ranges.        



 Proceedings soon got underway as we were invited into the conference hall to hear speakers from global brands tackling topical issues. Diageo’s Kerrin Lumsden walked us through ‘seven steps to great packaging design.’ He argued that great design is at the core of building great brands, and as competition becomes more fierce, major brand owners are changing the way they brief their agencies to ensure they get it. As Design Leader, Kerrin shed light on how Diageo are transforming their own approach to creating engaging, impactful and beautiful spirits packaging.


Continuing on the theme of changing times, the room listened intently to a presentation on ‘uncovering the spirit of a new generation.’ This exposed the radically different paradigms of behaviour that the industry is seeing as the latest generation of drinkers reach maturity. For example, a drop in consumption, the wide spread desire for premiumisation and a thirst for immersive experiences. This presentation was given by Webb deVlam, design agency behind whisky heavyweight, Grants.

Moving away from outer packaging, the Scotch Whisky Association’s Head of Sustainability and Innovation presented their environmental strategy for the sector before the WSTA’s very own Regulatory and Commercial Affairs Director, David Richardson, took the stage. Under the title of “Great packaging – but is it legal?”

David discussed how  an innovative product and great packaging aren’t enough – labelling must be compliant. A central point was that compliant labelling is good for business as it avoids border delays and arguments with trading standards and customers. He helpfully also discussed what changes to bottling, labelling requirements and market tariffs could arise in the future as a result of Brexit.


To round off an excellent and informative day, a cocktail networking session allowed delegates to exchange business cards and pinpoint partners to help them outline how to strike that perfect balance between delivering commerce and an emotional connection on the bottle.

WSTA will be sure to be back at next year’s event. If you would like to be involved then please do not hesitate to get in touch with David.


The video from the day can be viewed here

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Creating safer communities – CAPs

Creating safer communities – CAPs

Creating safer communities – CAPs help bring about real progress through partnership

Director Kate Winstanley talks about the success of CAPs in tackling underage drinking and the associated harms to communities following the publication of the Community Alcohol Partnerships (CAP) 2016 Impact Report.

On Monday 14th November Community Alcohol Partnerships (CAP) hosted an awards ceremony to honour the efforts of a number of exceptional individuals whose contributions to their individual CAPs have made a real difference to reducing underage drinking and building safer, more cohesive communities.

 It was an incredibly uplifting evening which shone a light on how working together can make a real difference to people’s lives.



One of the most moving parts of the evening was when Caroline Flint MP presented an award to Henry Maybury for his outstanding contribution to CAPs across the UK. Henry lost his brother to an alcohol-related illness when he was just 29 years old. Caroline spoke from the heart when she handed over his CAP award and said she shared his pain as she told him she lost her 45 year-old mother as a result of alcohol dependence at the age of 28.  Henry now tours schools and prisons in CAP areas and helps to educate the next generation about the hazards of alcohol misuse.


Made up of partnerships between retailers, local authorities, police, schools, neighbourhood groups and health providers, CAPs have played a vital role in reducing alcohol harm across the UK. With the very first CAP scheme being set up in the small market town of St Neots, Cambridgeshire in 2007, more than a decade on the growth has been outstanding. By the end of the year a total of 124 CAPs will have launched UK-wide, with over 20 schemes set up  this year.


The 2016 Impact Report findings show that CAPs are successfully tackling underage drinking and associated anti-social behaviour. On average alcohol-related youth anti-social behaviour reduced by 40% in CAP partnership areas. Additionally, in those areas that have CAPs, there was an 85% reduction in seizures of alcohol from under 18s drinking in public, a 75% fall in attempted purchase by under 18s and significant reductions (41-65%) in attempted proxy purchase by adults on behalf of children.


Westminster played host to the report launch this week which drew MPs, CAP practitioners, funders  and alcohol awareness advocates together. With CAPs spanning Kent, Brecon, Edinburgh and Derry – their reach to all corners of the UK is unrivalled. The CAP model is unique in that it recognises that retailers and licensees can play an effective role in tackling underage and proxy sales rather than being blamed as the source of the problem. Each CAP relies on local partners to develop and implement de
livery at grassroots level. CAP’s success can be attributed to an action plan where every action has an owner, a robust evaluation framework that measures outcomes and impact and a joined up, inclusive partnership model that celebrates innovation and new ways of looking at entrenched and complex social issues.


We were incredibly encouraged by the support from the MP’s, Ministers, Police and Crime Commissioners, industry and Government officials who spoke came along to meet our CAP Community Champions and hear about their achievements, including Sarah Newton MP, Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird, Tommy Sheppard MP, Alistair Burt MP, Tom Pursglove MP and Caroline Flint MP . I am delighted to report that on the back of the event we have been asked to organise a number of CAP visits for MP’s and officials who want to learn more about the great work being done and are keen to promote the development of new CAPs in their constituencies.


CAP schemes represent a successful way of working collaboratively to tackle underage drinking and the resulting harm to local communities. CAP is proud to have the support of the WSTA and the wider industry without whose support we could not carry out our valuable work – their generous financial contributions are testament to being a socially responsible industry.



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Fine Wine Mine

Despite our Annual Conference delivering a great day and evening, some of the WSTA team hadn’t quite had enough excitement for one week and headed off in search of more. The next morning we hopped on a train from Paddington and embarked on a visit to WSTA member, Octavian, a fine wine cellar buried in  the heart of Wiltshire.


The word buried is fitting as the business’s Corsham Cellar is quite literally 30m underground: Situated amongst picturesque country lanes lies an old stone mine, previously used by the MoD for storing munitions and also played host to thousands of soldiers during the Second World War. The mine itself is vast – stretching 2/3s of a mile long and half a mile wide. It is entirely encased in solid Bath stone which helps keep the air naturally balanced and is key for preservation.

Once we descended the stone steps inside the mine (sorry, no lift!), rows and rows of perfectly conserved cases and bottles are  carefully stored; Octavian has over 10,000 private collectors, investors and wine merchants located in almost 40 countries. 


Being careful not to touch anything, we tiptoed along after MD, Vincent O’Brien, who gave us a fascinating insight into the operation. The staff - 115 in total – operate a tight ship when it comes to the labelling and numbering system; highly important for the ‘picking’ process of finding a wine for delivery to the owner.


Occasionally, clients may simply want a photo of their bottle/case for keepsake or to aid selling. In cases such as these (excuse the pun), capturing a single photograph could take up to a couple of hours. Slightly perplexed, Vincent soon enlightened us by explaining the important challenge of balancing value vs. time. If something has a high value to you (which fine wines have; both financially and emotionally) then surely preserving that value is critical. Especially when remembering that the mine is over 1m sq ft so with picking, opening cases and placing them carefully to be photographed can take up to over an hour. With a less than 0.0001% chance of breakage (that’s an impressive record!) and perfect repacking, permitting such should be a no-brainer.


Throw in high security, a passionate and dedicated team, expertise in storage and a second-to-none delivery service, and this makes Octavian a world class service. A client in Hong Kong can email requesting their case and in three days have it sitting in front of them in pristine condition.

Thoroughly impressed, we resurfaced into the world wiser and grateful for the more favourable temperatures – 13 degrees may be optimal wine preservation conditions, but our Indian summer this year has raised our standards to dizzying heights of at least 15 degrees.


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