If there is such a thing as a galaxy of whisky brands, then the brightest shining star is Chivas Regal 12 year old. The first true luxury premium blended Scotch whisky in the world, and still the world’s most prestigious, it sells over 30 million bottles a year.

Although Chivas Brothers’ origins go back to 1801, the Chivas Regal 12YO premium blended Scotch whisky was launched in New York in 1909. Over the last century it has became a global icon and still remains so today.

The distinctive shape of the bottle, the label and the gift carton have always been vital elements of the brand portfolio. The packaging design is both bold and distinctive, with an air of nobility and heritage. As for the gift carton, the powerful design with its metallic feel and proud heraldry requires a material that is consistent with that solid, robust visual appearance.

A strong gift carton

Chivas Brothers previously packed the precious bottles in gift cartons produced on 425gsm Korsnäs Carry cartonboard. Early in 2008, however, Chivas Brothers were looking to further enhance their shelf presence and improve consumer ‘grip stiffness’. Gift cartons do get handled a great deal in retail stores. The strength of the cartonboard has to cope with the level of interest generated daily by the brand, the design, and the prospective and discerning consumers. This called for an even heavier, sturdier material.

“The cooperation between Chivas Brothers, the carton converter Chesapeake Branded Packaging, the foil laminator API Laminates, and Korsnäs goes back many years,” explains Devlin Osborn, sales manager at Korsnäs. “Chesapeake consider Korsnäs to be a reliable business partner, with a proven supply chain and a product they can trust, and so they asked if we could work together to develop a stronger, heavier version of Korsnäs Carry to offer to Chivas Brothers. The joint project resulted in 480gsm Korsnäs Carry. By the end of 2008, Chesapeake were running the first trials and concluded that the new weight of board compared favourably with other higher grammage boards that were considered, trialled and available at the time.”

“We use this board material only for our Chivas Regal 12 year old premium blended Scotch whisky,” says Graeme Bridgeford, package development manager of Chivas Brothers. “The whisky is sold worldwide and enjoys strong consumer and brand loyalty. We sell more than 30 million bottles per year and growth in recent years has come where there is a continued appreciation of quality and of premium brands.”

“We revisit our packaging designs every few years to ensure we keep consumers engaged with the brand and that the packaging is appropriate. A common trend in recent years is to increase premiumisation. Overall strengthening of the gift carton was deemed to play a key role in this strategy going forward. By moving to 480gsm Korsnäs Carry we achieved a more rigid feel, whilst still being able to maintain our production line efficiencies. We introduced the new board fully at the same time as the latest brand graphics restage during the summer of 2009.”

High performance and consistency

Besides the reliable availability and smooth production process, the gain for everyone involved lies in the light weight of the solution. The 480gsm Korsnäs Carry is stronger than the heavier grammage options, thanks mainly to its tough Nordic virgin fibre and four-layer board structure.

A closer look at the conversion and packaging process makes it clear why Chivas Brothers need a high-performance board material. The board is first foil laminated by foil lamination specialist API Laminates in a reel-to-reel process. Because foil can highlight any fault in the board, it is essential to use a board with consistent technical quality and excellent fibre formation.

At Chesapeake Branded Packaging the board then runs through a flexographic printing press, where it is printed on both sides, varnished, embossed, cut, and creased in a single in-line process and then glued at a high speed. At Chivas, the carton blanks then go into one of the most demanding bottle packing operations in the world. The material has to be up to the task: what’s ultimately at stake is not only the brand image but also protecting a very precious product that is far too good to be spilt.