Distilling Contractor

What is the process of bottling?

Glass Bottles

As consumers, we have all bought products in bottles – from drinks to medicines, cosmetics to everyday household products. You might have thought about the bottle itself in terms of its eco credentials, but until you enter an industry where bottling features, it’s likely you haven’t had reason to consider how the bottling side of things works! As your bottle not only houses your product, but also showcases it to buyers, it’s an important part of product development! Let’s dive into how it all works within the context of the spirits industry.

Capping Alcohol Bottles

Here at Kettlesing Distilling, we offer a bottling service covering the bottling of distilled alcoholic beverages such as whisky, vodka, rum, tequila and more. This involves cleaning and sterilising the bottles, filling them, sealing them, labelling, and then packing ready for distribution.

This all sounds very simple in principle, but there are crucial hygiene, efficiency and regulatory standards that must be met. Let’s delve a little more into the importance of the bottling process…

  1. Preservation: Bottling spirits helps to preserve the quality and integrity of the contents. Sealing the spirit into its bottle protects it from exposure to air, light – which can ‘bleach’ some spirits of their colour – and contaminants. A good bottling process avoids that dreaded oxidisation!
  2. Presentation: Thought needs to be given to the convenience of use for the bottle’s end-user. A vodka bottle that splashes out overly-large measures would make for a pretty clumsy cocktail! It’s also important to think about the setting in which the bottle will be used – from an optic in a bar, to supermarket shelves, where every inch of space must earn its keep. Does it need to look premium in an independent spirit merchant, or look inviting in the home drinks cabinet? The placement and styling of labels needs to be considered here too, for the same reasons.
  3. Compliance: There are, of course, regulatory requirements relating to packaging, labelling and product integrity. Bottles must meet specific size and volume specifications and labels must include essential information too – more on that here [link to labelling blog post]. A proper bottling practise must be used to ensure spirits meet legal and safety standards for sale and consumption.
  4. Distribution and marketing: Bottled spirits can be distributed via many channels, from wholesalers to retailers, via online shops to independent stores. Their reach can be widespread, whether they are made by a local estate to represent a location-based brand or sold across a country, or even worldwide. Distinctive bottles and labels form an extension of the brand, helping such products to stand out in a competitive marketplace.

Now we know the impact good bottling can have, what about the bottling stage itself? At the Kettlesing Distilling Company this is a 10 step process:

  1. Quality control and preparation: No bottling goes ahead until quality control measures are taken. This involves sampling and testing the spirit (no, that isn’t our way of saying we have a quick swig – we use sophisticated sampling equipment!) to ensure the spirit meets the desired standards for taste, aroma and appearance. When it comes to gin production, it’s at this stage that botanicals are carefully selected and tested for freshness and quality.
  2. The bottles: There’s more to selecting bottles than meets the eye! Appropriate bottles for the spirit are chosen, taking into account the bottle’s shape, size and closure type. We can work with most bottle types.
  3. Cleaning and sanitising: While dust may be desirable on that vintage bottle of wine in the wine cellar, we don’t want any dust, debris or other contaminants anywhere near our spirits, so bottles are thoroughly cleaned and sterilised. This will maintain the quality and safety of the final product.
  4. Filling: State-of-the-art filling equipment is used to transfer the spirit from storage tanks or barrels into the bottles. The automated filling machine can measure the perfect filling level, and minimise air exposure.
  5. Capping or corking: Next, the bottles are sealed with the chosen closure. This is done automatically to prevent leakage, evaporation and ensure it would be clear if the bottle had been tampered with at the point of sale.
  6. Labelling: Another essential stage – labels are applied and then we check each one ourselves to ensure it’s straight and crease-free.
  7. Packaging: Bottles are packed into cases or cartons ready for shipment, using appropriate inserts to keep the bottles secure and snug during transit.
  8. Quality assurance: Time for another check to ensure all bottles are properly filled, sealed and labelled, and properly packaged ready for the next stage of their journey.
  9. Shipping and distribution: The bottles are shipped to bonded warehouses, wholesalers, retailers or direct to consumer, depending on the distillery’s distribution arrangements.
  10. After care: Once they have reached their destination, the bottled spirits are stored in the right conditions to maintain their quality, so that when the seal is broken and the contents poured, they are as perfect as when they left us.
Rum Bottles

We mentioned the importance of cleaning and sanitising bottles, so here is a quick insight into how that process works:

Preparation: Before starting the cleaning process, all necessary equipment and rinsing solutions are readied. This includes liquid rinsing or compressed-air machines.

Visual Inspection: Bottles are visually inspected to identify any visible dirt, debris, or residues such as oil or grease from the bottle manufacturing process. Any labels or caps are removed from the bottles before cleaning.

Rinsing: Rinsing helps to loosen surface contaminants and prepare the bottles for filling. This can typically be done using alcohol or compressed air. When compressed-air is used to blow-out debris from bottles before filling – as the air will be in contact with the finished product – its purity and cleanliness is assessed, and all systems designed to supply the compressed-air are maintained according to a defined standard.

Final visual inspection: After rinsing, the bottles are inspected again to ensure that they are clean and free from any visible contaminants. Any bottles that appear damaged or unsuitable for use are safely discarded. Common damages in spirits bottles can be air bubbles in the glass, hairline cracks, and chips on the neck of the bottle.

A great deal of attention to detail and care goes into bottling spirits, and quality, hygiene and safety should be the uppermost concern of any bottling service. To chat about the benefits of working with a bottling service, you can get in touch here.