The Tround: William Grant & Sons’ iconic triangle bottle
Take a look at the whisky bottles ranged along the back bar of your favourite pub, or on the shelves in your local supermarket. They come in all shapes and sizes, but only a handful are instantly recognisable. Spot the triangle bottle? William Grant & Sons’ iconic triangular-shaped bottle, known as the ‘tround’ is used exclusively for their Grant’s blended Scotch range and its single malt stablemate, Glenfiddich.
The triangle bottle has its origins in the 1950s, when Scotch whisky packaging was generally quite dull and conventional. Grant’s, a family-owned company, had been very successful in marketing its blended Scotch brand in the teeth of fierce opposition at home and abroad. However, they were unable to match the advertising budgets of competitors like the mighty DCL, owners of brands such as Johnnie Walker and White Horse. In order to boost consumer recognition of Grant’s whiskies in a crowded market, therefore, they decided to invest in the creation of a unique and instantly recognisable triangle bottle which would stand out on the shelf, just like the famous Coca Cola contour shape, and Johnnie Walker’s square outline. To do this, they turned to London and to one of the greatest designers of his generation.
Hans Schleger (1898-1976), known professionally as Zero, was a Modernist graphic designer and advertising art director, who emigrated to England in the early 1930s to escape anti-Semitism in his native Germany. Schleger designed posters for clients such as Shell and Martini. He was responsible for updating London Transport’s famous roundel and the Underground map, and produced an acclaimed series of public information posters during the Second World War.
In 1953 he founded Hans Schleger & Associates and worked with clients such as John Lewis and MacFisheries to establish and refine their corporate identities. He began working with Grant’s in 1954.
Schleger’s triangular bottle is believed to have taken just under two years to evolve from initial design concept to manufactured product. It was greeted as an understated masterpiece of design – ‘unique, elegant, practical to manufacture and a pleasure to handle’, in the words of one critic. The bottle was taller than other whisky bottles, and its clean lines and bold profile added to its ‘stand out’ on the shelves. And while new machines had to be installed on the company’s bottling lines to cope with the new shape, the manufacturers were able to produce the new bottles for the same price as the old.
In advance of the bottle’s launch, public curiosity was teased with the appearance of a mysterious advertising poster in key locations. Designed by Schleger himself, it consisted of just three red and yellow dayglo brushstrokes forming an approximation of a triangle, and the words ‘Stand Fast by Grants.’
The bottle itself was finally revealed to the public at a party in the Savoy Hotel in November 1956. One magazine referred to it as ‘the easy grasp, easy store bottle’. And some compliments came from unexpected sources. “What a lovely bottle in which to put a ship”, wrote a happy model maker!
In 1959, the new bottle was the key feature in the ‘Scotch whisky in a tall triangular bottle’ advertising campaign for Grant’s standard blend, Stand Fast. It consisted of a number of cartoons depicting individuals from all walks of life who enjoyed the whisky. Subsequent adverts also played on the bottle shape, often in a humorous way. By placing the bottle front and centre of its advertising, directly associating the shape with the brand, Grant’s suggested that theirs was a stylish and elegant whisky, preferred by sophisticated whisky drinkers from all walks of life.
The tround was used for all of the blends in the Grant’s blended Scotch whisky range, and its success led to tits adoption for another of the company’s products – the single malt from its Glenfiddich Distillery in Dufftown.
Glenfiddich had been bottled as a single malt, in relatively small quantities, for many decades. In 1961, however, with the end of post-war shortages of mature spirit and a growing interest in single malts among a growing army of aficionados, Grant’s decided to relaunch it (initially) as Glenfiddich Straight Malt.
The company realised that many consumers were unfamiliar with single malts and with the distillery name, and that it would be helpful to associate it subliminally with Grant’s and their reputation for producing high quality whiskies. And so the relaunched Glenfiddich was presented in the triangular bottle, although using green glass in place of clear.
The continuing success of Grant’s and the rapid growth of Glenfiddich brought Schleger’s triangular bottle to an ever-wider audience across the globe. Over the years, the labelling and packaging of both the brands’ ranges have been refreshed and redefined periodically, to meet changing perceptions and expectations of each new generation of consumers. The bottle, however, remained little changed. Until…
In 2008 the classic shape was restyled, broadening the shoulders and the base of the bottle – the latter serving to create a ‘plinth’ – to make the bottle stand out even more boldly, while the height was maintained.
A new triangular carton was introduced to contain the bottle. At the same time, Glenfiddich’s Solera Reserve expression was switched from green to clear glass.
Ten years later, as part of a wider packaging refresh, the shape was refined again, this time by widening the shoulders further and slightly reducing its height, as well as ‘rounding’ the outline, to give it a more premium look and feel.
The Glenfiddich bottle was redesigned with a pronounced ‘V’ etched on the front.
The triangular bottle has certainly played a major role in the success story of both Grant’s, currently the world’s third-best selling brand of blended Scotch, and Glenfiddich, the top-selling single malt. It is a text-book example of the importance of great design in whisky marketing, to create a strong corporate and brand identity. In future years, it seems certain, the bottle design will continue to evolve, to meet the expectations of new generations of drinkers and appeal to new tastes in fashion and style. But it is a tribute to Hans Schleger’s original design that, today, it seems as fresh, relevant and distinctive as it did when it was first revealed in 1956.