Who knew tequila bottles had so much to say?
Mexico’s tequila producers take great pride in their bottle designs, which reflect the country’s vibrant, often strikingly visual, culture. It’s rare to find two bottles that look alike; they differ in shape, label design, and even bottle cap. Many bottles are the work of local glassblowers and other artisans, and designs run the gamut from rustic to downright sleek. Here are some of the stories behind the tequila bottles you might be pouring from.
For decades, tequila bottles were tall and thin, like elongated wine bottles. Tequila would be poured, and then the bottles would be tucked away beneath the table, out of sight. In the 1960s, Don Julio González—who had been making tequila since the ’40s—decided he wanted a bottle worthy of display.
González dispatched his daughter to Guadalajara to commission special bottles for a party: He wanted a squat, short bottle that wouldn’t obstruct the view of guests around the dinner table. That original bottle was hand-blown and capped with a wood stopper, according to Enrique de Colsa, the current master distiller at Don Julio. “Now, 80 percent of tequila brands use variations on the ‘Don’—a short, hand-rolled glass bottle with a wood cap, inspired by Don Julio,” says de Colsa.
Referencing Mexico’s high-energy Lucha Libre—wrestling matches complete with colorful masks, athletic stunts, and plenty of melodrama—the label depicts luchadores (wrestlers) in all their glory; even the carved wooden bottle cap resembles a luchador mask. Illustrator Gerardo Ibarra, who grew up near the Arena Coliseo in Guadalajara, designed the label.
“Since I was a child, I’ve been fascinated by the Lucha Libre,” Ibarra says. Now a professional illustrator based in New Zealand, he often depicts “Las Luchas,” as his family called the wrestlers, in his drawings and prints.
If this sleek bottle reminds you of a perfume flask, that’s because it was designed by Fabien Baron, a French designer and art director who has also worked with Armani and Givenchy. The bottle was inspired by modernist architect Luis Barragán, whose spare, angular structures can be seen all over Mexico City. The “waterfall” mouth of the bottle pays homage to the iconic Fuente De Los Amantes (Lovers’ Fountain) that Barragán built in 1968.
Volcan de mi Tierra, which translates as “volcano of my land,” is a new brand of tequila that’s made from a blend of highland and lowland tequilas. One of the bottle’s most remarkable features is the indentation at the bottom: It’s shaped like the “tequila volcano” that’s visible from Guadalajara’s agave fields. The volcano is now dormant, but the volcanic soil contributes to the earthy character of lowland tequilas.
Other special features include the bottle’s copper cap, which references the copper stills used to make the tequila, and the sunburst pattern on the label, which suggests the sun on the agave plants as they grow. “It’s about the spirit of optimism,” says president and CEO Trent Fraser. “Everything about the design is uplifting, from the bottle shoulders to the sunburst.”