Two Service Men Bond Over a Dream and a Spirits Brand

1775.  The year blood was first shed for America’s independence at Concord and Lexington.

It’s the year every Marine knows as the one in which the Marines were born from the sacrifice of the Minute Men.

Commemorating that event, Marine Jason Riley created a signature whiskey named after that distinctive year for his J. Riley Distillery in Redlands.  “We at J. Riley believe, if you’re spilling blood for your country, then your country was founded on that day,” said Jason’s friend and co-collaborator, Doug Kidd.

The 1775 brand deserved a label that reflected the pride of those who salute that year for patriotic and historical reasons, according to Riley and Kidd.

But locating an outstanding label provider was far more difficult than finding a loyal Marine, discovered Kidd, who met Riley—a Marine—in Florida while in-processing for work overseas as private contractors in Afghanistan, where they both relied on their military credentials to work together for the next 3 years. Kidd is an ex-Army man.

When they both wound up back in California, Riley and Kidd began working together in the spirits business. “This all came about in the past year and a half. I was never a distiller, and didn’t mean to be one—so I’m learning as I go along,” Kidd says.

“I was working with another label company, and really we weren’t getting any kind of response from them,” says Kidd. “We were pushing up against a deadline when we needed our labels done and were at a point where we said, ‘Forget those folks.’”

An Internet search for a company that specializes in labeling for spirits led to Labeltronix. J. Riley asked for a sample printing, and the partners were surprised at how much better it looked. “There was no comparison,” Kidd says. “Labeltronix did a much better job.”

The Difference Is Like Night and Day

before_after_jrHistoric. Nostalgic. Patriotic. The J. Riley partners wanted that Declaration of Independence look and feel for their 1775 labels. A designer came up with a Colonial-style label—edges that appear to have been burned by the fires of revolution, and embossed so you can trace the grooves with your finger.

The original label by another printer resembled a business card that you would print at home, vs. one you would have professionally done, Kidd says. The paper quality and the printing were lackluster.

Then Kidd found Labeltronix, and “the difference is like night and day,” he remarks. The colors, the shadows, the pop are all dramatically better. “If you saw bottles of 1775 before—and after—it would be appalling to see them next to each other.” 

A Different Brand Entirely: California Clear

Then the J. Riley partners wanted to commission a new label for their flagship whiskey, California Clear.

“We’re going through the process of rebranding that,” Kidd says. While they liked the first label a designer came up with, it had been done in haste—Jason was in Afghanistan at the time—and “we were just wanting to get a label on the bottle, and the bottles out the door,” Kidd says.

Kidd remembers taking that first label to a local printer. “On one side of the building, they cashed checks for you. On another side of the building, you could pay your electric bill and on the other side I could pick up my labels,” he explains with a laugh.

J. Riley needed a new label design, but that was proving difficult, too. “Another company failed us,” says Kidd. “After six weeks and 11 iterations, they were still sending me emails asking if I could send art.” On the recommendation of Labeltronix, Kidd found another designer. “Within three weeks and two tries, he nailed that label,” Kidd says.

What the new designer created, Labeltronix enhanced in its printing process.

“You have to go with quality from the beginning,” Kidd says.  “It does make a difference.  The pop of your label is really what’s going to catch the eye. As much as we’d like to think they’ll buy our whiskey because they know it’s good, people will buy whiskey based on their reaction to the label.”

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