Look at Me: The Private Barrel Sticker Craze

As I said earlier, custom stickers are a great way to capture and remember a barrel pick for years to come. It’s also a fun to express you or your group’s personality and creativity. And just like the whiskey in the barrel, people’s like or dislike of your label will be subjective.

Look At Me: The Private Barrel Sticker Craze Header

What do the following all have in common?

  • The Kings Who Say Ni
  • The Real King of Kentucky
  • Hellbender
  • All Ryez On Me
  • The Constant Gardener

No, they’re not names of new podcasts or realty TV shows on the Spirits Network. They are in fact the private barrel pick names displayed proudly on custom stickers designed and affixed to each bottle by those responsible for the barrel pick.


By default, when a store or a group of whiskey lovers does a private pick from their favorite distillery, each bottle is labeled letting buyers know who picked the barrel that the bottled came from. Typically, this is done with a neck tag, small decal sticker or special private barrel pick label with space for group’s name to be written in. Regardless of the method of display, it’s small enough not to distract from the brand’s primary label.  If you take a closer look at the private picks available at your local liquor store, I’m sure you’ll find that 95% of them are labeled in this fashion.

But for the other 5%, which typically includes private barrel picking groups or diehard aficionados, the default distillery label isn’t enough. For these folks, nothing but a custom sticker will suffice. The bigger the better – sticker size and creative concept.

For many custom stickers, the design represents typically something memorable from the pick itself, the group of folks that were involved or in honor of someone special. This often means that it’s an inside joke which the random public won’t understand. But for most it doesn’t matter. Whether they understand the name or not, the visual design is what gets, and keeps, people interested. And for me, as a creative director for more than 20 years and bourbon lover, the sticker design is what stays with me.  It adds even more meaning to the bottle for me.


Good design is always subjective, but here are some guidelines on what to keep in mind when creating your own custom sticker.

  • A Memorable Name – It’s your barrel. A barrel pick is a unique experience and something that many people only get to do once in their life. Your sticker design should help you remember the pick experience and what’s special about the barrel you chose.
  • Personalization – Incorporating a group photo from the pick or using photos of group members incorporated in the design is a great way to make the sticker unique to your barrel.
  • Humor – A sticker that is designed to make the shopper laugh. Something catchy and memorable that grabs your attention at first glance.
  • Proper Sizing – There are many different sizes for custom stickers as you probably know. For some it is usually the bigger the better… but others are simply satisfied with small and subtle. What’s most important is to make sure the sticker fits the bottle and doesn’t cover up any critical label information. A poorly placed sticker, or sloppy sizing job will significantly lower the appeal of the bottle.
  • Colors – Many designers want to gravitate to bright and colorful so the shopper sees the sticker loud and clear. My preference is to design stickers that work with the “look and feel” of the distillery and radiate a classy vibe.
  • Printing – When it comes to printing you can print at home if you’re so inclined but I find that having an online printer – like Sticker Mule – do the work not only results in a better product, but also saves time and hassle since I don’t have to deal with label sheets, changing ink or fixing paper jam issues. Professionally printed vinyl stickers will usually adhere longer and the print will be more durable.

As example, let me walk you through the design of a label I was personally involved recently. It was for Bourbon & Banter’s recent Four Roses Private Selection  – “The Constant Gardner”. The name was chosen to honor our good friend, Dan Gardner, who in our opinion is the hardest working and most generous Four Roses brand ambassador in the market today. We played all off a movie poster design for the popular film, The Constant Gardener. We thought it was just a clever turn of phrase, but it turns out that by doing so, it created an unconscious recognition of our label design among those familiar with the film.

We further customized the design by Photoshopping in Dan’s image over that of Ralph Fiennes from the original movie poster. Not only did this allow us to pay tribute to Dan, by literally putting his face on bottles of Four Roses, but it boosted the allure of the bottle among those that knew Dan and appreciated our tribute.

The last two steps of our label was making sure that the printed label was sized perfectly to fit the Four Roses bottle. Special care was taken to measure the bottle and then transfer those dimensions into our design software. This was a key step as I find labels that don’t fit the bottle or that overlap other key bottle label info very annoying. After the design was fit to the proper size, we chose to have our labels professionally printed so they would have consistent color and last longer as opposed to labels printed at home. As I stated earlier, our printer of choice is Sticker Mule ( check out their deals page) but a simple Google search for “custom labels” or “custom stickers” will return a variety of vendors for you to choose from for your next label project.


As I said earlier, custom stickers are a great way to capture and remember a barrel pick for years to come. It’s also a fun to express you or your group’s personality and creativity. And just like the whiskey in the barrel, people’s like or dislike of your label will be subjective. So do what you want to do and if anyone takes issue with it they can choose not to buy one of your bottles.

However, if you’re only adding a custom sticker with the goal of boosting the value of your bottle for profit we've got one thing to say – don't be a dick.

As the sticker on the 21 Kings private barrel The Kings That Say Ni states:

"Supreme bourbon come from unanimous mandate, not some farcical sticker. "

Buying a bottle purely for the sticker is just as dumb as buying a bottle off the shelf because you like the brand label and bottle design. (I'm looking at you Lusty Claw.) It's what's inside that matters. The sticker is just a bonus. #DrinkCurious

If you have a favorite private pick label we’d love to see it. Post it on Twitter or Instagram and tag with @BourbonBanter and #picklabel.