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Today's Case

Liquor & Wine Bottles

Subject: liquor & wine bottle shapes
From: Ray
Date: 2/28/2022, 8:56 AM

On 2/27/2022 8:37 PM, Ray wrote:

Uncle Phaedrus--

On my way back from the liquor store that sells various things, mostly alcoholic, 
with a bottle of Australian shiraz, the thought/question came to me that:

"Why is wine always in round bottles, but the bottle shape for spirits has no fixed one?"  
For example, bourbon comes in round bottles, square bottles, squat bottles, flagon-like 
bottles, fantasy-shaped bottles, etc.  Although "round" and "square" seem the usual at 
moderate price points.  

While the priciest wines present like plonk, the stratospheric spirits come in crystal 
decanters in wood caskets. I suppose a lot of that last is pretension. But why not wines?  
Maybe because the quality of a wine is not apparent at its bottling, but expensive spirits 
have spent years waiting for their time on stage, and now they will never improve, since 
spirits, once bottled from the barrels, don't really age anymore; from the vats, promptly 
bottled, wine does and can get better (or not).

Square bottles, of course, pack with about no wasted space; round ones have over about 
a quarter of empty space in a case.  The economics of shipping are probably trivial, one 
over the other, however.

So, is there a required/legal round shape for wine bottles, or is it just traditional 
and, say, a square bottle of shiraz would be passed by with a frown by any respectable 
oenophile, while spirits--well, "What the hell, why not?  If a square bottle is good 
enough for Jack Daniel's, it's good enough for me."  Although I see the up-scale JD 
pulls the fancy decanter move...


Hello Ray,

Well, it's not exactly true that all wine comes in round bottles and all distilled beverages come in decorative or square bottles. Most wine comes in round bottles, surely. That's because in times past, wine bottles were made by glass-blowers and round bottles were easier to make. Different varieties of wine can usually be identified by differences in their bottle shape even though they are mostly all round because wine is a regional product and the bottles took the shape that the local glassblowers preferred. After a while, particular bottle shapes became identified with particular varieties of wine, and that became the norm. Specific bottle shapes for specific wines has persisted and is even part of the legal description of some wines.

As for distilled liquors, there are many that come in round bottles. When they come in other shapes, it's based on utility in some cases. Jack Daniels chose a square bottle because, unlike round bottles, square bottles can be stored in less space, and square bottles don't roll around like round ones do. Other than that, all the weird bottle shapes for liquor are due to a desire for distinctiveness. It's advertising, after a fashion. Since bottles can now be manufactured rather than made individually by local glassblowers, then a wide variety of shapes can be made.

There is a ton of material about this issue on the sites below. I have an unopened bottle of vodka in the shape of a skull. I don't drink vodka, but I  bought it just for the bottle. Liquor bottles are a favorite item for collectors, partly because of the distinctive bottle shapes.

Liquor Bottle Shape

Jack Daniels Square Bottles

"Why are wine bottles round not square?

Bottle Typing

The definitive guide to wine bottle shapes and sizes.

Types of Wine Bottles

Spirit Bottle Labels

How a spirits-liquor bottle design becomes iconic.


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