WESTON, Mo. — Officials never considered the idea of discontinuing a popular commemorative bottle.
No, the Kansas City Royals didn’t make the World Series in 2016 or even qualify for the playoffs. However, McCormick Distilling Company in Weston kept up its tradition and designed special labeling for a 2017 360 Vodka Royals bottle, which went into production this week.
The new bottle stays consistent with the Royals’ official slogan for 2017 with a “Raised Royal” neck label, while the company recognized the team’s past with more special quirks in the collector’s item edition.
“This is the first year we didn’t have a championship or something to celebrate,” said Patrick Fee, director of marketing for 360 Vodka. That’s one thing that went into this is just knowing, ‘All right without a championship, what are we going to do?’ It’s actually a little bit of less is more: let’s go into who we are, what we have as partners and as a team.
“All those little things are what I think makes bottles like this special. Ten years down the line and you check your bottle on the shelf, it brings you back to the moment.”
Fee said about 5,000 cases would be produced total this week between 360 Vodkas 750 ml bottle and the larger 1.5 liter bottle. He expects the products to hit retail shelves by the start of April, although McCormick and Holladay Distillery will host a special baseball-themed launch part Saturday, March 18 at the distillery’s Welcome Center.
Regular tours of the distillery, which restarted last year after a hiatus of more than two decades, will be available from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and those who come for a tour earlier in the day can enter into raffles and enjoy lunch at the family friendly event. The limited edition Royals bottles will be on sale that day.
Those interested can RSVP for the event on 360 Vodka’s Facebook page.
Bottled at McCormick Distilling Company and billed as an eco-friendly vodka, 360 owns prominent signage spots at Kauffman Stadium and continues to carve out the same niche in the Kansas City market. Part of the success can be traced to the sponsorship with the Royals, which started prior to the 2015 season.
360 Vodka now serves as the official vodka of the Royals, and the product can be purchased at Kauffman Stadium in select bar locations on game days.
In correlation with a start to the sponsorship, 360 bottled 2014 commemorative Royals bottles, honoring their first run to the World Series in nearly three decades. Positive feedback on the promotion led to last year’s second run paying homage to the 2015 World Series title — first for the Royals since 1985.
“I’d like every year to be unique and different,” Fee said. “We want to tell the story of our partnership, tell the story of what the fans have been going through so a particular bottle will relate to a particular year.”
With its unique swing-top cap design, this year’s version features a bold, traditional Kansas City Royals logo on the front with a commemorative date below. The inside of the back label features a collage of 1985s and 2015s that reflect in the clear liquid — a nod to the two World Series years for Kansas City.
The subtle details remain important to creating a unique and desirable product.
“It’s all about the details,” Fee said. “To create a package like this, it almost looks easy, but something of this magnitude — the techniques that went into it — it completely maxed out the capabilities of an extremely high tech printing setup so it’s kind of fun to dive in, test the limits and make sure we’re putting out the coolest product possible.”
Now in Year 3 of a five-year agreement, McCormick officials want to maintain the partnership for as long as possible, although the title of official vodka of the Royals will be more desirable moving forward due to the team’s recent run of success.
“To us, it’s more about the partnership; it’s about being a part of Kansas City,” Fee said. “If it’s up to me, we keep this partnership forever. I’d like to keep it for as long as they’ll have us as partners. We benefit from each other, and we do some great things at the stadium because of it.
“More than anything, it’s just a great organization with really good people, and we’re about partnerships with good people.”
The eco-friendly nature of 360 vodka includes using recycled glass for all the bottles and recycled paper for the labels. The company uses special inks that help reduce the environmental impact of making the product.
Even the special swing tops can be mailed in to McCormick for reuse with a $1 donation made to the Royals Charities for each one that comes back from the commemorative bottles. The company plans to make a charitable donation check again this year, having raised $10,000 each of the past two years.