Can premium alcohol brands harness the power of the rabbit this Chinese New Year? 

Chinese New Year celebrations are in full flow with the Year of the Rabbit officially here.  

Now, if you’ve heard of the folk tale about the Jade Emperor’s “Great Race”, you’d know that the underestimated rabbit in the story experienced a stroke of good fortune. When desperately clinging to a log in a fast-flowing river, a powerful gust of wind pushed the rabbit over the finish line – earning its place as fourth in the order of Chinese Zodiac animals. 

It’s a time of celebration, gift-giving (and perhaps some of us consuming one-too-many buns). It’s also an ideal opportunity for the premium brands to harness the rabbit’s same ‘good fortune’, i.e. strengthening its brand visibility for better sales growth (particularly as China reopens post-COVID giving scope for more duty free footfall). 

For creatives like us, it is an opportunity to incorporate beautiful Chinese elements, auspicious symbols and decadent colours into our designs; creating strong brand aesthetics and virtual experiences that capture the attention of customers.  

It’s an occupational hazard, but we’ve been admiring some of the limited edition collections released for this year’s holiday (and thought we’d share). There were quite a few worthy contenders, but here are just a few that caught our eye…

Johnnie Walker 
Johnnie Walker has released its annual Lunar New Year collection, wrapped in bold new designs by Shanghai-based fashion designer Angel Chen. This includes a special edition of the Blue Label Scotch, that alongside the signature die-cast charm we created at Signet, features a modern interpretation of the rabbit that is screen printed onto the bottle (and we think is very reminiscent of Van Gogh’s ‘The Starry Night’) 

Chinese New Year 2023 Johnnie Walker Signet Branding

© Johnnie Walker

Rather aptly, Maison Cognac commissioned Yan Pei-Ming, a French-Chinese artist to paint the aforementioned Great Race to feature all 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac galloping to the finish line showcased on both the VSOP and XO editions. Embodying a traditional colour palette of golds, reds and dark burgundies, there are three bottles that form part of this collection – the third being the Paradis bottle. With only 888 released worldwide, the collection offers the premium appeal of rarity. 

© Hennessy

The Macallan 
Sharing cross-cultural traditions, the Macallan draws on the custom of eating shortbread biscuits during the Scottish Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve festival) when creating the taste notes of its limited edition release – A Night on Earth. It promises rich, sweet buttery character. Of course, this is less about the packaging so far (but it was too tasty not to talk about). The ember-red bottle labelling features the work of acclaimed illustrator, Erica Dorn, inspired by the role of fire during New Year’s celebrations. 

© Macallan

Suntory Royal 2023 
The new Suntory Royal Limited Edition 2023 was created for the lunar new year. The porcelain decanter is modelled in the shape of a cute bunny, just like all the zodiac designs that came before it. Not only is the bottling that encases this grain whisky very different to the norm, it taps into an inner-delight of having a ‘collector’s item’ for many of its existing and new customers 

© Suntory Royal

Looking at the various new launches this last week, several brands have turned to exploring different interpretations of rabbits, while others have taken a less literal approach, looking to traditional crafts or collaborating with Chinese creatives (and some have done both!) 

Seeing brands embrace cultural values of their customers is fantastic to see. The above examples show how important it is for teams to take the time to do so authentically and understand the different interpretations and nuance of culture on both a traditional and contemporary level. 

Finally, for those of you celebrating this amazing holiday across our network and beyond, we wish you a very happy new year (新年快) and wish you happiness and prosperity (恭喜发财) during this year of the rabbit. 


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