Overview of Packaging Machinery for Distilled Spirits

Packaging machinery for the distilled spirits industry is somewhat more consistent than it may be for other industries. Though there is some variation and definitely exceptions, the bottles, closures and labels used from project to project will often be very similar. For instance, most distillers will fill product in to 50 ml, 375 ml and 750 ml bottles, along with 1 liter and 1.75 liter containers. Bottles may be glass or plastic, but the materials will usually not change the typical sizes. Many glass bottles will be sealed with a cork, or T-cork, while the plastic containers will normally use a screw-on type cap. Labels for most of the bottles, with the exception of the 50ml, tend to be applied on both the front and back of bottles. Using each of the typical components described above, we can take a look at the most common packaging machinery used by distillers.

FILLING MACHINES

Distilled spirits are often packaged in clear containers, whether glass or plastic. One of the best options for clear containers by far is the overflow filler. Unlike equipment that may fill by volume or net weight, the overflow filler ensures each bottle is filled to the same level even where the interior volume may differ slightly from bottle to bottle. This allows spirits to be placed on the shelf with a consistent fill level adding aesthetic value to the product and package. While some distillers may opt for a gravity filling machine to fill product by volume rather than level, the overflow filling machine is by far the most popular filler produced by LPS for spirits.

CAPPING AND CORKING MACHINES

Probably the most common machine for sealing bottles in the distilled spirits industry is the corking machine. Partly due to the rise in craft distilleries that most commonly use glass bottles with T-corks, these machines use a chute to deliver cork like closures to the bottle and typically tamp them down to create the seal. Distillers using plastic bottles for their spirits tend to lean more toward threaded, or screw-on type caps. For these closures, automatic lines will likely use a spindle capper, while smaller distillers may use handheld or semi-automatic chuck capping machinery. As in any industry, the closure will determine the type of capping machine, but the corker and spindle capper are probably the most common.

LABELING EQUIPMENT

Regulations for distilled spirits often require certain information to be located at a certain place on the bottle, such as alcohol content, health warnings and the name of the importer or bottler. Labels are used in most cases to present such information. For most of the typical bottle sizes listed at the beginning of this article, both front and back labels will be applied to present the required information, along with logos, brand names and more. The exception to the rule being the 50ml bottles, which will often use a wrap label applied around the entire bottle. The labeling machinery will be manufactured to place the labels according to the desired orientation of the distiller, and one is not necessarily required over the other.

All of the equipment mentioned above can be built for both automatic and semi-automatic production, to fit the specific needs of the individual distillery. Other equipment may also be found on distilled spirits packaging lines, such as rinsing machines for quality control, power conveyors for automated systems, bottle loading and accumulating equipment including turntables and packing equipment to prepare cases or other multi-bottle containers for shipment. Distilled spirits lines may even contain a combination of automatic and semi-automatic equipment, as each bottling project will differ from the next. An analysis of the goals and growth of the distillery can help determine the best solution for any given packager of distilled spirits.