Just like with any product, there is more than one way to package distilled spirits. Bottles can take on many different shapes and sizes, though there are standards in the industry. The same is true for the methods to cap and seal distilled spirits. Below we take a look at some of the most popular ways to seal in the industry as well as the machines that achieve that seal.
Cork Type Closures
Corks, cork stoppers or T-corks are one of the popular closures found in the distilled spirits industry. These closures are simply pushed securely into the bottle opening. The ability of the cork products to expand after insertion and create a tight seal is one of the advantages of using such a closure. However, the corks can have a tendency to shift and rise after insertion and will normally be accompanied by capsules spun or shrunk onto the bottle neck, which are discussed in more detail below.
Bartop corking machines can be used to seal distilled spirit bottles on a packaging line. These machines generally use a bar or "stomper" to press the closures into the bottle. The machines can be manufactured with various levels of automation, making them ideal for almost any production demand.
Capsules - Spinners and Shrinkers
Capsules are usually tin or almost tin covers that will fit over the cork and neck of the bottle and be sealed in one of two ways. The first involves spinning or molding the capsule to the bottle neck while the second involves a heat shrinking the capsule snugly over the same part of the product. Capsule placers may be used on an automatic packaging line to first grab a single capsule and place it properly on the bottle. Once in place, the spinner will secure the capsule, helping to hold the cork type closure in place while also providing tamper evidence for the product. Heat shrink capsules simply travel through a heat shrink tunnel on a power conveyor once the capsule is in place, the heat allowing the capsule to tighten as it shrinks around the cork and bottle neck, providing the same reinforcement and tamper evident seal.
Not every distilled spirit will use a cork type seal, and many of those that do not opt for a simple screw-on type cap. These closures work just like they sound, by screwing on to pre-made threads on the bottle neck. Various types of screw-on caps may be used, including simple flat caps, tall caps, jar type lids and many others.
Screw-on type caps can be applied reliably and consistently with both spindle capping machines and chuck cappers. The cap itself, the packaging line and production demands will help point packagers to the best solution for any individual project. In general, the spindle capper uses multiple sets of rubber wheels to spin the cap into place. Alternatively, the chuck capper will use a capping head (sometimes with a rubber insert) to apply torque to the cap and complete the seal. Both types of cappers can be manufactured in semi-automatic and automatic manners to meet production demands.
ROPP cappers are very popular machines in the wine industry, but do have some crossover into distilled spirits. Roll On Pilfer Proof caps are long aluminum caps that will cover the opening and the neck of the bottle. These machines use a capping head made up of a set of stainless steel knives that create a thread as the cap is secured. Available in both semi-automatic models that require an operator to place the caps on the bottles and as automatic models that include cap placement, these machines offer an alternative to cork and screw-on type closures.
While there do exist other capping methods that may be seen on occasion, one of the systems described above will most likely be seen in the distilled spirits industry. On occasion, custom capping machinery may be manufactured to handle unique processes, for small caps, large caps or strangely shaped closures and bottles. To help identify the ideal solution for your own project, give NPACK a call and consult with one or our Packaging Specialists.