Skip to content
Eastern Kille Distillery - From the banks of the Grand River | A spirit for all of Michigan

Client: Eastern Kille Distillery (Gray Skies Distillery)

A New Name and Brand Identity Marks the Release of Distillery’s Flagship Bourbon

In 2014, Highland Group helped Gray Skies launch their premier spirits distillery. Five years into the working relationship, they asked us to help them rebrand under a new name.

What We Did
Highland Group turned a potential PR crisis into an opportunity to introduce a new name and extend promotion state-wide. A new identity and updated tasting room experience preserved the essence of the original brand while a VIP event garnered positive media attention and unveiled their flagship product. Advertising continues to promote the distillery and entice new customers.


1. Brief

Highland Group had designed a modern, utilitarian identity to support the Gray Skies brand. To resolve a trademark challenge, the company needed to change names. How could they maintain brand equity while rebranding in time for the statewide introduction of their Michigan Straight Bourbon Whiskey?

3. Execution

A VIP event introduced the new name and bourbon release, with overcapacity attendance including media, influencers and key customers. Print and digital advertising celebrated ingredient quality and Michigan roots. Updated bottle designs, shelf talkers and shipping boxes promote Eastern Kille at retail while a video, menus, coasters and branded merchandise updated the tasting room experience.

2. Strategy

Our approach would preserve the visual language of the original identity while anchoring the new name to the distillery’s location near the eastern banks of the Grand River (Kille is an old Dutch word for riverbank). New communications would reflect the company’s commitment to distill and bottle in the heart of Michigan’s second-largest city.

4. Results

An over-capacity event and positive media coverage drove tasting room visits and the highest sales weekend since opening, while ongoing advertising for Michigan Straight Bourbon Whiskey is driving in-store and merchandise purchases with further reinforcement of the new name.

Eastern Kille Bottle
Eastern Kille Box
Eastern Kille Shelf Labels
Eastern Kille Distillery 2

Launching a New Flagship Product

Introduced Michigan to the Eastern Kille brand through their flagship product: Michigan Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Eastern Kille Online Social
Eastern Kille Distillery Warehouse

Careful timing ensured the Eastern Kille launch was seamless and consistent across retail and distribution channels.

Highland Group helped Eastern Kille turn a legal challenge into an opportunity to elevate the brand, expand their reach and reinforce their purpose.

  • Photo: Lance Nelson Photo