The Gin Crowd
The gin category is certainly alive and kicking. Jason Caddy reports.
Scotland continues to provide fertile ground for all kinds of new gin products, and in the last few years there has been an explosion in homegrown brands. Inver House Distillers launched its own Celtic Botanicals gin, the Bruichladdich Distillery on Islay launched the island’s first gin, The Botanist, while Stirling’s VC2 Brands introduced Boe Superior Gin. Spencerfield, based in Fife, set up by former Glenmorangie marketing director Alex Nicol, also introduced Edinburgh Gin to the market.
Valt Vodka, Scotland’s only single malt vodka company, now also has its sights set on launching a gin called Gilt which, according to sales director, Oliver Storrie, will launch in early June.
But innovative new brand launches aren’t confined to Scotland of course. No.3 London Dry Gin, launched by Berry Bros and distributed by Maxxium UK is a case in point. What marks this brand out for starters is standout on the back bar. The unusual green bottle, complete with metal key set into its glass, will undoubtedly be a talking point among customers. The inspiration for the key comes from that used to open the door of ‘The Parlour’ – one of the oldest rooms in the Berry Brothers’ shop, which has stood in St. James’ since 1698. Simon Berry, Chairman of Berry Bros. & Rudd is confident on where to take the brand. He said, “We are determined that No.3 will be the last word in gin for a Dry Martini. To achieve this we asked one of the world’s authorities in the art and science of gin distillation, Dr David Clutton, as well as a panel of gin specialists, writers and mixologists to help us.”
So why this flurry of activity on the gin front? Mal Spence is head bar tender at the Blythswood Hotel in Glasgow. He said, “Things are rapidly changing in customer’s perceptions of gin. It is no longer the juniper-heavy drink that it used to be, and it is a lot lighter and more varied in terms of flavour, and more people are recognising this. Plus, customers are realising that it’s the tonic that they don’t much like the taste of, not the gin, and newer products are generally moving more towards the tastes of the traditional vodka drinker.”
Gordon Purnell of the Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh thinks that customers are looking at gins differently because new gin brands are innovative – with provenance playing a part too. He says, “An unusual brand name will always get customers talking, as in the case of Death’s Door gin. Overall, though, I’d say that all the Scottish gins are going great guns in Edinburgh bars, following in the footsteps of Hendrick’s. The Botanist stands out as the one to watch, as a lot of peat malt whisky drinkers are tempted to try this because it originates from Islay. “
Scotland is of course one of the world’s largest producers of gin, and this is one in a long line of the reasons Jacob Ehrenkrona, CEO of Martin Miller gin thinks that Scotland should be marked out as hallowed ground. He said, “Ten years ago, Scotland was at the forefront of a global gin revolution, and in my opinion still remains an integral market place for marketing and innovation. Back then some forward-thinking individuals in Scotland recognised that the category hadn’t really changed a great deal in 200 years so they decided to do something about it. Scotland is hugely important for us and for gin, generally.”
He continues, “Scotland is key to our brand, and this year licensees can expect brand awareness initiatives and cocktail competitions.”
Judging by a lack of response from brand managers that we approached, other brands don’t seem so focused on Scotland, although Gordon’s remains the official gin of the Edinburgh Festival. Meanwhile, Bombay Sapphire has revealed as the world’s number one premium gin by value for a third consecutive year, according to IWSR (International Wine and Spirit Research).
And it would seem that even the notoriously frugal student market isn’t averse to shelling out that little bit extra on premium gin brands either. Said Carlo Citti, owner of Glasgow student emporium Campus, “Bombay Sapphire is now asked for by name, and my gin sales are on the increase. They will pay an extra 10/15 pence in a way that they wouldn’t have done a few years ago, and I think sites like Facebook have a lot to do with this as they promote customer loyalty.”
Scott Mackenzie of Marblehead brand development says they have been importing Seagrams gin for the last four years. He says, “It is the biggest selling gin in the USA, yet is still of course a niche brand over here, but a few bars in Scotland already list it as their house pour, including Blue Dog in Glasgow.“