Gin…tastic

Tobermory-Gin

This month the world celebrates World Gin Day. Susan Young gives us an insight into what is happening in the category and what you should be considering when stocking up.

Gin has very much been one of the most fashionable spirits over the last few years – as you all know. But the issue for the hospitality industry now is what gins should you stock, when right now, every penny on the back bar counts. You want gins that are going to fly off the shelves without staff having to take time to explain who and what it is.

I can hardly believe I am writing that because I have long been an advocate of persuading bar staff to learn all they can to get customers to trade up or to experience new flavours. However, these are not normal days, and with the situation regarding recruitment, staff simply do not have the time right now to spend valuable serving time talking and not serving. Of course, if they do have time, revert to normal practices.

So how do you choose what to stock when there are so many on the market – and certainly the number is evidenced by the fact that the most recent HMRC figures show that a record number of distilleries were registered in 2020 despite the pandemic in fact over the last four years the number of distilleries has doubled and in England, they have tripled – with the gin boom making all the difference – and now there are more distilleries in England than in Scotland for the first time! In the UK there are now more than 560 with 214 being in Scotland.

But with hospitality having taken the brunt of the restrictions spending on gin has dropped from £2.6bn to £2.2bn, for the twelve months to October 2020, according to the Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA).

As I am more of a writer than an accountant the following figures are approximate but this would suggest that the value of gin sales in Scotland in hospitality is in the region of £40m. (£400m divided by 10%).

The interest in gin however has not dropped with supermarkets and online sales growing 22% over lockdown. The value of sales broke the billion-pound mark for the first time, with 75 million bottles sold, ten million more than last year.

So what were they buying? Flavoured gin grew 31% – 27 million bottles were sold while traditional, juniper-tasting gins, saw a 10% increase to 48 million bottles. And a recent CGA survey revealed that gin was the most popular spirit being bought online, just behind wine and beer.

So how do you maximise your gin sales and make sure that you don’t have brands that are languishing on the back bar?

This might seem obvious but consumers need to be aware of the brands. Therefore it is important to have a look at how brands are marketing themselves and whether this fits with your own customer profile.

Premium and super-premium gins and ultra-premium have been very popular of late. Last year after lockdown many consumers traded up and this trend looks set to continue. Between now and 2023, premium, super-premium and ultra-premium gin sales are set to grow 10.4%, 13.9% and 17.6% respectively.

One of the reasons that consumers interest has been piqued, and continues to be, is the influence that small distillers have had on the market. Their importance cannot be underestimated – the craft gin movement has embraced the consumer move towards provenance and authenticity and has transformed the gin offering in this country. However, despite their popularity, craft is not likely to see the same volume of sales as mass-market gins. The IWSR says, “The idea that craft gin will ever dominate global market share is a complete fallacy.”

Another reason is that the gin market has put the vodka sector to shame – it took for granted its popularity as a mixing spirit whereas gin distillers have been more innovative. Whether it’s new liquids, new packaging or targetting new consumers – which brings us to your customer.

Research shows that twice as many women as men prefer gin. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that pink gin has done so well. (I’m not suggesting that we are stereotyping women here!) But while dismissed by gin connoisseurs, to begin with, pink’s success has been phenomenal. Within two years of its launch, Diageo’s Gordon’s Pink Gin broke a million cases and knocked its parent brand off top spot.

Since then many other companies including Edinburgh Gin, have produced their own pink gins and it is now a staple in most bars with Gin Spritz which sees pink gin topped up with Prosecco a familiar sight. The research from the University of Derby also showed that 47% of women said they would be more likely to try an unfamiliar brand of gin in a bar or restaurant.

Age also plays a role – 18-24-year-olds prefer flavoured gins, while over 40’s prefer traditional gin, and the 46-65 years olds are more inclined to drink it every day! Interestingly only 20% of those researched remained loyal which is why brands need to keep innovating. It is also why even if you do reduce the number of gins you hold it is best to expand your range of craft and lesser-known gins and keep the brands that are actively marketing to consumers. It is also worth keeping your mixers topical too – and there is certainly a much larger opportunity to sell up to your customer by offering a brand with a premium focus.

There are many gins available so for your information I have focussed on a few that are represented in this month’s DRAM.

Edinburgh Gin, Roku, Red Door, Tobermory and Wild Island Glaswegin and newcomer Stranger & Sons

Edinburgh Gin

Edinburgh Gin has certainly been one of the most prolific marketers over the last few years. It was also one of the first gin companies to make its mark with former owner Alex Nicol, creating the brand in 2010. He showed true vision and has been credited with the Scottish ‘gin renaissance’ and Ian Macleod, who distributed the brand, bought it in 2016 – great timing. They have been able to maximise the opportunities and continue the legacy of a distillery that is known for creating innovative, award-winning gins.

Their advertising looks good and importantly the liquid also tastes good. The company has also diversified into flavours and in fact, was one of the first to do so. From Raspberry to Rhubarb and Ginger, Lemon and Jasmine, Seaside… and one of the most recent Gooseberry and Elderflower. But it’s not only that they come up with effective and quirky marketing ideas too. During lockdown, as well as tastings, they did Digital Movie Nights and last year they linked up with Mimi’s bakery to do afternoon teas, and they have even invented a Fortune Telling gin ball. During the summer months, they not only have press and digital advertising but have also invested in a TV ad. Last year it’s Filled with Wonderful’ ad featured the feel-good sound of The Night by Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, and took viewers on an Edinburgh Gin journey through its home city and beyond.

This year it has launched, in collaboration with Edinburgh Castle a gin from the iconic landmark and its Edinburgh shop has also just opened.

Edinburgh Gin’s packaging is modern and fresh and the bottle is instantly recognisable – all very helpful when a customer is trying to buy, although at the moment they can’t stand at the bar, and peruse the bottles – they have to do this from afar which is another reason to have fewer bottles on the back bar so that customers can see what is on offer.

Red Door had a good start to the year when it won a prestigious Gold Medal in the London Dry Gin category at this year’s Gin Masters, but you wouldn’t expect anything less from owners Gordon & Macphail who have been long recognised as one of Scotland’s foremost whisky companies and distillers.

Red Door Gin is made at Benromach distillery and is a small-batch, handcrafted London Dry style gin. The botanical selection was inspired by Scotland’s mountains, forests and coastal fringes, featuring the likes of bitter orange, sea buckthorn, heather and rowanberries among juniper.

Lizzie Haw, Red Door Gin’s flavour expert, said, “We’re immensely proud of our handcrafted Highland gin and are thrilled that it’s been recognised in this prestigious competition. Every batch of Red Door Gin is handmade by our team in “Peggy” – our small copper pot still – and we believe that the care, expertise and dedication distilled in every drop makes our gin truly unique. Red Door Gin has truly earned its place as a favourite in drinks cabinets across the country, and a go-to ingredient in cocktails or a classic G&T.”

But not content with that, the distillers of Red Door Gin have come up with Limited-edition Seasonal Flavours and its seasonal summer edition, is out now. Bottled at 45%, Red Door Gin with Summer Botanicals is also perfect as the base for a refreshing gin spritz.

Tobermory Gin is one of the latest gins to enter the market from the lovely Island of Mull it too comes from a distinguished distiller – Distell who are also behind the likes of Bunnahabhain, Deanston and of course Tobermory Malt whisky. Tobermory Gin launched two years ago and within a year it won Best Scottish Classic Gin at the World Gin Awards.

Distilled on the island with a rich palate of hand-selected botanicals including juniper, tea, heather, elderflower, sweet orange peel.

The brand owners have followed the colourful tradition of Tobermory’s main street, which is famous throughout the world, and introduced the colourful palate to the packaging and also marketing materials. Tobermory Gin started life as a blank canvas with its base spirit distilled over and over until it was just that. Clean, fresh and ready to take on a colourful array of flavour and then its botanicals were added. The Tobermory Colour Gin booklet which launched at the same time contained 10 hand-drawn illustrations by artist Lydia Bourhill that were inspired by the distillery’s home, the Hebridean island of Mull – from its famous multicoloured harbour and the dramatic natural landscape to the history of the island’s 220-year-old distillery.

While the popularity of adult colouring books was already on the rise, the UK lockdown triggered by the coronavirus pandemic has caused a surge in people taking up arts and crafts hobbies to keep them occupied and entertained at home and the colouring book has been very popular.

Roku was created to bring together the legacy of both Beam and Suntory when the two companies came together in 2014.

Roku used six botanicals. Sakura flower and Sakura leaf, Sencha Tea, Gyokura Tea, Sansho Pepper, and Yuzu. Not only were they chosen to best represent Japan but they also represent each of the four seasons – spring, summer, autumn, and winter.

In Japan, the word Shun refers to peak seasonality and when ingredients are at their very best. Not only are each Roku’s botanicals a representation of each season but the Sakura flower is only at peak seasonality on 1 day and it is on this day that it is harvested. A real harmonisation of the essence of time and flavour.

The brand is enshrined in nature and would appeal to climate lovers too. Roku loves water and it cares about water. Imagine that – a gin where even the water carries all the essence of the brand. Roku has made the water a huge part of the brand story.

If you go to the Suntory Youtube channel you will see a video called “The Blessing of Water” and in the description, it says this, “Water is one of nature’s greatest blessings. Without it, our business would not be possible”

In it, it describes the climate challenges with forests and you meet the sustainability researchers and scientists within the company who are working to improve and understand what needs to be done – and then takes action.

Roku is all about nature and respect for nature. It cares about the future and consumers feel the same.

Wild Island Botanic Gin is a lovely premium craft gin that originated on the Isle of Colonsay. It was created out of a partnership between Colonsay Beverages and Langley Distillery, one of the UK’s oldest independent family distilleries.

Wild Island Botanic Gin is crafted around the native botanicals that grow on the crofts of Colonsay which are hand-gathered and include lemon balm, wild water mint, meadowsweet and sea buckthorn and then the gin is distilled in a century-old copper still at Langley Distillery, using 100% British Wheat before being bottled in Scotland at 43.7% ABV using pure Scottish water.

The distillery in Colonsay has a mini still and the distillers like to experiment with different botanicals. Since its inception in 2017, it has created “Distiller’s Cut’ which was the first gin ever to be produced on Colonsay and a honey gin, using local Colonsay honey and a cask-aged gin using old Islay whisky barrels. Its bottle too is evocative of the island – you can imagine a sunny day on the beach there… enjoying Wild Island Gin.

Glasgwegin is also a premium craft gin with a very stylish and innovative bottle – designed to reflect the no-nonsense style of Glasgow and its people. It definitely stands out. Distilled in an artisan still in the heart of Glasgow, its small-batch gin features a blend of eight gin botanicals. It too is award-winning taking on the crown of Scotland’s Best London Dry Gin at the World Gin Awards 2021.

Stranger & Sons is a new gin from Goa from the Third Eye Distillery. It has just signed a deal with Sip and Savour which will see the brand available to bars and pubs in the UK. It is worth looking out for having been declared one of the eight best gins in the world in 2020 by the International Wine & Spirit Competition. It was the only Indian brand to be recognised by the IWSC.

What’s next for the gin distillers? IWSR ( International Wine & Spirit Research) has a warning for distillers, and tells them “obscure and radical botanical tinctures are beginning to overcrowd the gin market, flavour fatigue and lack of equity may start to haunt the category, unless investors moderate and finetune their innovation.”

However licensees should look out for savoury gins as they being to move mainstream and I came across Moonshot gin in my research … it has gone a step further – not to the moon, but every gram of the botanicals used to make this gin was sent into near-space (over 24km) and exposed to an air pressure of less than 1/100th of that at sea level!

Sounds exciting!

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