A Gin Forecast? Now that’s the kind of weather news we’d tune into! We’ve been seeing a lot of predictions and recommendations as to what could happen and what we should all be drinking in 2016 so we thought we’d throw in our two pence worth. Time to place our finger in the air and make some predictions…
The distillery exclusive becomes the norm…
Go to most distillery shops and you’ll already see a ‘limited trial’ offering. Some are truly experimental crazy trial runs while others, like Bombay Sapphire are the same liquid at a higher ABV (tasty but the same if you live outside the UK). With limited edition batches already common occurrence outside of the context of the distillery shop, there is already an acceptance for short lived, yet glorious runs in the Gin world.
In this light, as far as a “2016 trend to predict”, it’s not really much of an adventurous insight as more of a fact. It’s worth bring to a wider attention however, as if you were ever in two minds about visiting somewhere – the added incentive of being able to get hold of and taste distillery-only Gin may just seal the deal. Beefeater’s London Market Edition Gin and their resurrected Crown Jewel releases for example are worth the visit alone, let alone the tour.
The rise of the Gypsy batch…
There has been a steady rise in cross collaborations, with guest distillers such as Tom Nichol taking over the City of London Distillery stills for their Christopher Wren Gin in 2015, while Death’s Door Gin‘s collaboration with East London Liquor Company was a milestone in cross-Atlantic ginsmithery. The single premise only gins have also been enjoying steady rise too with custom gins for bars, shop and hotels starting to make more frequent appearances. Combine all the existing factors aforementioned, alongside a continued borrowing from the Craft Brewing playbook, we think inter-distiller collaborative “Gypsy” batches will set 2016 alight.
The exciting part will be seeing how they navigate their route to market. Specific bar groups, high end retailers and even entire countries foreign to the participants (who pool their resources and band together in a unilateral front) are all partnerships that we have heard being mooted around for the year ahead.
The portfolio cull…
It might seem a contradiction in terms to state the arrival of more limited editions, and more interdistillery collaborations and now, predict the reduction in the overall amount of gins in a distillery’s offering.
However, the reality of a large portfolio of “core” products, in some cases up to 5 different gins, is that some expressions will be hyper niche and not sell much, if any, in volume. One has to question if there really a market for a barrel-aged, cask strength fruit gin as a core part of a gin range? Does it justify the marketing spend it takes to actively promote it? Probably not.
Expect a tightening of “core gin” ranges as some are quietly retired in favour of smaller seasonal, limited edition batches that are in hot demand until they are all sold and replaced by another new and exciting release that’s completely different. In essence, less staples, more odd balls.
The market for Yellow Gin matures…
With so many distilleries working hard to produce whisk(e)y and waiting for their stock to mature, the natural cross proliferation between the two spirits has already seen numerous barrel-aged gins flourish on the market in 2015. 2016 is set to be no different and if anything, expect to see “yellow” gin pop-up more frequently.
There is more of an acceptance of the peculiarities of aged gin and this is slowly cultivating a growing understanding that there could be such a thing as “sipping” gin, served neat. In 2016, Barrel-Aged Gins are primed to benefit from the trend of drinking neat spirits, as the thirst for craft whisk(e)y grows further.
It also benefits from the continued popularity of the Negroni, which is fast overtaking the Martini as the second most common Gin cocktail and in which the whisky/gin hybrid shines particularly well. To date, Burrough’s Reserve is the only aged gin to have managed to gain global acceptance and be presented to a more “mass” audience so there is a lot of work to be done before it’s a widely recognised subcategory.
The key factor for 2016 will be if any of the major liquor stores (be it in the US or in the UK) will add an aged gin to shelves, as currently there has been very little adoption from the bigger retailers. We think 2016 will be the year this changes.
Fewer truly global gins, but many more local ones…
Numerically speaking, there has been a ten-fold increase in the amount of gins on the market since 2008 and similarly, an exponential increase in the amount of distilleries. So what are the estimates for next year then?
It is likely that the U.K. continues its rapacious desire to export Gin with the added help of government bodies lining up to lend a helping hand (and benefit from some of the category’s “cool” rubbing off onto them too). With over 120 Ginsmiths at the time of writing, forecasts estimate the number of British Gin makers to reach 150 within the next 12 months.
Globally, we predict that by December 2016, Ireland will also boast over a dozen gin makers, Australia will add at least another twenty to their ever growing crop, while Spain will finally catch up with their own demand and for micro-distilling to become ingrained into the Iberian culture. All the metrics point towards there being more local Gins, fewer genuinely ubiquitous brands and as a result, a more exciting and diverse category.
The maths do actually add up…
The economic reality has finally been accepted; Gin is now too important to many craft distilling ventures to merely be shunted to the side once whisk(e)y stocks mature and consumer trends shift into other areas.
It will take years for many smaller distilleries to cultivate other spirits in order to replace the reliance on their juniper based cash cow offerings, which were lavished with so much effort and attention to get to where they are today.
For many of the successful craft brands, Gin has shifted from a short-term cash flow problem solver to an essential economic pillar in a distillery’s portfolio. This bodes well for the category and gin fans alike, as while this may seem an obvious fact today, many did not believe their gins would be as successful as they have been.
With many distilleries starting to add whisky, rum, brandy or other aged spirits into their portfolio – keep an eye out for how they position their gins and the continued lengths they will go to in order to maintain that hard fought market share and the income it has generated. Expect there to also be a recalibration of how the wider industry talks about the long term standing of Gin, when they discuss the category’s future over next 5 years.
Something a little more whimsical perhaps…
Is it time for there to be a Gin version of MasterChef? A gin-fueled adaptation of Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters? Maybe even a Hotel Nightmares version catering especially for distilleries? If running trucks over ice, hovering gold from the bottom of the sea, watching someone run across a country with a GoPro, or watching someone bake a cake is what’s currently on TV – is it the year where Gin is picked up on Primetime?
We hope so. All joking aside, with Gin and a global thirst for spirits now reaching its highest point in over a decade – we hope that even more of it will spill over into mainstream media. Currently, there are countless wine and beer experts with regular newspaper columns from Los Angeles to Adelaide. There are seemingly limitless food-only channels with a ravenous desire to cover absolutely all aspects and styles within the industry. There is also food driven sections in all major publishing houses too. This is fantastic to see and we love indulging in reading and watching them.
Yet, the same level of celebration isn’t true for any of the major spirits whom tend to be relegated to contending for space amidst the wider umbrella of a “cocktails” section. Too few have dedicated spirits columnists and too few channels take their cameras behind the scenes of the major spirits producers.
Hopefully, 2016 will be a year of change in this regard. We for one will be waving the juniper flag high and proud, with the continued aim to celebrate what we believe to be the most exciting and truly delicious spirit on earth, Gin.
Whatever the Gin category has in store and whatever your own personal Gin Forecast might look like – we hope you keep enjoying your favourite spirit and raising a toast to all who make it such an exciting category to be a part of!
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