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Gin book release!

21/09/2015
Written by Gin Foundry

To those of us who have been steeped in Gin for over a decade, Geraldine Coates’ words – be it on her website, gintime.com, in the numerous publications she has written for or in her books – have guided, enlightened and enthused us all. The level of esteem we place on her writing, her influence on the gin category and the importance of her work has been well documented. To understate it, she has been a cornerstone to any who have had an appreciation for the category over the years.

When Geraldine Coates’ book Classic Gin was first printed in 2000, it fast became the reference tome and has stood the test of time as the milestone book for the spirit. The category began its explosion in the era that followed and eight years later had expanded beyond the borders that had been so carefully detailed within her book. With gin making such a comeback on drinks menus around the world and dozens of brands making their appearance, her follow up book, The Mixellany Guide to Gin (released in 2009) was a fantastic refresher on the category at a time when there was still comparatively little written about the subject.

Geraldine Coates’ The Mixellany Guide to Gin was then updated in 2012 and reflected new brands that had emerged. The content it contained provided a definitive guide to the category and combined much of the contents of both books into a more complete article. Her latest book released in September 2015, Gin – A Toast To The Most Aromatic of Spirits is a reprint and revised version of Classic Gin.

Geraldine Coates’ book covers a history of Gin, the botanicals involved, the distilling terminology, a description of the available gins on the market and a brief cocktail section.

It is worth noting at this point in particular that the original Classic Gin was THE Gin Bible of that era. If the contents described in the paragraph above sound formulaic and similar to other gin books you have read, it’s because it is. Even in 2015, new books from authors Ian Buxton, Dave Broom and numerous others before them have literally replicated the template and format Coates established years earlier in Classic Gin.

Crucially for today’s reprint however, new voices such as Aaron Knoll and Matt Teacher alongside the likes of Buxton, Broom and co, have built upon those foundations. Their publishers have modernised the design, layout template and breadth of content required to give a snap shot of what is a much larger, more complex category today. Others like Olivia Williams and Richard Barnett have tackled solely the history of gin in huge detail, whilst the likes of Simon Difford has combined the two aspects of history and brand insight into a beautiful coffee table book.

While we’re glad that Geraldine Coates’ Gin – A Toast To The Most Aromatic of Spirits is a reprint of Classic Gin – as this now means a new generation will get the chance to read a milestone book for the category – it is also its biggest flaw. It is of an earlier era and betrays the fact that times have moved on and as a guide, it is no longer as important than it once was.

It has been slightly updated with a good couple of additions to the brand section and refreshed info about the gins themselves, but it feels a little tired from the start. Numerous images are completely pixelated and in low resolution while the formatting varies throughout. It’s almost as if updating the book didn’t quite translate into evolving it (graphically speaking here) into a better considered version of what the original was. The content is engaging, as it always has been, but there is no real new insight nor is there a wide ranging and informative section referencing what has happened in the 15 years that have passed. Gin as a category is a completely different beast to what it was, with amazing change and innovation occurring all around. New faces and new attitudes have permeated the spirit and it’s this element that is lacking in the book’s otherwise brilliant history.

It is a good book, but a huge missed opportunity and it is deflating to see that while there is a recently published book to her name, it is not the epic follow-up, new milestone moment fans like ourselves had hoped for, nor a book that will have anyway near the impact the original had. Think Matrix part 2, not The Godfather part 2.

We have long aspired to reach the heights of Coates’ writing ability and her level of understanding when it comes to Gin. While this critique may seem unduly harsh given Gin – A Toast To The Most Aromatic of Spirits is not bad at all, it is because of this respect that we are disappointed with a relatively generic update to an old classic, namely as it could have been so much more.

In many ways, given the competition and flurry of new Gin book releases in 2015, it needed to be better than it is, more relevant for today’s international and diverse gin scene just to compete, let alone stand out. Incidentally, there are few others out there who would have the understanding Geraldine Coates has to be able to deliver an “insider” guide. Why the publishers decided not to make use of her talent and simply opt for a rehash may prove to be the book’s demise, shifting this reprint of a landmark original publication into the realms of shelf filler for the curious or the collectors.

While it is fantastic that it’s possible to buy Classic Gin once more (even if not in the original format), if you do, purchase it in that frame of mind. As a new title, it is somewhat lackluster if intended for the more up-to-date and informed connoisseur, the more design conscious, or those curious to see the latest brands or the enormous breadth of today’s category.

It is however, like the original – well written, deeply engaging and a book that really helps if you are looking to have an original reference point you can return to, with the confidence that Geraldine Coates knows everything there is to know about the category. The history is solid and her points concise. Times may have changed and as a package, Gin – A Toast To The Most Aromatic of Spirits may not offer the glossy feel other books do – it’s a must visit for those seeking to read a revised version of one of the most influential books of that era.

As always, let us know your thoughts on it if you do read it, we’re always keen to hear what you gin fans think of the latest releases.

Gin: A Toast to the most Aromatic of Spirits by Geraldine Coates