Gin Spin – April
Another month, another wave of buy-outs and launches… As always with Gin Spin for the past few years, we’ve taken the slow journalism approach of not just reporting what happens as it happens, but of waiting until the month is out to share our insight into what it actually means (and why it matters…).
Continuing the stream of acquisitions currently underway in the gin industry, Malfy Gin surprised everyone when it was bought out by Pernod Ricard. While unexpected (there were no rumblings about this), it’s not entirely extraordinary news either – Malfy is a brand that’s been on a meteoric rise since its launch, reaching 100,000 9L cases in its third year. Those are huge numbers for any producer to reach in such a short timeframe.
This is only good news for the Italy-made gin, as Pernod have a massive network into which they can build Malfy further, continuing the trajectory the brand is heading on. It’s easy to see why anyone seeking to invest would take a chance on Malfy. It’s a premium gin range, with strong flavours, hugely marketable ideas and bottles so bright and beautiful they capture the eye. A huge part of its popularity is down to its price point too – at around £25 for a 70cl bottle, it’s amongst the cheaper Craft Gins out there, yet its a gift-worthy affair, so luxury is its look and feel.
No, the question isn’t why invest in Malfy, it’s why invest at all. We can think of a number of elements driving Pernod to do so…
Activist investor Elliot has been causing a huge amount of noise, much of which is uncomfortable for Pernod Ricard, given its continued calls for them to improve performance. If you haven’t come across the story yet, google away as it makes for some eyebrow-raising reading… Whether it factored or not (it makes sense to appease an aggressive investor with a punchy new acquisition of a high performing brand), with Toni Ingram, previously head of marketing for Pernod Ricard UK having been promoted to global brand director of The Gin Hub (the fourth person to hold that role in two years by our counting), there’s certainly a lot of change internally and shifting sands to navigate as they look to grow further.
Maybe it’s just the trauma it’s inflicted on us here that we now cite it as the cause of everything, but the buy-out could have been influenced by Brexit. It would certainly make sense to diversify a portfolio away from the UK in such uncertain times. More likely and the most logical reason however, is strong potential in the US markets and the brand’s appeal to a different demographic than the one their existing quartet of gins currently courts.
Looks like everyone’s tight lipped for the next few months as the deal goes through, but we advise getting the popcorn out as between Monkey 47, Beefeater, Malfy and Plymouth we’re certain there’s more to come in the months ahead. New gins ahead? You can almost count on it.
North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service have had a busy month (with incidents all over the bank holiday weekend) – but an especially busy day on the 2nd of April as Masons Distillery went up in flames.
According to sources at the distillery the cause of the accident is something we might never know for certain. It could well be just a pure accident and while forensic investigators have a couple of theories, that’s all they are at present, theories.
It’s delayed some upcoming limited editions for the team, but we were mightily proud to see the team back at work within a week. What a bunch of champions!
PORTMAN GROUP ISSUE A WRIST SLAPPING
This month we’ve learned that Unicorn Tears appeal to children, while pixie and flamingo tears don’t. (Why is everyone crying? Why don’t children care about flamingos?) Finally, authorities are debating on what to do with the strangely marketed, overly cutesy gin brands that have been causing complaints recently. Clarity and contradiction are scant and abundant, relatively speaking, but lack of sense aside, there’s cause for celebration here.
Finally the authorities are actually debating what to do about these offenders (if not of crime than of taste, at least) and beginning to make decisions about some of the more dodgy releases of the past few years. For those who haven’t seen all the headlines, following a complaint or two, the Portman Group were forced to judge whether or not several products contradicted their guidelines by appealing to children.
While it’s the producers Firebox that have caught all the headlines, Zymurgorium (the producers behind the Forced Darkside Rhubarb Gin Liqueur) have got away with it this time, both in terms of coverage and penalties. We think they should count themselves lucky, though, as it’s arguably the least questionable in their range when it comes to appealing to children. We really can’t see how they won’t be back in the docks soon…
It’s also amusing to think of a panel of actual grown human adults and lawyers debating the appeal of certain phrases, like “swirl to release their mischievous powers,” as denoted on the back label of Pixie tears. Funnier still to consider them wondering if this product does indeed have therapeutic qualities. The panel had to debate what young girls may or may not like, and the general prognosis was that liquid shimmer – Candurin – is something that will more than likely appeal to children. It’s something we’ve always wondered about here: why on earth would an adult want to drink that?
Fair play to the producers, Firebox, though. They fought it as you would expect any owner to, gave their defence, got a few products off the hook and took the recommendation to change without moaning and crying about how unfair it was for them to be singled out.
Fair play to us too, for saying a high profile Portman group take down would happen when we penned the Gin Annual predictions back in September. That’s 4 products that have been pulled up since the start of the year and all for the same reason. And before you ask, no, we were not the ones to lodge the complaint.
Not necessarily a new in April, but Chapel Down’s Pinot Noir hit critical mass this month. This gin was produced with distilled Pinot Noir grape skins from the Chapel Down harvest and blended with English wheat spirit. We have the same gripe here as we had with HYKE; while the producers are relatively clear (Chapel Down are a lot harder to get a straight answer out of though it must be said) – the journalism in the press and blogs around production is not.
Whether that’s because of a lack of understanding about how gin is made or because they are being misinformed, there’s a lot of untruths that have surrounded coverage in mainstream papers. For the record, it’s made using grape skins as a botanical. The vodka upon which the gin is based is made from wheat spirit, and the colour pink is added after distillation. How or with what no-one knows (although one would assume the grapes) as the entire company, their London bar and their sales team have refused to comment or answer multiple attempts at making simple enquiries.
The other big name product drop came from Scotland this month, with Caorunn getting in on the fruit trend with a raspberry addition. They’ve taken the bold choice of distilling the fruit, and while we’re loving the idea, we’re not sure how people will respond to a raspberry gin that’s, well, not raspberry coloured. It was a tough ask for both Blackwater and Bullard’s when they first created their clear strawberry editions, soon leading them to post infuse for a bright pink hue.
We love the fact that the fruit is distilled into it – not just infused after and the team’s deliberate #NotPink campaign as we think it taps into the bi-polar nature of the conversation around gin right now (dry vs fruit infused) and could well bridge the gap between two increasingly opposing sets of fans. Our fear is that it is perceived as siting on the fence, however, so their journey will be interesting to watch.
Meanwhile, Highland Liquor Company’s Seven Crofts Gin is starting to become more visible (we’re hearing great things), while Eden Mill has gone down a… well, we won’t judge it until we taste it, but lets just say they’ve gone down a curious path with the release of a Passionfruit & Coconut Gin. We’re not certain the latter has any place mixing with juniper, but…
Other gins to have emerged from existing producers in the UK including Sipsmith Orange and Cacao, Salcombe voyagers series, Daffy’s Mulbery, Hepple Sloe, Old Curiosity Lemon Verbena, Hayman’s Bartender edition, Campfire Gin’s adding another to their range with an Old Tom and last but certainly not least – Warner’s Raspberry edition, retailing in Duty Free. Made with fresh fruit and elderflower hand-picked from hedgerows in Northamptonshire, a third of each bottle includes natural juice made from a mix of fresh raspberries and blackberries. Continuing on from their other editions and partnerships centred around sustainability, this time the distillery is working with the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES). Warner’s Raspberry Gin aims to support the hedgerow landscape, an essential habitat for some of Britain’s most loved wildlife. For over 40 years, PTES has improved the outlook of endangered species in Britain and throughout the world. Cheers to that!
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