Gin Spin: The Best Bits From March 2018
Gin Foundry takes a keen-eyed look at industry news to bring you a snapshot of the best bits the last month has had to offer.
Not so Convivial
We were saddened to read that Bargain Booze owner Conviviality has drafted in PWC as administrators. The distributor – amongst the biggest independent’s in the UK – sought assistance from the accountancy firm after failing to raise an emergency rights issue worth £125m. The firm issues a profit warning last month, which was swiftly followed by the announcement of a surprise £30m tax bill. Considering the fact that back in November the firm’s stock market value was riding high at £750m, this news has come as something of a surprise to all. There’s even a lawsuit from others feeling they have been mislead about the health of the company…
Hopefully, salvation looms. At the time of writing Molson Coors (owner of Carling and Cobra) and C&C Group (owner of Magners) are just two names in the hat to buy out the ailing firm. There are not only jobs to save within the company, there’s a huge supply chain that would get all out of sorts with Conviviality off the market; it would affect the high street, it would affect pubs and it would affect the suppliers – especially the smaller/craft brands to whom the brand will inevitably owe money. Nervy times lay ahead…
Waitrose Doubles its (local) Gin Collection
High-end supermarket chain Waitrose has added 13 local gins to its shelves since the start of this year. Teaming up with small gins in big towns has been key to this, with the likes of Liverpool Gin, Manchester Three Rivers, Conker, Fifth Spire and City of London set to join (or already part of) the ranks.
Waitrose’s Local and Regional Assistant Buyer David Goddard said: ‘The rise of craft gin certainly shows no signs of slowing – it’s the most popular spirit we sell. Over the past year we’ve been working closely with small, local distilleries across the country to bring more artisan gin to our shelves. It’s always great to work with smaller suppliers who might be just starting out or who have very local roots to some of our shops.”
Waitrose really is proving itself to be the first place to head to when looking to add to that gin shelf. It more than proved its fingers-on-the-pulse credentials in February when it became the first UK supermarket to stock Japanese gin Roku.
Having a Wild Thyme
Great news has emerged from Wild Thyme Spirits, which has put its money where its mouth is and moved production of Colonsay Gin up to the Inner Hebridean island of Colonsay. Until now, the tiny island’s namesake gin has been made elsewhere, so it’s great news to hear that founders Finlay and Elaine Geekie have built up enough reserves to be able to cease outsourcing production from Strathearn for their classically-styled gin. It is, arguably, more expensive and difficult to make their own gin in house, so we’re pleased the duo didn’t get suckered into the easy life. Moreover, we’ve got a feeling the duo will want to add new ideas to the mix as the years go by and having their own production frees up a lot of opportunities to be creative.
Free Gin & Tonic!
Here’s some really good news (for Londoner’s, anyway). Having announced growth of 281% last year, tonic brand Franklin & Sons is keeping the fizz alive in 2018 and is partnering with The Epicurean Club to offer a free Chase G&T across any of it’s venues, including The Punchbowl in Mayfair, The Admiral Codrington and The Cross Keys in Chelsea and The Brown Cow and Sands End in Fulham.
Sales! Sales! Sales!
Following on from the Year to September announcements, 3 months on, the full stats for 2017 are in! The WSTA’s Market Report was released in mid-March, and it showed a quite astonishing growth. We may sound like the kid that keeps sticking his finger in the fire here (why won’t we learn?), but every time these figures grow, we’re surprised. Surely, at some point, we’ll reach saturation? Over 51m bottles of gin were sold in 2017, representing a 27%(!) increase on 2016. Over 16m bottles were sold just in the three months to 31st December, with the Christmas gifting season key to helping the overall category growth eclipse all expectations.
The WSTA’s Chief Executive Miles Beale expressed a similar sentiment to us. “We were amazed by the growth of Gin in 2016, but 2017 sales of the quintessentially British spirit have surpassed all records again.”
A Glass Act
We’ve been banging on about custom glass for a wee while now, but news that Dutch brand Sloane’s has rejigged its bottle design has added fuel to the fire. Much like Isle of Harris and Le Tribute before it, Sloane’s now has a bottle that is worth coveting. It’s totally and utterly beautiful, and while we’re not going to spill the secrets of some of our favourite brands, we know a good handful that are getting in on the act too… Will this be the year of the custom bottle?
Shortcross, Long Plan
Shortcross Gin’s maker, the Rademon Estate Distillery in County Down, Ireland, is increasing its capacity to over 50,000 litres a year following installation of a 1,750-litre still. The still, along with new tour facilities, was funded by a £2.5m investment program.
Increasing capacity by 500% shows huge faith and long term ambition from the Shortcross team, but it’s the tourist part that’s really peaked our interest, along with that of the Irish Whisky Association’s Irish Whiskey Tourism Trail, which has added the distiller to its map.
Co-founder Fiona Boyd-Armstrong said: “We are proud to take the nest steps towards realising our vision for Rademon Estate Distillery. In addition to the increased production capacity, we are thrilled to be able to welcome people to the home of Shortcross, with the opening of our new visitor experience centre. We have taken great pride in developing a unique and welcoming space to meet growing consumer demand for the opportunity to learn and experience more about Shortcross Gin.”
Malfy has stayed true to form with its latest addition, Malfy Gin Con Arancia. Distilled with Sicilian blood oranges, the gin is a rich, bright, ludicrously citrusy expression using juniper, lemon peel, grapefruit peel, angelica root, orris root and coriander in the mix (and some more blood orange for good measure). And a little bit more orange, just to be safe… The gin was released, according to its creator, Elwyn Gladstone, as a response to the UK’s current penchant for Italian culture and produce.
Hoxton, too, has got in on the Millennial action with its Pink edition. Rosehip, rose, bergamot and gunpowder tea are some of the botanicals giving summer tipples a run for their money. Another bergamot-forward release was that of Partridge’s Royal Wedding Gin. Any excuse for a party, eh? Made by Rock Rose makers Dunnet Bay, this bergamot infused gin also happens to coincide with the Chelsea Flower Show. We’re sort of amazed this is the only Royal Wedding Gin we’ve spotted so far, to be honest.
Lastly, if you’re in the mood to splash the cash, Fifty Pounds Gin has released its take on aged gin. Cask at the Back, as it’s been named, has sat in an ex-sherry barrel for seven years (putting the brand right ahead of the curve when it came to actually getting their product in wood, if not a bit behind when it came to releasing it), and has been released in a very limited run of 500 bottles. Think about what you might pay for a gin, right at the max, then think again, as this bad boy is priced at a wallet cleansing £330. Ouch! It is rather tasty and the package it all gets delivered in is pretty cool though…
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