GIN SPIN JULY 2019
July was a busy month with trade shows, summer releases and big category announcements taking place all over the world. As usual, for our news round up we’ve forgone the usual race to be the first and to report, instead opting to take a slower approach and attempt to clarify what all the announcements and releases actually mean…
Notable new releases:
We counted seven new releases (from new distillery’s / brands) in the UK that were so pedestrian in nature that this single sentence, where they shall all remain un-named, is already one too many. We’re not all claws, though – where there is absolute dross a-plenty, there is also a smattering of new stuff that got us truly excited…
At the top of the list: our heads were fully turned when we spotted that French distillery Audemus launched a Pink Pepper Dry Gin variant. Though similar in nature to its predecessor, a lack of post distillation infusions leads to a much crisper mouthfeel and a distinct angelica note that dries out the finish. Fans of the brand will find comfort in the similarities, while those who want less of the patisserie-like honey, vanilla and tonka madness to be able to use it in a Martini will now have the perfect tipple to try next. An impressive addition to their range.
Not quite fully new, but Berry Bros owned No3 Gin announced it’s getting a facelift. What’s interesting to us about this brand is just how uninteresting it is to the majority. It’s always looked great, yet it might well rank as one of the most overlooked gins of this modern era. It’s such a strange phenomenon – despite it’s good looks and terrific taste (it’s delicious!) you seldom see it on shelves or hear it being spoken about. Let’s hope that the spruce up brings with it a new lease of life. It’s so deserved.
Also in for some cosmetic changes last month was Sacred Pink Grapefruit, which has had both a livelier look and a little formula re-balancing, bringing with it a fresher flavour with a more pronounced grapefruit note. The deliberate dual change (flavour and packaging) is something you can except a lot more of across the industry as brands compete for position by pushing their point of difference to be a little bit bolder.
Late in the month, Raasay distillery unveiled their Hebridean Gin. In itself, it’s just another release, but look more broadly and it paints yet another reminder of just how much the craft distilling movement is taking hold, with the Hebrides and Scottish Isles as a region – so often overlooked from a Gin standpoint – now absolutely packed with small batch makers adding interest and diversity to the category.
Of course, it’d be weird if we didn’t mention our little collaboration with Hayman’s Distillery – The Hayman’s Garden Cup. Many words have already been written on this subject, but suffice to say we feel that it showcases the lack of need to be apologetically pink. There are entire sub-categories and genres where there is room to innovate and be true to the spirit’s heritage while also looking to remain relevant and forward thinking. The Garden Cup, we hope, shows that if distilleries are willing to take a risk it is possible to marry both authenticity with contemporary trends.
Big Business, big buyouts.
New releases aside, the multi-national trade wars continued with Pernod Ricard announcing their acquisition of South African brand Inverroche. The move follows last month’s buy-out of Malfi Gin and bolsters the company’s Gin interests to six brands. Far more tellingly, it shows just how important the South African market will be to the next three years of gin’s global growth.
Diageo unveiled its growth over the past year (raking in £4bn, an increase of 9.5%), with Tanqueray & Gordon’s leading their gin portfolio and growing overall by a whopping 22%. With a category used to huge growth percentages over the past few years, this might at first seem like a reasonable number to be reading. Consider the base number from which that percentage is built off for a second, though: They are the two biggest brands in the world selling millions of cases – this isn’t a small player whose base number is a paltry million bottles or so. A 22% growth on the biggest brands by volume is akin to a tsunami…
For a broader look at what the two brands have achieved, here’s a stat drop for you all; Tanqueray Dry Gin achieved 4m nine-litre cases in 2018 with volumes reportedly up up 16.1%, while Gordon’s sales jumped 26.7% in 2018 to reach 6.5m nine-litre cases. With both Flor de Savilla and Gordon’s Pink (which 1.21m 9L cases alone last year) in meteoric ascent, it looks like Diageo’s competitive advantage across the gin spectrum is set to continue as well.
DOWNWARDS FORECAST FOR GIN?
In what may well be a watershed moment for Gin, for the first time for 10 years those outside the trade magazines and industry commentators actively questioned if the spirit had reached its high-water moment. From Bloomberg all the way to the Financial Times and USA today, the all conquering narrative was not just being challenged but positively questioned following an aggressive price cut of Fever-Tree’s stock.
This was caused by Jefferies Financial Group cutting its price target of Fever-Tree shares to a new Street-low, saying that poor weather and “U.K. gin fatigue” may hurt first-half results.
That said, Fever-Tree’s interim results remain impressive, growing 13% by £117.3 Million, and while the company acknowledged that they had not been immune to the poor weather in the UK, they think that the year will end in-line with expectations, stating the growth potential of the USA and Asian markets. Given Diageo’s growth mentioned above and the larger brands still in rude economic growth, it’s hard to bet against them.
Perhaps what all of this shows is that the perception of Gin and the economic realities of it are now diverging, just as they did with Vodka a decade ago. Gin fatigue is clearly setting in, but the numbers are still on the up and look set to, at worst, plateau out. Just like Vodka became plainly unfashionable, Gin may well become uncool in the years ahead, but a quick look at that comparison and one will note that Vodka outsells Gin in most countries and that the stigma around it did not affect it’s ability to continue as top dog in the white spirits category.
Our bet – Gin’s still a category and an industry worth billions and it’s set to continue flying at that level for some time to come. Fever-Tree will not just be fine, they’ll be over indexing soon and like it or not – the G&T is here to stay for another decade.
For those looking for more on their numbers and first half performance, here’s Tim fighting back and ensuring that the word “strong” comes through over a dozen times in 5 minutes: Fever-Tree Interim Results.
Gold, Double Golds and some subcategories…
Any award programme is going to be controversial. Most of the chatter around them typically revolves around who was awarded and who missed out, or about just how many medals were dished out in the first place.
With the IWSC releasing their results last week, we’ve now received the best part of a hundred press releases from a hundred individuals sharing their good news. In the rush that brands have to get their medal (irrespective of colour), the story that is systematically under-told each years goes a little something like this…
There were 750 entries in total for the Gin category. Thirty-two won Gold, with only six Gold Outstanding. That’s less than 1% earning top honours, and only 4% getting something that could be misconstrued as top honours – a Gold (In this case just called Gold, not Double).
For all the moaning we’ve seen about who missed out, that number sounds about right to us – top honours should be the reserve of the one percentile, not something that’s dished out broadly, irrespective of the overall quality of all involved. Congratulations then, go to these six: Syndicate’s 58/6 Gin, York’s Old Tom, Mason’s Tea edition Gin, KIS O’Gin, Archie Rose Signature Gin and Hernö Juniper Cask Gin.
With all of that positive said, it’s also a moment to wonder about the bigger picture and we can’t help but feel that awards like IWSC, San Fransisco and the ADI would be better trusted if they openly showed how many entries didn’t medal at all.
Participation medals shouldn’t exist as it devalues those who get a silver or bronze medal for second and third place (or in this case 5th place), as so many are medalling full stop. The noise it might make by everyone talking about their medal might sound like cacophonous buzz, but the cut through it prevents is very real. If everyone is special, no-one is, and the story of who did well is drowned out by the clamouring.
As a drinker, it’s incredibly hard to care that a brand is 1 of 600, or to take their mid ranking medal seriously. As journalists, we all know the reality is that only about 60% of all entires are deserving of a ranking, while the others are token hand-outs for having participated. If there was a hard cut off though, one that’s quite public and that we were all being reminded of as part of the announcements, getting bronze would be considered a real achievement, not just a validation of having paid an entry fee.
Maybe some day that will be the case, until then, congrats to the big ticket winners, an out of office bounce back for those looking for us to write a story on it, and total respect and kudos to the judges for getting through that many samples!
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