GIN SPIN MAY 2019
As usual, we’re taking our slow news approach to the past month and only serving you up the best bits once we’ve had a chance to ponder about it all and provide some analysis on what it all means…
New Rules on the Block
OK not quite, but the rules around gin have changed and it’s taking some getting used to. Makers and aficionados alike have been pouring through the new regulations set out in EU law. Gone are a few terms and shifted are a few battle grounds, but – as if in a constant state of flux – as one loophole closes, the other side of the space time continuum reveals a new black hole of subjective despair. Is it better than before, sure. Is it clear? Not so much, but it never will and that’s as much a good thing (interpretation means opportunity to innovate) as it is bad (interpretation means a licence to abuse).
Minor changes are the loss of the word traditional (no-one ever really cared about it, but it was a bug bear for those using modern apparatus like rota-vaps and Co2 extraction) and the acceptance of Gin Liqueurs as a word (this was technically illegal before, yet Gin Liqueurs were plastered everywhere). London Dry, too, has had a rejig, and can now be made by blending distillates (as opposed to all ingredients cooked together at once), which seems like a bold move.
Obviously, this is all quite boring, and thanks for sticking with us. There are some nuggets within that soil, though. Firstly, terminology and definitions are shifting to adapt to the modern age of gin. Given that this is a spirit that was all but the same juice from about 1900 to 2009, it’s time. In the decade since the last set of rules were scribed, it has changed, consumers have changed, the ruled must change.
Secondly, this feels like a bit of a wusses approach. To change just a little here and there, but not much to actually rock the boat in our opinion solves little. If it was open for debate and changes were being made, why not go all in and make some real headway? Unfortunately, now not only is this new set of criteria not much better / different, the reality is there will be absolutely no thirst for a revisit anytime soon.
Fever-Tree’s Gin in a Tin
Gin in a tin is having a moment in the UK. Since appearing on popular series Fleabag, sales have gone through the roof and with a certain public figure getting cosy with a can of mojito on a train recently, the ready to drink market is set for a summer of sky rocketing. Fever-Tree has got in on this action, unveiling its own line of G&T cans set to make every journey that little bit sweeter.
Unlike many (or almost every) other gin in a tin offerings made by tonic producers, Fever-Tree has decided against partnering with a Gin maker to do this, instead opting to fly solo and make their own gin. There have been a few raised eyebrows about it (after all, craft tonic + craft gin = the dream), but few could ever hope to compete with the price per litre you get at Thames Distillers, so it makes sense that a massive brand like Fever-Tree, which is set to go through masses of the stuff over the summer starting with their very own tennis championship at Queens, is going to need some real volume.
The overwhelming use of the terms small batch and craft does seem a bit… ballsy, though. They’ll be using a contract gin, made in bulk. We’ve no doubt it tastes good precisely because of this, as having the control over all parts of the process will greatly help tailor the flavour to exactly what they wanted. That’s the really cool thing about it – this is the ultimate G&T as the team at Fever-Tree envisage it, so there’s doesn’t seem to be any need for the ‘artisan’ spin…
Two’s a Company
Sipsmith & Tanqueray also made their way into the RTD market this month, with gins of good-to-go G&T expected in a supermarket near you anytime soon. Each looks mind blowingly gorgeous. Allow us a moment though, would you, to be a little cautious about this. There was a time when vodka was all the rage. The name on everyone’s lips. Then it started making silly flavours. Then it started using synthetic flavours. Then it started putting the silly flavours into bottles. Then it died… We can’t help but see this as history repeating itself. Is saturation point here? Certainly. Are we at the point at which the gin boom might inadvertently, usher in a resurgence for flavoured vodka as well? Pink Gin as a craze has already bust open the floodgates for all sorts of interesting products that lie in the the cross over between botanicals and other categories. Either way, the race is on to be the next Bacardi Breezer or Smirnoff ice…
Grape News from Diageo.
We’ve been harping on about wine and it’s cross over with gin since the 2016 edition of the Gin Annual, where it seemed destined to eventually meet in the not so distant future. It’s one of our favourite collisions, and following a year where brands such as Foxhole and Chapel Down have had big success, a year where anything vaguely related to Shiraz Gin in Australia is booming, and grape bases are becoming more common in Europe – we were excited to see a release from industry giants Diageo.
Their latest project is a €420,000 Italian-based distillery in Santa Vittoria d’Alba. Master Distiller Lorenzo Rosso will work with local farmer to grow local botanicals for Villa Ascenti Gin, with Moscato grapes, thyme and mint all set to go into the still. Tuscan juniper berries will also make an appearance in this gin.
This is not only good news for those seeking a fruity, grape-y gin, but for those invested in the industry in any way. Diageo is a huge brand and with Distilled Ventures providing insight on the up-and-commers, its finger very much on the pulse. It forecasts growth, but it also leads it, with its budget big enough to define, at times, what is in and what is out. With Gin representing 4% of the drink producer’s sales, and with its babies, Gordon’s and Tanqueray seeing double digit growth this year, perhaps Gin isn’t quite as troubled as we think it is. Moreover, perhaps this investment in a slightly more considered, cerebral area of innovation proves that there’s still room for interesting concepts to keep emerging in the category. There’s no doubt that Pink and RTD’s are hot on everyone’s lips but this has given us a little something to cheer about for Diageo, rather than the fact that last month saw Gordon’s Pink becoming a million case brand…
Not quite a new release, but newly improved, That Boutique-y Gin Company has added 200ml onto its 10-strong core range. The gins were previously sold in 50cl bottles, but the favourites, including Strawberry Balsamico and Moonshot, have been bumped up to regular size, at no extra cost.
Atom Brand’s MD Ben Ellefson says that this act of generosity is merely the brand moving past its incubation stage: “We’re now at the stage where we’re able to pass these efficiencies on to our customers by moving to a larger pack size across our core range with no increase in price and no change in the award-winning liquid other than creating consistency across the range by standardising the abvs.”. Not content with one announcement, the team also unveiled a series of – you’ve guessed it – ready to drink cans! Spit-Roasted Pineapple Gin Mule, Cherry Gin and Craft Cola and Squeezed Yuzu Gin Collins are available at 5% abv, while its Strawberry & Balsamico Gin Fizz is at 7.2%.
William Grant has released its apostrophe fuelled ‘accessible’ gin, Verano. ‘Accessible’ is a strange way to sell something, we think. Either that or that it was an unfortunate way to have it syndicated in the trade press. What does it mean? Unchallenging? We’ll put our cynicism aside for a second to that the bottles are very, very beautiful. After that, though, we’re not too sure. The flavours – Sicillian Lemon and Spanish Watermelon (!)- suggest that there’s going to be little to tie these to Gin flavourwise, but at £23 a pop, this is good-gifting for the people in your life who like the taste of…access.
Fans of Edinburgh Gin’s liqueur range rejoice! This month they finally released their Rhubarb & Ginger Gin in a full strength, full sized bottle (are we seeing some sort of pattern emerge here?). This is great news for fans of a fruity gin who still want a bit of bite to their G&T… Those who prefer a more classic Gin Liqueur will also be happy, Hayman’s Gin have relaunched their version of a Gin Liqueur but before you smash through half the bottle – be warned it’s a wapping 40% ABV!
Pink Gin and other infusions continue to be a force to be reckoned with. On the probably plus side of the equation – Burleigh’s unveiled their collaboration with the Marilyn Monroe estate, Brewdog their citrus forward Cloudy Lemon, on the other our eyes did more than pop out on storks when we saw that cider brand Koppaberg had released its own take on the tipple, with a strawberry and lime gin inspired by its most enduringly popular drink.
Some good-looking gins have also caught our attention in the past few days. Teasmith is back with a brand new, beautiful bottle (and a new limited gin to boot, with the rarity of the team involved restricting it to 1,000 bottles). Porter’s, too, have splashed the cash on some design work, with Stranger & Stranger designing some beautiful, bespoke bottles for them. The classic is now joined by a Tropical Old Tom Gin, with the brand all set to launch in France. Clearly, they’re doing something right.
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