Gin Spin – September 2019
September began with the most apt metaphor for the UK, after a ‘gincident’ in which 8 – 10,000 litres of gin flooded down the motorway following a collision. When we do catastrophes, we do them well!
Thankfully no-one was hurt although there may well be a few parched execs at Beefeater after doing the new stock check and taking into account what that much high-proof gin concentrate amounts to in lost bottles…
A bit of personal news, this, but Ginvent is officially on pre-sale and getting a lot of press because of how exceptionally good looking it is. Honestly, we know we’re tooting our own horn a bit here, but we’ve gone for a real Skandi feel, with a beautiful illustration depicting the flavour journey those lucky few in possession are about to embark upon.
We’re scaling back a bit this year, capping the calendar numbers to 2,500. By limiting the amount, we limit the requirements on them helping smaller distilleries join in the fun, as for many the usual yearly requirements puts enormous pressure on them at an already busy time of year. Keep your eyes peeled on the mail out with an interesting opening offer… For more on Ginvent – head to Gin Kiosk now.
ASA Strikes again.
McQueen Gin had their wrist slapped by the advertising watchdog, which banned their advert for linking hiking and drinking. The advert from 19 June depicted a group of friends drinking G&T’s after reaching the top of a rocky peak. It was a pretty tough ruling to deliver, as the advert didn’t depict reckless drinking, even though there are some slippery implications. Compared to Candy Cane gin, though, and the deliberately provocative click bait ads on social media by various groups, McQueen’s offence seems somewhat trivial. That said, at least the ASA is taking an interest in how Gin is being marketed. Trying to clean up what it perceives to be a breach can only be a good thing for a category that, at times, completely loses the plot.
Label your own spirit – VII Hills
At the end of May, VII Hills asked artists from around the world to design their own label, inspired by the ethos of the brand and the Centenary of the Negroni. The “Label Your Spirit” global competition resulted in over 30 amazing designs and the winner, Paula Ariza, was unveiled this month.
Explaining why Ariza’s design won, VII Hills founder Danilo Tersigni commented: “Paula integrated the elements of VII Hills and captured the core essence of the brand through her artwork. She highlighted the power of mixology by linking different art components that represent drinking culture. We’re excited to see her label on 3,000 limited edition bottles next year!”
This really marks a moment in which it’s clear to see that custom bottle design runs and limited editions are now becoming an increasingly frequent occurrence in the Gin industry. Expect more bespoke runs landing on shelf in 2020!
Miami brings the Heat on Bombay Sapphire.
In an extraordinary case that began in August and has continued through the month, Bacardi has been accused in the Miami-Dade Circuit Court of producing an “adulterated spirit”. The class action lawsuit centres around the use of grains of paradise in spirits, which is outlawed as an ingredient for liquor in Florida. The claim is, in our opinion, astonishing in that it hasn’t already been dismissed out of hand. The reasoning behind it is not just without any merit, but the way it is phrased suggests the ambition of the lawsuit is in fact a cash grab for an out of court settlement.
What’s at stake however, isn’t just Bombay’s budget being diverted. A loss would set a dangerous precedent that leaves all Gin makers open to malicious class action suits as there are many defunct laws, long assumed irrelevant in this day an age.
In this case, the law allegedly being breached is as follows: “Adulterating liquor; penalty—Whoever adulterates, for the purpose of sale, any liquor, used or intended for drink, with cocculus indicus, vitriol, grains of paradise, opium, alum, capsicum, copperas, laurel water, logwood, brazil wood, cochineal, sugar of lead, or any other substance which is poisonous or injurious to health, and whoever knowingly sells any liquor so adulterated, shall be guilty of a felony of the third degree.”
Clearly, this is antiquated law that refers back to times where distillers tried to falsify the potency or age of their products – not because of grains of paradise is a danger in and of itself. After all, who puts opium in gin?! Grains of paradise is a commonly used ingredient, with a botanical piquancy that provides heat on the finish and when infused after distillation can give a fiery edge (thus why they are named next to capsicum, vitriol etc. above). The law is obviously just a legacy of Prohibition era.
Interestingly this then also brings into question the term adulterated, as Bombay Sapphire is famously made using this botanical and done so in a very open way. It is distilled during production, not added afterwards too. As for Grains of Paradise being a danger due to their medicinal effect (if that is even possible to distill over) – well just look at juniper for far more medicinal properties. The plaintif writes about its reported use to trigger miscarriages based on historic texts, an extraordinary over-reach when seen in the context of a botanical that’s distilled to make GIN in 2019. More over, Samuel Adams’ Summer Ale uses grains of paradise, but because it’s a beer and not a liquor, it lands outside the parameters of this Florida law. The plaintif is is quoted in the Miami Herald saying it was about public health “If Bombay would remove the grains of paradise from the gin right now, I would drop the lawsuit”. Funnily enough, he isn’t perusing the beer companies who put the botanical in their booze or seeking to change that practice though…
The case continues, and given asking for the impossible then claiming the other party is the unreasonable one for not doing it are the norm in these Brexiteer’ing and Trumpian times – not likely to end soon.
Another month and another mountain of releases to ignore before unearthing a gem or two. Candy Cane gin? Passion Fruit Gin? Everything under the sun that relates to Gin (from tonic, to bitters to gin itself) being “reimagined” with CBD. A gin that tastes like mince pies, Muller yogurts that taste (supposedly) like G&T and Kit Kat taking a break from their usual service to go and butcher a bar with a gin and tonic infusion. It’s all very, very tiring.
Unfortunately, it’s become the norm to have to do a lot of digging to bring you the worthy new releases each month – a concerning trend to say the least. The silver lining, though, is that we can still find an absolute gem or two in the rubble.
Two collabs from Down Under peaked our interest in particular. Sydney based Archie Rose has created two new gins in partnership with the iconic Opera House, named Inside Gin & Outside Gin. Outside Gin is inspired by the Sydney Opera House’s coastal setting and Utzon’s design principles, juxtaposing nature against man-made elements. It’s a juniper forward gin accented with lemon-scented gum, South Australian yuzu, finger limes, white grapefruit, locally foraged seablite and native seaweed.
Inside Gin celebrates the extraordinary creativity that comes to life daily under the Opera House sails. This fruit-driven gin displays a bright positive summery character and presents a cast of botanicals including native thyme, Australian apricot, raspberry and strawberry gum.
Meanwhile in Melbourne, Four Pillars have gone Pink in an exclusive collaboration with floating bar, Arbory Afloat. Four Pillars Miami Afloat Gin is floral and citrus forward in its style, made using pineapple sage, strawberry gum, orris root and the peels of oranges lemons and grapefruits. That gorgeous pink colour was created with the addition of Davidson Plums. The best thing straight off the bat is that we know this is one we can trust – Four Pillars haven’t put a foot wrong, so their Pink Gin is all but guaranteed to be a decent tipple.
While we’re on that side of the world, let’s just mention Ki No Jyu, a collaboration form Kyoto distillery and tea farmer Horii Shichimeien. Made using Okuno Yama tea, a type of Gyokuro green tea, the release looks as highly crafted as one might expect from a distillery of that caliber (from liquid to label). The price tag is perhaps the most eye opening though, coming in at over £300.
Finally, keeping it global, Travel Retail (Duty Free to us mortals) continues to be the place where exclusives and limited editions are being launched. This month, Edinburgh gin continue their rise with the launch of two new gins, both in 1L bottles for around £30. Neither stray too far from their respective monikers: Edinburgh Gin Lemon and Jasmine features loud lemon peel and jasmine, while Edinburgh Gin Raspberry features Scottish raspberries and raspberry leaves.
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