The Head Turners of 2020
With the promise of Spring budding on every tree branch (not that we can get to with all the self isolation) and the interminable greyness of January and February behind us, we thought we’d take a look at the releases that have already blessed (and cursed) the world in 2020.
It’s worth noting that this year is likely to mark something of a change for Gin in the UK. The next big spirit (be that Tequila, Vodka, Rum or Whisky) is banging on the door, and the general consensus from distillers is that the UK market is tightening up.
Yeah yeah, we’ve all heard it before, “we’re past peak gin, this it the year of xxx”. It’s never been true though and we’ve never bought into that idea that only one category wears the crown, or that there is such a thing as a crown in the first place. We’ve rebuked it hundreds of times too. Except this time, well, this time there’s more than just a hint of truth to gin fatigue that’s clear to see.
With the Dry Gin audience pool shrinking, brands will eventually start to consolidate their offerings, whilst bars and shops will become even closer curators, looking to kill of stragglers from the shelves. We for one, think all of this is a good thing. The good gins will be just fine, the great gins will thrive and we’ll all be better off without having to wade through the massive amount of garbage offerings out there in order to find them. Besides, Flavoured Gin is growing at unprecedented rates, so if it’s volume you want – there’ll still be a lot of coloured stuff out there for years to come.
The end of Dry Gin hasn’t quite come yet though as there’s been plenty of new releases which have emerged already this year in and amongst the Flavoured genre’s onslaught. We’ve decided to celebrate the good, critique the ordinary and call the bad for what they are… By no means an exhaustive list, these are the head-turners of 2020 so far.
Tanqueray No. Ten and Gin Mare Head to the airport, but passengers don’t.
Diageo set our nerves on edge when they released a brand new take on their incredible Tanqueray No. Ten Gin – the Citrus Hearts Edition – in January. Currently only available in duty-free, the 45.3% ABV spirit is due for a wider release by the summer.
The reason for our nerves? Tanq 10 is absolutely one of our favourite gins. It’s vibrant, alive and as close to perfect as a gin comes, so much so that we’d be inclined to take something of an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach. It did so much for the spirit when it launched too, helping bring some much needed cool into the gin category.
With Corona rearing its head though – getting hold of it to review has been tricky. Still, with the promise of great grapefruit notes and a flourish of rosemary, we can’t wait to taste for ourselves and will report back.
Another firm Gin Foundry favourite, Gin Mare, had a little World of Duty Free rejig as well, dosing in Capri Lemon and bergamot. We did not handle ourselves with dignity upon discovering this sumptuous Capri inspired treat from the Spanish makers. Hugely zingy and bright at the fore, with a thick, oily dose of juniper and rosemary at the back, this is one fans of the regular should strive to get hold of. The pros: We could all do with a going holiday anyway, right? The cons: It’s only available in Italian duty free currently, so options to get hold of some all involve spending time in quarantine.
In short: It’s been a very good couple of months for fans of rosemary! Not so much for anything launching in World of Duty Free…
Arbikie Go Carbon Negative
Scottish distillery Arbikie stuck to their New Year’s Resolutions with the release of Nadar, “a revolutionary spirit for the drinkers industry” which has jaw-droppingly impressive carbon footprint of -1.54kg CO2e per bottle. Yep – it’s a climate positive gin.
Created by Arbikie’s Master Distillery, Kirsty Black, the gin took years to develop and promises to be a soft and silky treat, led by lemongrass and citrus lead flavours. The Arbikie team achieved their carbon negative stats by making their base spirit from the humble pea. Peas grow incredibly easily – requiring no synthetic fertiliser (therefore making no harmful impact to the waterways). They improve soil quality and offset the fertiliser required for other crops.
This sets a whole new precedent in the Gin world and one that we’ll be championing from the rooftops. Too much greenwashing goes on in the spirits industry, with excuses too easily trotted out. The digits need to move faster and this is an example of something that helps centre the conversation where it needs to be – solution driven, innovation focussed and aspirational not reductive.
Moreover, given that no independent distillery in the history of distilling has ever managed to completely shake the flavour of the base ingredient when making their own neutral spirit, we reckon this is going to have a really interesting undercurrent.
Martin Millers gets Set for Summer
Marin Miller’s is prepped to release its first-ever seasonal edition this year, imaginatively named ‘Martin Miller’s Summerful Gin.’ The gin, which uses the original dual distillate formula as a base, will celebrate the gin’s two-country home by blending in a third distillate of Icelandic and English summer herbs – thyme for the former, rosemary for the latter.
Team MMG are citing their 20th anniversary celebrations as a reason for the release, but given that the gin launched in 1999, they’re either just looking for an excuse, a year late on the trigger or terrible at counting. Do we always need a reason for creating a new gin? Still, it’s nice to see a summer gin that isn’t bright pink and filled with over-sweet berries and given the brand’s track record when it comes to flavour – this set to be a stellar treat.
Summerful Gin will be available to buy from May – September, so fans of herbal flavours should keep their eyes peeled!
In a world of Pink…
Few have avoided the call of Pink in 2020, with ruby-coloured liquid having some sort of siren-like power over the Gin category lately. As those who’ve read our recent article on the subject, there are some shockers out there, but when it’s good it’s really good and we’ll be the first to say we fall hard and fast for some of them.
First up, Bombay Sapphire got in on the pink action, but rather than sully the name of gin, they opted to release a colour chart of pink liqueurs. Currently available as a set of four minis, all of the liqueurs in the Bombay Creations pack are designed to complement the flagship gin.
The four flavours, rose, hibiscus, strawberry and raspberry all come in at 20% ABV, and have been created to add a ‘pink tinge’ to a mixed drink. Politely put, we weren’t convinced but fans of the brand (and of things that taste more like gin), need not fear as they have also launched Bombay Bramble Gin, a higher proof raspberry and blackberry offering with no added sugar. It may not convert you into becoming part of the Flavoured Gin brigade, but it’s worth trying (go with tonic and a lemon peel) and with a rich blackberry twang and dry finish, makes for a nice fruity alternative over the warmer months.
The Oxford Artisan Distillery (or TOAD, as they’re known to friends) has also got in on the liqueur action, releasing a dusky pink rose, apple, damson and sloe liqueur, Cuisse de Nymphe. With plenty of Sloe and damson to taste, the perfumed rose is quite grounded, while the overall sweetness is restrained.
The next one was a new brand to us, and one with a bottle so nice we almost got whiplash when we spotted it. Mirabeau Rose Gin, a French treat distilled from grapes and infused with the brand’s famous rosé wine. It just works, namely because at its core Mirabeau Rosé Gin is a reasonably classic Dry Gin. Lemon and coriander bring in some fresh citrus, rose, lavender and jasmine add a subtle variety of floral tones. Finally bay, thyme and rosemary extra herbaceous notes around the juniper.
A cluster from the big boys
Greenall’s launched their Blood Orange & Fig Gin, which will be available exclusively at Sainsbury’s, priced at £16.00 (1L, 37.5% ABV). The new expression will be available for a limited time only apparently – and at that price for a full 1L, don’t expect it to hang around on shelf either.
Competing next to it will be Gordon’s latest releases – Gordon’s White Peach Distilled Gin debuted in March, Gordon’s Sicilian Lemon in February. Both companies seem to be throwing things up to see what sticks in the hope that eventually, the next Gordon’s Pink (now confirmed as the biggest new release for a decade) emerges.
Hot behind them are cider giants Kopparberg with their Passionfruit & Orange Gin while Halewood has expanded its Whitley Neill gin range once more with the launch of a gooseberry-flavoured expression.
Not to be out-muscled in the race for flippant fruit and flavour combos that sell like cupcakes at a charity fête – William Grant & Sons has extended its Verano flavoured gin range with the launch of a passionfruit variant as well as revealing Hendrick’s Lunar Gin. The latter is weird and whimsical as expected from the disruptive brand team, with as polarising a flavour profile as ever but when one looks at the multinationals mentioned above and their quest for original innovation – it’s at least trying to do something different.
A Baker’s dozen from the smaller distillers
Team Hernö and Four Pillars made part two of their collaborative distilling series available, Botany Bay Gin. This time it was distilled over in Sweden (following 2019’s Dry Island Gin which was made in Australia). Botany Bay combines botanicals from both distillery’s homelands – lingonberry and meadowsweet from Sweden, wattle seed, Tasmanian pepper berry and lemon myrtle from Australia.
Meanwhile, Silent Pool tapped into the idea of pink with their Rose edition. Distilled with a unique rose tea infusion to create a distinctive yet delicate rose flavour. Rose Expression Gin shares the Silent Pool Gin DNA in terms of its complexity and refreshingly individual character, however the core recipe has been refined to compliment and enhance the floral core. Some of the original botanicals – pear, bergamot, cubeb and cardamom have also been increased to maximise the impact, while lemon becomes the leading citrus.
New expressions to existing brands has been the theme of the year so far (again, expect it to be the opposite in November time) with around one in five adding to their line ups. At the top of that list, Wessex Gin beat off stiff competition from Edinburgh, Old Curiosity and McQueen who all seem to have a new offering every other day by going a little mad themselves and deciding that a 6 strong range was the right thing for their line up on day one…
The Hall of Absolute Shame
Firebox has really surpassed itself this month with its new hybrid gin range. The vomit-inducing selection of ‘gins’ is as closely aligned with the devil as a spirit can get, launched under the sub-brand Uncommon Drinks.
Promising to be “disruptive,” the liqueurs include White Wine Gin, Pink Cosmo Gin and Mint Mojito Gin amongst its aberrations. Sure, we judged these books by their cover, but upon due diligence, a stern word to ourselves to be professional about it and tasting through the range, it’s genuinely as repellent as expected.
We are the first to say that sister brand Unicorn Tears isn’t all that bad (despite its glitter or heavily dosed sugar) and can remain firmly sat on any given fence when we need to be – but aside from not being anything close to Gin, these were not even well made liqueurs. Unfortunately, it’s this exhausting cannon of shit that will eventually kill the Gin industry, if it hasn’t already. If that’s the “disruption” they were aiming for however, then a job well done but if you are holding them to their word as wanting “to reinvigorate expectations around alcohol” – set those expectations way down low. Then go lower still.
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