The 2018 Limited Edition Ginvent collaboration…
Provenance. Authenticity. Unique. Innovative. All are buzzwords in a category positively brimming with products that demonstrate these qualities, but what do they really mean? Is it all marketing? Is there even any resonance left to these words? Have there been too many who have falsely claimed them in order to shroud themselves with enough credibility to appeal to a new generation of drinkers in search of truth behind the brands they buy?
It used to be clear cut, but when everything is a ‘Craft’ product, then surely nothing is too. As a result, we often ask ourselves if they are terms that are even worth striving towards any longer, and how one can do that.
While we might be jaded, we haven’t lost faith! We still think the ideals they represent are worth aspiring to and for our limited edition Gin in Ginvent 2018, we thought we’d try to tackle a few of these buzzwords and re-appropriate them for a category that’s moved on at brake neck pace since they started being banded about.
Innovation without gimmick, Craft through consideration. Unique but still Ginny. Authentic in stating what it is and isn’t trying to be, as well as carrying a palpable demonstration of the people and place from where it is made to showcase provenance.
Of course, as with the custom made Ginvent gins of the past, we wanted to make sure that the end product is much more than all of the above. We love making life hard for ourselves and we wanted it to also be the embodiment of a few trends, so pour a glass and do some read-along drinking.
Here’s some context…
It’s been three years since our last collaboration with Southwestern Distillery, but before we get to what we’ve been up to or how to tackle the above for 2018, let’s first remind you what these limited edition Ginvent gins are about.
The aim is to make a bespoke bottling that encompasses two things. The first is obvious but essential: to make something supremely tasty. The second is that the theme and broader concept that surrounds the Gin is an area that will become more en-vogue over the year to come, so that the bottling acts as a showcase for editorial trend forecasting.
For the first bespoke Ginvent Gin, way back in 2015, we partnered up with Tarquin and his team and created the Hedgerow Edition. The theme it covered was all about the rise of foraging in Gin, so we scoured Cornwall’s landscape and plucked away, cramming the still with freshly picked ingredients.
The second gin for Ginvent in 2016 was about seasonalisation and the rise of the Limited Edition, exploring how Gin producers were moving towards romanticised ideals of what ‘seasonal’ could mean and how, time appropriate or for pure fun, they would all be releasing very limited editions runs soon.
Last year we covered the rise of weird botanicals and the increasing gimmicks used in Gin, explaining how it was going to happen more in 2018, but that weird and wacky didn’t have to mean anything other that just a beautifully bonkers gin. We argued that despite a catchy headline, it could still be something to be savoured, with our Christmas tree gin harnessing Douglas fir and spruce tips to accentuate juniper.
Suffice to say, we’ve been calling out a few trends just before they took off for the past three years in a row, and have been imbuing them into bottles for a custom-made gin that premieres in Ginvent as we do it. They’ve been fun and they’ve been tasty, but they’ve also explored topics and asked questions about what is involved, showing how a trend can be harnessed and that if pursued with authenticity and consideration, good things lay ahead.
For the most part all the gins that we’ve built around incoming trends have led by example, showing that wild flavours can still be respectful of the category. The countless part-foraged gins, the hundreds of limited editions, the seasonal ranges – there is a wealth of amazing expressions for all to explore. Unfortunately, there are exceptions too and while we’ll stand by what we said regarding gimmicks not being an entirely bad thing, this last year has felt like many followed that path but stopped concentrating about how to make it taste lovely, or indeed how to move past the idiotic click bait names…
For 2018, we feel that there are two areas around production that are on the up and one thematic area in particular that is fast becoming a talking point that a fair few Ginsmiths will no doubt explore (and are in the process of doing so at the moment) in the year ahead.
We’ve all seen the rise of aged gins in the past year. More have been released than ever before, but it’s the use of oak and how it can be added both during and after distillation that has caught our eye. It would seem that many distillers are looking at ways at finding a new resonance with what type of oak they use and the way it’s been seasoned, be it through charring, storage, the previous occupant or what seasoned the wood before it comes into contact with the gin.
Aged gins are finally coming to a stage where the understanding (from producers) may well tip into being less about the cask itself or the length of maturation, but how that speaks to their gin and to them as a distillery. Cask Aged that moves above and beyond the cask so to speak…
The very best aged gins already do this of course and can articulate the connection between their ethos as a distillery, their geography and their choice of cask, as well as the positive impact it’s had on the liquid inside. We can now see others looking towards just why they are ageing spirit in a similar way. They are asking what it adds to their gins, with oak chips, wood saps and more being used creatively for far better results than simply filling a barrel for the sake of it.
If aged gins are ever to have a breakthrough year, and that’s a big if, 2019 will surely be it and the move beyond the barrel will help precipitate it.
There’s also been a move towards further research into how to harness botanicals and how to dose them. The micro-producer is moving on (or the good ones are) from just seeking out something that no-one has ever heard of, to just how they can maximise more typical ingredients in more meaningful ways. They are asking questions such as how can you treat the botanical before contact with the gin (again, both pre-and post distillation). How can it be dosed to have different intensity when served neat and in cocktails, how can one mitigate the suppressant effects of a botanical depending on the ratio, and how can the distiller take control over this process and be the one to enact it in order to keep consistency rather than rely on nature and careful sourcing alone.
The term Master Distiller is added to many a maker’s business card, but it is only in the past year that we have seen the combination of systematic process and informed procedure be married with the more ‘artistic’ approach. Watch in the year ahead and you’ll see a much more concerted effort being made by distillers (and better gins as a result), to find new ways of extracting flavour, from existing, normal ingredients to not focusing on marketing the absurdly weird botanical discoveries.
Next is the more thematic shift.
We feel like there is a move from provenance to experience underway, but that it is in combining the two that many makers will reach new heights. This is partly a response to the ever increasing amount of local gins, but also because of a generational shift on what consumers want.
It’s a strange shift indeed; local is still very important, but rather than local flavours, consumers are seeking local themes. The blackberry bush from Aunt Mavis’ garden is no longer the object of desire for distillers and drinkers, rather the feel of the breeze and the salty sea air is something people are seeking to capture into taste.
More and more, there are gins that represent their regionality by what it feels like and how that can be experienced in some tiny way by drinking it. They try and remind you of somewhere and hope that through drinking the gin it can help you to escape there for a second or two. In other words, expect less botanicals from the back yard, and more of an actual feel for what it’s like to live there.
To be of somewhere is often more powerful and effective than being from somewhere when it comes to the storytelling around gin. It is something the most transportive gins have always known but it’s taken years of distillers worrying about whether or not having a local botanical would make them any less authentic when peddling an origin story. There’s a lot more confidence amongst makers now, who also know that using a key local ingredient isn’t really a point of difference anymore.
It would seem that the act of trying to capture the pulse of a place and project it, as opposed to use a token local botanical and a “made in” tag at the base, is finally getting the attention it deserves. As distillers learn to combine this figurative projection in the overall flavour alongside the literal botanicals that root them in truth and tangible terroir, more captivating gins will emerge.
The 2018 gin without spoilers…
To explore these trends and to somehow wrangle them all together in one place, we simply knew that the first step was to get involved in a collaboration. Having flown solo on the Ginvent Gin for two years, there was only one maker at the tip of our tongues when it came collaboration. It was time to revisit our partnership with the Tarquin’s team.
As collaborators, we share the same restless spirit and desire to explore new frontiers, but that wasn’t all. Cornwall as a place speaks to this project, and imbuing the region into every sip of their spirits is exactly what the Southwestern lot wrestle with each day.
Cornwall is a rich area to work with, and revisiting the distillery gave us a great opportunity to contrast the trends, with Hedgerow showcasing local ingredients and Tan Ha Mor, as its been named, showcasing local sights, smells and sounds. Most of all, though, Southwestern rock at making tasty juniper juice and we love everything they do, so why wouldn’t we work with them on this?
And so we finish where we began… Provenance, Authenticity, Unique, Innovative. Buzzwords they might be, but that doesn’t mean they have to be hollow or lose all meaning. We’ll show how all of these have been captured and how they are at the core of this year’s release, while also showcasing future trends in each and every drop. It’s also the last time we’ll say them, we promise.
Excited much? Yep, so are we…
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