The Newmarket Gin is a product distilled by John Walters of the English Spirit Distillery for the Kean family, owners of the Bedford Lodge Hotel in Newmarket, Suffolk. The gin plays neat homage to the Newmarket Racecourses, with its eye catching packaging built around horse racing.
As the product is entirely built around a brand concept, the bottle design is the true talking point here. The bottle has frosted glass, with a binocular lens shaped patch of clarity depicting three horses racing towards the finish line in one of Newmarket’s ‘Classics’ races. It’s undoubtedly striking and very well thought out – from the brown leather collar around the neck of the bottle (in traditional Newmarket tan, with stitching and buttons to represent leather riding tackle), to the paper label at the bottom, which is designed to look like a betting slip.
Made by Nude Brand Creation, who also make packaging for Ballantine’s and Havana Club, every square inch of the design work for The Newmarket Gin has been well considered, creating a spirit that screams of its high quality long before the bottle is even open.
The town of Newmarket makes itself known in the botanical selection as well as in the packaging, with locally grown horseradish, Devil’s Dyke orchid petals, alfalfa and wild flowers – all harvested from within the town’s boarders – joining Portuguese juniper, English bay and coriander leaf, Dullingham grown wild chives, Seville oranges and Turkish almonds.
The recipe was created by Dr. John Walters, who undertakes a great amount of third party distilling as well as creating his own gin – Dr J’s – and a range of eaux de vie at his Great Yeldham distillery. Dr. Walters makes his own base spirit using sugar beets, distilling these in a 200l copper pot still (for more information on this distilling process, read our review of Dr. J’s gin here).
The Newmarket Gin to taste…
As with all English Spirit Distillery gins, sugar undertones gallop straight out of the gate to greet the nose. This is followed very swiftly by a fresh orange smell, which brings a sherbet like feel and coriander, which brings warmth.
Sweetness envelops the tongue instantly, with the base alcohol permeating the flavour profile of the gin. The citrus doesn’t come through as well as it does on the nose, instead the savoury botanicals take hold, with chives, bay leaf and coriander holding strong in the middle of the sip. Sweetness circles back round for the finish, with a honey like aftertaste helped along by wild flowers.
The Newmarket Gin is one for drinkers with a penchant for slightly less dry profiles and would make a great base gin for some homemade sloe/fruit liqueurs. In a G&T it’s lively and fresh – especially when dressed up with a couple of edible flowers – but as a gin it’s a furlong short on the juniper promise for most of the flavour journey. Pine only comes through on the finish, so while it’s a well-made gin (easy sipping at 42%), if you are looking for a gin where juniper leads from the front and stays the course, this may not be the choice for you.
Overall, the branding carries Newmarket Gin, with superior design work surrounding a decent spirit. The packaging really is great too. That said, while the Devil may not be in the detail – you could look at the bottle all day and not spot a flaw – he’s reflected in the price tag. At £70 for a 70cl bottle, The Newmarket Gin far out prices many, many a high quality spirit and as a result, prices out many a potential fan too.
Newmarket insists that this is reflective of the cost of production, but we’re unconvinced. Dr Walters makes a lot of good gins for others and none of them come anywhere close to this price so the cost isn’t in the process. Even with the heavy investment in the bottle price, it is still £25 above most of the super premium offerings with equally considered packaging.
Aged spirits like whisk(e)y are able to fetch such grand amounts because of their scarcity and because of the years spent creating them. Gin – no matter how good it tastes – takes hours to distil, so one has to ask once more… where are these “production” costs coming from? It’s a shame as it’s been well conceived as a product with the look, feel and botanical line up all signalling a coherent message. At a normal price point, Newmarket Gin would do well.
The Newmarket Gin was launched at the Gin Guild’s Ginposium in June 2016 and is stocked at Bedford Lodge Hotel and at Corney & Barrow on Newmarket High Street. The hotel is a good springboard for the gin as the bar will undoubtedly stock it (thus introducing potential new fans) and its clear sense of place will make it a great souvenir – though at £70 that’s a Christmas/birthday present all in one…
With such a hefty cost attached to it, there is a feeling of big brand anonymity about this product and in an age where craft is king, with people as enchanted by the makers as by their products, Newmarket might take a little effort to get into its stride.
There doesn’t seem to be any real human back story behind the creation of the gin that has been unveiled to date, just that the Kean family wanted to create a gin for their hotel and set about putting together a team of experts to make it. This is fine however, our suggestion would be for the Kean family to be more involved going forward – their story ought to be on the website and felt through social media. Even if just talking about design work, shifting the emphasis from the end outcome and onto the journey would also help. Nude as a design agency have done well to present this story but the brand itself has done very little to bring it to life on any platform so far (or perhaps they have allowed the agency to overshadow them for now). Either way – it is much easier to engage with a narrative than with an end product with a crazy valuation.
It’s still early days in this race however, and with some careful positioning over the next few months these elements are easy to fix. In doing so Newmarket Gin could well jockey itself into contention and gain some national traction.
For more information about The Newmarket Gin, visit their website: www.thenewmarketgin.co.uk
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