Tiger Gin roared into the world in early 2016 with its owner, JJ Lawrence, holding his victory against one of the biggest drinks brands in the world aloft for all to see. A bumpy start saw the Shropshire Spirits Company having to take its first spirit, Tiger Gin, to the high court after Heineken Asia Pacific PTE challenged the trademark, claiming it to be too similar to that of Tiger Beer.
Lawrence is a determined man, though, and rather than discourage him, his fight with the big boys only spurred him on. As he says himself: “It became a matter of principle, it was long and drawn out but the fight in the tiger in me drove me on to win!”
Lawrence has always had an interest in gin, but the decision to make his own didn’t strike until three years ago. He began researching straight away, following this brainwave down a rabbit hole until it turned into a full-blown obsession. Filled with urgency, Lawrence chose to instil the help of an expert, rather than training in the art of distilling, and called on third party manufacturer Alcohols LTD to turn his concept into reality.
Working with Alcohols from inception onwards, Lawrence played around with traditional recipes until he had a gin that he felt was sweet and smooth enough to go down easy when sipped over ice.
The botanicals used in the gin follow a fairly traditional path: juniper, coriander, angelica, dried sweet lemon peel, dried sweet orange peel, cassia bark, liquorice root, nutmeg, cinnamon, orris and two secret ingredients.
The botanicals are macerated in a neutral grain spirit overnight at Alcohols LTD before being put through a run. Production lasts around nine hours, producing a concentrate that comes off the still at around 80% ABV. This is then blended with neutral spirit and cut down to its bottling strength of 40% ABV.
Tiger Gin to taste…
To taste, juniper floods the tongue instantly. Tiger Gin is quite viscous, filling the mouth and cheeks with a rich, oily texture. Liquorice root has been used in abundance here – though sweetness, rather than an earthiness from the root takes hold. Coriander seed, cinnamon and cassia bring warmth next, leaving behind by a waxy lemon finish.
Tiger is classically styled gin to taste, so much so that it comes across as a little bit timid in terms of a new addition to the category. It’s decent gin, but we wonder if it actually offers anything new or worth swapping other good, classic gin for. The high amount of liquorice root (and perhaps because it’s so sweet, something added post distillation) does steer it ever so slightly into Old Tom territory – one drop more and we’d be there. The use of this botanical, though, helps Lawrence fill his objectives; the gin glides down the throat easily – even when sipped at room temperature – and sweetness is the overall sensation of the drink.
In terms of a serve, the rich juniper means that this would work perfectly well in a classic G&T – add a wedge of lime and serve up with a standard tonic like Schweppes for a drink just like ma used to make.
In terms of a cocktail, the liquid makes for a lovely, traditional Martini. The luscious mouthfeel of Tiger Gin will shine in this environment, though its Old Tom tendencies mean it would also be at home in a modern interpretation of a Martinez. It’s good gin, although a little too safe perhaps and a little too middle of the road for us to be really raving about it. Certainly in terms of price, there are other gins who share similar easy sipping qualities for considerably less.
From a branding perspective, the gin is similar in style to that of another initially created at Alcohols LTD, Langley’s No.8. Thankfully – unlike Langley’s No.8 – Tiger Gin hasn’t made the initial mistake of naming itself as a man’s gin (because it’s 2016, perhaps, and whaddya know, those pesky women folk have been voting for 98 years), but its visual cues and colour palate makes them very obvious stable mates.
Black and silver dominate the clear cut glass, while a silver gilded frame surrounds the logo – it’s a smart look if a little lost when on a back bar next to others jostling so hard to grab the attention. The frame is also printed onto a sticker on the back of the bottle, which the liquid inside bends and stretches.
Tiger Gin is an undoubtedly well made spirit, but it’s certainly priced at the higher end of the scale (£38) and in our opinion, currently not worth that value. Realistically, with such a crowded marked, filled with quality and a depth of offerings – if it is to succeed, we feel there’ll have to be some major changes to the wider offering.
Embossing directly onto the bottle, rather than using a sticker would help “up” the premium feel (and encourage up-cycling too, thus spreading brand awareness and making the purchase a worthwhile investment for fans), and the brand’s website could do with some tweaking. At present it seems more of an afterthought and while its great to trademark straplines, actually building an identity and bringing it to life would probably do more to develop real brand equity and help it veer away from what can sound at times a little gimmicky.
The liquid has the potential to appeal to many, but with hundreds of gins on offer, we’re just not sure that is enough anymore, and when you dig a little deeper here for a reason to believe, Tiger Gin is currently lacking an edge. It’s another gin in a busy category and we’re not convinced that at present it’s doing enough to deserve it’s place in bars and gin cabinets alike. However, there’s no reason that the brand will build up around a solid liquid and in time, Lawrence may well be able to create a more complete package.
The tale of the underdog succeeding is always one the world wants to hear, and though the fight Tiger Gin faced at the very beginning may have been hard, it’s given the brand a clear message – one of gutsy determination and stubbornness – that suggests they’re in this for the long haul.
For more information about Tiger Gin, visit their website: www.tigergin.co.uk
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