Gin is proving to be the spirit of generosity
The switch from booze production to hand sanitiser solutions is in full swing in a majority of gin distilleries now. Gin maker’s fleet footed response to the crisis is turning heads too, billed as an example of how private businesses are rallying to help “the public” almost every night on British news channels. In a bizarre change of fate, such is the massive demand for alcohol solutions that a few distilleries are actually making more income from producing sanitiser now than they did as ginsmiths. Move over strawberries, rhubarb and raspberry – turns out isopropanol (the ingredient you need to render it undrinkable) is where the zeitgeist is…
Aside from handwash, there’s also a lot of distilleries doing fantastic things with less obvious media friendly headlines, like those sending teams to transport food to those in long term isolation and other indirect ways to be of service to their community. It seems that being generous in spirit, literally, has helped many gin makers stay in business with their teams active and on the payroll. In turn, this is helping keep the public’s love affair with their local gin makers firmly in the limelight.
It’s a beautiful sight but it’s not just the plucky micro-distillers rolling up their sleeves either, the multinationals have contributed some substantial help of their own. Pernod Ricard, Bacardi and William Grant have mass produced millions upon millions of bottles of sanitiser, while mid sized companies like Brewdog, Chase and others have been producing them by the tens of thousands as well.
For the bigger conglomorates, it hasn’t just stopped at the WHO approved formula either. Diageo pledged millions of pounds in aid to assist the now out of work trade with William Grant, Baccardi, Campari, and Pernod Ricard also doing the same. Beam, Brown Forman, Sazerac, Constelation, Zamora and a few others have all pledged in the hundreds of thousands and it’s fair to say that when it came too it, the big boys of gin are holding their hands up (presumably squeaky clean after all that gel) and are playing their part too.
Of course it’s been a little disappointing to hear the silence of some of the bigger names who have yet to roll out strategies on how they will emerge from this crisis having been a force for good. However, begrudging someone for surviving a storm the best they can because they didn’t also help others whilst doing so, seems a touch unfair to say the least.
Take Halewood, who are copping a fair amount of flack at the moment. Despite posting revenues up 26% to £335 million last June and producing millions of bottles of gin each year in the UK, they haven’t announced anything so far (or at least anything we could find having searched through all news, sites and feeds related to the half dozen gin distilleries they own, as well as their own press statements). Take the longer view however, and it’s just too early to tell the full story of any distillery group, as while many seem to be flourishing in the adversity there is an equal amount looking at the very real prospect of having to amputate everything they can simply to have a business on the other-side. It’s hard to tell which companies are going to be fine and who will be ravaged by the crisis. Either way, there’s no need for the hasty judging.
Moreover, not all companies have the ability to nimbly switch over to a different strategy in less than three weeks, with the likes of Greenall’s and Alcohols Ltd operating vast production operations that take a while to manoeuvre into something else. Once shifted the ‘solution’ will need to last not just a few weeks of hiatus but most likely the next four to six months and that’s before they even ensure they are doing so with full governmental compliance too, which is no easy feat at that scale…
It’s why in the positivity bubble that gin finds itself in (especially with the omnipresence of social media meaning that companies can’t simply do something, they must be seen to be doing something), those currently silent aren’t necessarily just sitting on their hands. From the big boys mentioned to the medium sized firms or the one-man-band operations, they may well be up to all sorts of brilliant activities but simply be too busy dealing with the carnage to be tagging it on Insta. If they aren’t, take a moment to appreciate that there are many producers facing some of the most brutal times of their business’ history, consuming everything they have to simply avoid bankruptcy or do right by their employees.
Yes, cheer loudly all of those who have been able to help and proactively contribute. Admire them, applaud them, champion them – but we should all take a moment and ease off the peer pressure for those who aren’t until the whole picture can be understood. The outlook for the hospitality industry is bleak right now and with so much yet to overcome a broad mindset of care, compassion and careful words should extend out to those merely ducking their heads as opposed to being very public about going the extra mile – be they a small producer or a giant firm so often seen broadcasting profit margins.
It’s also worth keeping the snide remarks offline about some companies doing the smallest things that may at first seem tokenistic due to their scale. Of course a little humility would go a long way, but it’s all coming from the right place so why begrudge it? Surely every shred of positive community driven energy helps. Besides, when did it all become a competition? That’s not even a rhetorical question anymore as there’s even light hearted talk of creating a sanitiser award category in a major Awards body going on in the Twittersphere… It may be tongue in cheek commentary from them at this stage, but it reflects just how easy it is to get lost in it all, to accuse, to brag. Isn’t the entire point of altruistic ideas and stepping into assist meant to be about the people being helped, not those doing it?
Just like every other industry, spirits will need to adapt over the months ahead but we hope that by finding this generosity of spirit those making gin will have faired better than most. Many a distillery will have kept its workers busy, content and proud to doing worthwhile endeavours. In doing so they have ensured they paid their employees and helped keep their families’ finances afloat when so many people now face stark realities. While immeasurable, they will have also built up huge amounts of good will for stepping into the breach when we all needed to rally together.
Hopefully when all returns to the new normal, whatever that is, those who did stand up to be counted, that gave with generosity of spirit and who paid it back (or forward) will reap the rewards of having done so. Most of all though, we just hope that many simply survive to be able to produce more fantastic booze on the other side, regardless of what they had to do (or not do) in order in order to bounce back.
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