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Johnny Roberts – No.3 Gin

Johnny Roberts No.3 Gin
No.3 Gin Johnny Roberts
No.3 Gin Johnny Roberts Interview
Written by Olivier Ward

In 2015, UK Gin sales reached an astonishing high of £1bn. 2016 topped that, with Gin sales having broken the £1bn barrier by early October. The current Gin boom shows no signs of slowing, which is good news for retailers Berry Brothers & Rudd, which spotted the trend as soon as it started to emerge and immersed itself fully, teaming up with Dr. David Clutton to design No.3 Gin.

All wrapped up in a dark green bottle, complete with a key pressed into the flesh of the glass, No.3 speaks of class, tradition and trust, and that’s before you even get to the liquid. As retailers of premium spirits, BBR had a great understanding of the category, which gave it a huge advantage when creating the gin. No.3 Gin is incredibly well balanced, with a fresh juniper taste and a sweet, soft citrus anchored by a subtle, yet peppery spice. It’s solid and steady and everything a Gin should be, offering no surprises to its drinkers but presenting them with a spirit that makes for one of the best Dry Martini’s they’re likely to have.

Six years on from the launch of No.3, we thought it was time to catch up with Johnny Roberts to see how the team are fairing in a market that’s getting increasingly busy and increasingly weird…

No.3 is about as classic as Gin gets. In an age where the spirit gets ever-more “adventurous”, where do you think your gin fits into the wider category?

No.3 is a very classic style of London Dry. The brief for No.3 came from our Chairman, Simon Berry, who wanted to create a spirit that would be the last word in gin for a Dry Martini. Doctor David Clutton, the only man with a PHD in Gin, developed the liquid and we believe that the result is a gin that works extremely well not only in a Martini but also in a G&T, in classic cocktails and more adventurous cocktails as well.

As a brand – How do you maintain interest while also not departing from that classic, heritage driven stance. It’s a tough balancing act no?

We are extremely proud of the No.3 liquid profile and equally thrilled by the positive feedback from bartenders. It is often tough to maintain interest in a category with many new entrants but with the support of bartenders and by remaining true to the classic style of London Dry Gin, and the heritage of Berry Bros & Rudd, we have been successful in this respect.

No.3 has also been awarded the International Spirits Challenge Gold Trophy three times in the past five years, and this is an accolade we are extremely proud of and I believe reflects our long term commitment to the category.

In light of that, how are you progressing? Have you also been enjoying growth and how have you been keeping up with the gin boom?

No.3 has enjoyed growth in both the UK and around the world over the past five years. We are happy with its progress but continue to challenge ourselves to serve our customers better; we want bartenders and passionate imbiber’s of gin to have the opportunity to taste and explore the balance of No.3.

An example of improving how we work is in how we manage our distribution. This year in the UK we moved distribution of No.3 to our own agency house, Fields Morris & Verdin, and have recruited a team of spirits specialists to work with customers and educate consumers about the brand.

What kind of activities have you been doing over the last 18 months and how are you engaging with gin fans (either trade / consumer)?

The past 18 months have been extremely active for No.3 with activities ranging from a summerlong pop up bar in Kew Gardens, to exhibiting at shows like the Glasgow Juniper Fest, to featuring at Goodwood Revival in both a Berry Bros & Rudd bar and a Fever- Tree bar. Whilst also working with bar tenders on signature serves and in house cocktail competitions.

As a retailer, have you seen a shift in people’s understanding of Gin (both in general and yours specifically) as they come into your establishment?

People’s interest in gin is definitely growing and access to social media on on-the-go information means people are able to research and learn almost 24 hours of the day! The team at No.3 St James’s has certainly seen a growing interest in both No.3 and other gin brands we offer.

Are the types of questions hugely different to what they were when you first started?

Yes much more informed and we are extremely fortunate to have a very knowledgeable team at No.3 St. James’s Street, led in spirits by Rob Whitehead.

Given there is more of an base consumer understanding, do you ever get tempted to play around with gin variants?

There is always a temptation to evolve our offering to react to emerging trends but there are no plans to make changes to No.3. We are delighted with the response from trade and consumer and want to continue to build on the existing success by making No.3 available to more bartenders and more consumers.

And lastly – what’s the big milestone for No.3 in 2017?

The big milestone for No.3 in 2017 is to continue to make a success of the switch to Fields Morris and Verdin, to be respected by bartenders and to be the London Dry Gin for classic cocktails – from Gin and Tonic to French 75 to the Negroni, my favourite serve …