In focus: The latest trends in gin

Local ingredients

David Wilkinson of Edinburgh Gin (left) and botanist Dr Greg Kenice. Image: Stewart Attwood Photography 2018.

Old Curiosity, which produces “colour-changing” gins, likewise relies on its locality. Based in the Secret Herb Garden, a specialist herb nursery on the outskirts of Edinburgh, it grows its own botanicals, with production and bottling also taking place on site.

Co-founder Steve Ross says: “As much as our gins appear unique with their colours and colour-changing abilities, we do not perceive ourselves to be niche. The ingredients we use are all natural, and the knowledge we have as gardeners is our main claim behind the recipes we create. We use certain plants and botanicals that only we grow or reproduce, so it gives us that unique factor that would be very difficult to replicate.”

Fellow Scottish distiller Edinburgh Gin has joined a growing band of producers releasing limited-edition gins; a concept that allows them to experiment with different botanicals and charge a premium for it.

Like Kew Organic Gin, produced by Dodd’s, and The Oxford Artisan Distillery’s Physic Gin, Edinburgh has created a savoury garden-themed gin, this time with the aid of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Using 13 botanicals, including sweet cicely, mace and mountain pepper, Edinburgh’s 1670 adheres to current trends while also appealing to those who are looking for provenance. The desire for provenance can also be seen in the growing field-to-glass movement, pioneered by the likes of Chase Gin in 2008. Since then, a raft of producers have been making their own base spirit, including Adnams, Arbikie and Copper Rivet.

The growth of the English wine industry can also be credited with bringing such products to market. Some companies are now using leftover wine, known as the rebêche or third press, to produce gin. This is mostly done by adding the grape distillate, distilled to below 96% ABV to preserve the more volatile aromas and flavours, to the base neutral grain spirit at a ratio of roughly 30:70.

James Oag-Cooper, managing director of Foxhole Spirits, which works closely with Bolney Wine Estate, says: “We’ve set a bit of a trend with the creation of Foxhole Gin, inspiring wineries to look at using their by-products with a now growing market of grape-based gins. For us, it’s the perfect foundation to create a truly premium and unique gin, and thanks to this we expect the market to get more interesting, competitive and continue to grow.”

Indeed, both Rathfinny, which released its first sparkling wines this year, and established wine producer Chapel Down are producing gins.

Rathfinny, which partnered with Silent Pool to produce its Seven Sisters gin, described the decision to make gin as a “lightbulb moment”.

Co-founder Mark Driver adds: “We will always look to use it as a tactical brand to first and foremost offer to those customers who are working with our sparkling wine.”

Chapel Down, however, has big plans for its Bacchus Gin. Having won the Design and Packaging Award at the Drinks Business Awards 2018 for its bottle, managing director Mark Harvey says what’s inside is going down well too.

Foxhole Gin.

“The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive and, if truth be told, in the early months we struggled to keep up with demand,” he says.

“Exports is a clear opportunity, and we are having early conversations, which will be another source of growth from the end of 2018. Gin is an astonishing growth category and grape skin-based gins are currently in vogue because they bring a new angle of interest and provenance.”

While not all gin producers have the budget for a TV commercial, it is possible to make an impact with less cash. Warner Edwards and Silent Pool both shelled out for sponsorship of a garden at Chelsea Flower Show this year, which generated national press coverage for both brands.

Shelbourne of Silent Pool says: “It was the first big piece of sponsorship that we’ve done. We’re already talking about doing it again next year and it will be highly likely that we take part again. The garden really captured the local environment in which the gin is made without flogging the point.”

With worldwide gin consumption up by almost 5% in 2017, with all but two of the top 15 gin-consuming nations exhibiting growth, it’s clear there’s still growth potential for the spirit.

A new generation of promiscuous gin drinkers is helping to shape the market. Increasingly curious and willing to try new things, these consumers are no longer loyal to just one brand.

Musing on both the progress and future of gin, Warner says: “Back in 2013, I’d spend 30 minutes telling suppliers about craft gin, convincing them that it was legal, that it tasted good and that it was safe and wasn’t going to kill anyone. It was all so alien back then. Now I have much simpler conversations as everyone just gets craft gin.

Chapel Down’s Bacchus Gin.

“I think we’ll see more focus on natural flavours and botanicals but also different types of distillation and styles. Is London Dry really the best method to extract flavour? As craft distillers it’s our responsibility to produce the best possible liquid through the best means. There’s still a lot of growth in the category, and the premium end will start cannibalising the lower end. I really hope we’ve reached peak ‘cake-flavoured glitter gins’, as I feel those kinds of products can be bad for the category.”

Plenty of growth

James Stocker, marketing director of Halewood Wine and Spirits, which owns gin brands including Whitley Neill, J.J. Whitley, Liverpool Gin, The City of London Distillery and Aber Falls, agrees there’s still headroom in gin: “Eight or nine years ago there was little innovation in the gin category and this has completely changed.

“This serves to excite consumers and increase interest in gin. There’s plenty of growth still to be had in the category – gin is a very versatile product.”

While gin has cemented its place in the hearts and minds of the UK consumers, the rate of growth in the country is ultimately unsustainable. Emerging markets, however, such as South Africa, Australia, Mexico, Brazil and the rest of Latin America, which are exhibiting fast growth, will ensure that the category remains energised for years to come.

This feature first appeared in the July issue of the drinks business magazine. 

2 Responses to “In focus: The latest trends in gin”

  1. Julie Martineau says:

    Ungava gin (ref: http://ungava-gin.com/en/home/), which is quite yellow, changes colour when the tonic water is poured in: it turns a very light pink. According to my Process Engineer partner, the carbonic acid disolved in the tonic lowers the pH of the gin, turning its yellow components pink. It also makes for a delicious happy hour!

  2. We produce Rose Gold gin which is yellow but throws out pinkish hues when mixed with tonic. Naturally coloured with hibiscus and saffron.
    thestaffordshiregincompany.co.uk

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