Think Gin - 7 March 2017

The Happenstance, 1A Ludgate Hill, London EC4M 7AA

Now in its 3rd year, Think Gin is dedicated to thinking about, talking about and most importantly, drinking gin.  Arranged by Agile Media, the guys behind Off Licence News and Harpers Wine & Spirit, the event was held at The Happenstance, a trendy European bar/restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking St. Paul’s Cathedral. 

 

Nicholas Cook, Director General of the Gin Guild, kicked off the day’s proceedings with some interesting facts, some of which I have annotated below:

  • The fascination with gin continues and gin sales are up. 

  • It seems as though new brands are being launched on a daily basis; the volume of new launches is unrealistic and one wonders whether it can continue. 

  • There are over 240 licensed UK producers and the business has seen significant growth since 2012. 

  • Premium brands have doubled in the last 5 years and gin accounts for 20% of the spirits market.

  • Global gin sales reached 52 million cases in 2015. 

  • The US accounts for 32% of the gin market; Spain 13.4% and the UK 10.9%. 

  • Spain is extremely hot for gin right now and expected to consume 5 million cases by 2021. 

  • The UK market is likely to remain static but will continue to be led by premium products such as Bulldog, Monkey 47 and Sipsmith.   

  • A key element in gin’s revival is the growing range of premium tonic, i.e. Fever Tree, 1724, London Essence and Double Dutch.

  • UK gin exports have risen 32%, or £114 million, over the past five years and sales increased by 12% from 2015 to 2016. 

 

A lively debate followed featuring representatives from Gerry’s in Soho, Harpers Wine & Spirit, Wine Rack UK, Mitchells & Butler, Waitrose, Off Licence News and the Gin Foundry.  “Mapping out the future of the UK Gin Category” discussed recent trends, price points and personal experiences.  Some observations which came out of the debate:

 

  • We are seeing an increase in gin produced in South America and Australia, as well as more limited edition and seasonal products.

  • Growth in premium gin priced at £25 and above is around 30%; standard gin sales are growing at about 15%. 

  • Some gin producers have started using 50cl bottles with prices above £40.  The average consumer appears happy to pay up to £40, but that seems to be the ceiling.

  • Consumers are drinking less, but better quality.

  • It is becoming increasingly common for consumers to keep at least 2 gins at home; 1 for the week and 1 for special occasions.  Those consumers who previously kept 3 - 5 gins at home are now keeping somewhere in the region of between 5 and 10.

  • Whilst premiumisation is the biggest growth area for gin, at Waitrose, the top selling gins in terms of volume remain Gordon’s and Bombay Sapphire.

  • Competition has increased: You can’t just put a bottle of gin on the shelf and expect it to sell.  Bottle design, aesthetic appeal and botanicals are all important.  Clever marketing includes thinking about the shape of the bottle, how it is served, glasses, botanicals, gift sets and associated products.  Silent Pool is a good example.

  • Gin appeals across all sexes, ages, genders and classes.  Younger consumers are being attracted to new-style gins and premium mixers extending its popularity from golf and cricket clubs to bars, restaurants and nightclubs.

  • Giving consumers the opportunity to try before they buy is often the key to a sale.  The Gin Advent Calendar is a good example.

  • Stories sell; consumers are interested in the history, personal stories and the people behind the product.  They want to know if you have met the producer/visited the distillery.  An understanding of who is making it, how they’re making it and from what all helps sell.  The same applies to premium tonic.

  • We don’t promote the history enough behind English gin – Hayman’s is a good example of gin’s long heritage in the UK.   

 

Following the debate, it was time to move to the exhibition zone, taste some new products and meet some new faces.

 

Four Pillars Gin

From a small Australian distillery in the Yarra Valley, Four Pillars has created Rare Dry Gin, Navy Strength Gin, Bloody Shiraz Gin and Spiced Negroni Gin.  Established in 2014, Four Pillars takes the unusual approach of distilling their Rare Dry Gin with fresh, juicy biodynamic and highly-aromatic oranges.  They use 2 native botanicals in the distillation process: Tasmanian pepperberry and lemon myrtle.  The Rare Dry Gin is their version of a London Dry Gin; classic and smooth.  The Navy Strength Gin combines fresh finger limes, ginger and turmeric with coriander and star anise to create a smooth yet punchy Gin ideal for a G&T.  Shiraz grapes are steeped for 8 weeks to produce Bloody Shiraz Gin which is lighter and drier than a Sloe Gin.  The rich and aromatic Spiced Negroni Gin derives its clove and Sichuan flavours from the West African spice Grains of Paradise. 

 

Four Pillars is distributed in the UK by Love Drinks.

 

Hayman’s Gin

Hayman’s has been making gin for more than 150 years and remains a family owned and run distillery in the UK.  It is made from a family recipe of 10 botanicals which are steeped in English wheat for a day prior to distillation.  The London Dry Gin is classic, crisp and elegant and works well with Fentimans Rose Lemonade.  Old Tom is the sweeter Victorian style; very aromatic with a smooth palate.  Old Tom is used in the classic Tom Collins cocktail.  Sloe Gin is created using the London Dry Gin as a base into which Sloe berries are steeped for 3 - 4 months.  Their Sloe Gin has lovely almond and marzipan notes on the finish.

 

St. George Spirits

St. George Spirits was founded in 1982 and is an artisan distillery in Alameda, Northern California.  They produce a wide range of products including some more unusual ones such as Absinthe Verte and California Agricole Rum.  St. George Terroir Gin is fresh, oily and highly aromatic with distinct pine aromas.  Distilled with botanicals such as Douglas Fir, Coastal Sage and Californian Bay Laurel, you’ll truly believe you’re in the middle of the Redwood National Park.  St. George Dry Rye is made with a base of 100% rye and has very powerful malty aromas akin to a Rye Whiskey.  This is something special; really unique. St. George Botanivore Gin is made from 19 botanicals including angelica root, bay laurel, coriander, Seville orange peel and star anise.  It is described as a Spring Gin; bright, classic and well balanced.

 

FEW Spirits

FEW Spirits is located in Evanston, Illinois which, for almost a century, was a dry city. It is reputed that FEW’s master distiller overturned the old prohibition laws to become the first distiller of grain spirits within the city limits.  FEW Spirits produce Single Malt Whisky, Bourbon Whiskey, Rye Whiskey, Breakfast Gin, American Gin and Barrel Gin.  FEW Barrel Gin is aged in bourbon barrels to create something really smooth, yet smoky, powerful and gorgeous; a gin with the complexity of a bourbon.

 

Ableforth’s

Ableforth’s was launched in 2011 and is located in Tunbridge Wells in Kent.  It produces a wide range of spirits and liqueurs, all of which are individually wrapped, hand-tied and sealed with wax.  Bathtub Gin was their first product; they also produce Rumbullion, a premium spiced rum and a 91.2% abv cold-distilled absinthe.  The Bathtub Gin range has expanded to include Navy Strength Gin, Sloe Gin, Old Tom, Cask Aged Gin and Cask Aged Navy Strength Gin. They use the traditional method of cold-compounding whereby 6 botanicals are infused with a neutral grain spirit in a copper pot still and filtered out before bottling.  Bathtub Gin is for the classic G&T – a very smooth citrus style.  Cask Aged Gin is as smooth as Bourbon; spicy and extremely soft.  Navy Strength Gin is bold, powerful and junipery with a long finish.  Cask Aged Navy Strength Gin is extremely smoky and packs a punch.  Drink it as you would drink your whiskey.

 

St. George Spirits, FEW Spirits and Ableforth’s are all marketed by Maverick Drinks in the UK.

 

Langley’s

The family-run Langley distillery is located just outside Birmingham and has been producing world-class gin since 1920.  Owned by Alcohols Limited, it is one of the world’s largest independent gin distillers and creates more than 1 million bottles of gin per week for more than 100 brands.  Langley’s No. 8 Distilled London Dry Gin is a very perfumed, classic, citrus gin with a lovely smooth finish.  Langley’s Old Tom Gin is a sweeter style, with bergamot and orange.

 

Langley’s is distributed in the UK by Hi-Spirits.

 

Hernö Gin

From the northernmost point in Sweden and from Sweden’s first distillery dedicated to the production of gin comes the very highly regarded Hernö Gin.  Founded by Jon Hillgren in 2011, Hernö Gin is produced from a base spirit of organic wheat, pure natural water and 8 organic botanicals including Lingon Berries and Meadowsweet.  Hernö Gin has received numerous awards including Boutique Distillery of the Year and the World’s Best Gin for Tonic.  Hernö London Dry Gin is extremely clean and pure; classic citrus and a hint of black pepper.  Hernö Old Tom Gin is sweetened with a touch of honey.  It is floral, rich, junipery and woody.  Hernö Juniper Cask Gin is the world’s first gin to be matured in Juniper wood casks.  Fresh, herbal and aromatic, it is incredibly smooth with a long lasting juniper finish.

 

Hernö Gin is distributed in the UK by YC Group Limited.

 

What an amazing array of great gins!  Thanks to Agile Media for such a superb event.

 

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