There is no denying that gin is one of the world’s fastest growing spirits, with Scottish gin in particular undergoing a massive revival.
The flexibility of the recipes, and relative simplicity of its production, makes gin the perfect spirit for those looking to create and sell their own brand.
Like an enlightened version of the gin craze era, craft gin distilleries are popping up all across the UK as well as globally.
This has in turn led to a passion from consumers for exploring new brands and new ways of enjoying the spirit, be it with garnishes, tonics or in cocktails.
Last year alone, British drinkers consumed around the equivalent of 1.12 billion G&Ts, according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, while sales were up in both the on-trade (19 per cent) and the off-trade (13 per cent).
Production and export are also on the rise with new gin distilleries opening every month and around 140 countries around the world now enjoying British made gin.
Scotland leads the way in distillation, with over 70 per cent of the production of the gin consumed in the UK occurring north of the border, and according to market research site Euromonitor, sales of the white spirit could soon overtake the sales of blended whisky in the UK by 2019.
With the recent success of World Gin Day and the Scottish Juniper Festival, as well as the fact that Brits spent £136 million on gin over the festive period, we thought we’d ask some industry experts why they think gin has become so massively popular.
Tony Reeman-Clark, founder of Strathearn Distillery, which produces a variety of Scottish gins, says that the movement towards consumers choosing quality over quantity is reflected not just in gin but also craft beer and other spirits too, he said: “Gin is leading a renaissance in craft spirits, rather like the bitters and pale ales of the CAMRA revolution. People want flavour, provenance and something a bit different.
“The vast range of gins gives people the chance to explore. But it also leads to many other areas; cocktails are resurgent, different tonics and other mixers. Gin is in at the minute and will remain so, but just like in craft beers, you will see the emergence of other types; rum, Genevre, etc are all just around the corner.
“Drink less, drink better.”
Graeme Mackay, shop manager for the Goods Spirits Company in Glasgow, believes the surge in popularity is down to drinkers becoming more adventurous and knowledgeable, he said: “The resurgence of gin is showing no sign of abating for us, with the shop regularly stocking 100 or so bottles and many new arrivals every week or so.
“In terms of volume gin is certainly one of our most successful categories, with our gin tastings in particular selling out extremely quickly.
“I think much of it has to do with trends we see in the food industry. Customers are far more aware of provenance and are seeking out local, smaller scale companies where possible. We see less brand loyalty and more customer experimentation.
“Similarly, high quality tonic water and other mixers have never been so widely available. Customers now have lots of knowledge and are requesting particular gins and tonic combinations, as well as being aware of their favoured garnish or cocktail recipe.”
Gin expert and creator of the Gin Room Scotland Jayne Carmichael Norrie is of the opinion that provenance plays a big part in consumer’s choices, she said: “The popularity of Gin is reflective of a Global macro-trend of people seeking Value rather than Volume. Millennials are now influencing global shopping habits as many of them are now adults with their own disposable income.
“Overall people are more interested in Thinking Globally but Acting Locally, the provenance of the product, what makes it unique, and how much from the sale of the Gin is reinvested in the local area.
“Shoppers are more aware of using their buying power to support small local businesses, and positive business practices. I think Brexit will be good for the gin industry, when the pound takes a nosedive it will make Scottish products more affordable and a new Gin Tourism industry will develop.”
The New Producer
Robert Armstrong-Wilson, founder of the Kelso Gin Company, enjoys the diversity of his chosen spirit and says it’s the main reason it appeals so universally, he explains: “The popularity of gin can be attributed to the small craft distillery reinventing and rebranding what is a most beautiful and refreshing drink.
“Gin, is a marketer’s dream; a national treasure, it is consumed by both sexes and can be enjoyed at any time of the day.
Armstrong-Wilson, whose company has just become the first distillery to release gin produced in the Borders for over 180 years, attributes Hendrick’s gin as the first to blaze the trail for craft gin producers, he added: “Now the world of gin has exploded and has hundreds of intriguing recipes and suggested garnishes for the discerning fan and there is so much competition out there with so many flavours and types of branding.
“Admittedly a large number of small producers will disappear, as they struggle to keep up in this ever expanding market. The public’s taste buds may also shift to the next big thing then the large distilleries who produce whiskey etc will cut back or cease gin production to concentrate on their preferred tipple, vastly reducing what will be available but for now, this very British drink loved by the world over.
“Enjoyed by Glaswegian beer drinkers and Russian vodka lovers, quaffed by everyone from my 81 year old mother to my friend’s teenage children in cool bars in Edinburgh .
“We are now lucky to be able take full advantage of the amazing variety out there, from the juniper lead monkey juice made in tiny little sheds in the back streets of Kelso to the gin made in ancient distilleries on the western isles.
He firmly believes that gin is here to stay and will continue to gain huge traction in the world of drinks due to the sheer diversity in products.
“Why? Because it’s a beautiful drink and we are so lucky to have the choice between drinking a London Dry or a Heather gin, or enjoying a compounded fruit gin or even a spiced Gin.
“The world has reinvented a perfectly reasonable recipe into a plethora of flavours and styles and we love it ”
• Main picture: César Viteri Ramirez on Flickr