Islanders toast Blackwood’s gin expansion plan

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CROFTERS on Shetland will receive a boost after Blackwood’s gin-owner Blavod signed a key deal with supermarket giant Tesco and unveiled plans to expand its operations in the United States.

Aim-quoted Blavod, which also owns brands including Diva vodka, Jagos vodka cream and RedLeg rum – bought the gin label and its sister vodka range out of administration in 2009 for £600,000.

Executive chairman Don Goulding, a former Diageo UK managing director and ­ex-chairman of the industry’s Portman Group, said that America was the next key ­focus for the company.

The firm distills its gin on the Scottish mainland but still buys the wild botanicals – plant extracts such as angelica, coriander, meadowsweet, sea pink flowers and wild water mint – from crofters who ­harvest them on Shetland.

Goulding said: “We’re aiming to double sales of Blackwood’s gin to break through the £1 million barrier for the first time.

“The drink has been popular in Spain and we’ve recently pushed it into Portugal and Switzerland. The limited edition 60 per cent proof gin is proving popular with bar ­tenders, who like a stronger gin to mix in cocktails.

“We’re already selling Blackwood’s gin in America but not across a large number of states. That’s our next target.”

News of Blackwood’s push into the US comes after Blavod unveiled a contract to supply the gin to 188 Tesco supermarkets in England and Wales.

The deal follows on from the firm’s existing contract to ­supply the gin to Tesco outlets north of the Border. The drinks company also makes a Nordic-style vodka under the Blackwood’s brand.

Blavod – which represents a number of prestigious wines, including Bordeaux first-growth Château Lafite Rothschild and Royal Tokaji from Hungary – is also the UK distributor for Bruichladdich, the Islay single malt whisky that was bought by French drinks giant Remy Cointreau in July for a record £58 million.

Goulding revealed he has plans to extend the Blackwood’s gin range, which consists of just the “vintage dry” bottling and the limited edition 60 per cent proof.

“Recent changes to the law mean that you can now make different ‘finishes’ for gins, like Hendrick’s cucumber gin,” explained Goulding. “We’ll be picking botanicals for a new vintage in the spring of 2013.”

Gin has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years, with Glenfiddich distiller William Grant & Sons launching its Hendrick’s brand and Sheep Dip whisky-maker Spencerfield Spirit introducing its ­Edinburgh Gin.

Scotland accounts for 80 per cent of the UK’s gin and vodka production, generating £184m a year.