Are there too many “premium” gins?

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During my seemingly endless sabbatical, I’ve had half-an-eye on the world of gin and noted the many new releases in recent months; one of the things I’ve clocked is that almost every new gin released costs north of £30.

Cash Register

Cash Register

18 months ago, a gin priced at £30 would have been a relatively rare thing and it would have almost been guaranteed to be good. These days, every gin released is “very special” in some way or other and is firmly placed in the upper-premium price-bracket. Are there really that many top-notch gins hitting the market or are there just lots of overpriced, or sub-standard (depending on how you look at it) gins launching in an attempt to cash-in on the new wave of interest in gin?

Ultimately, gin is relatively easy to produce compared to, say, whisky,  which needs years of ageing, and anyone with the right skills and an idle still can crank it out. This is a somewhat over-simplified view which besmirches the awesome talents of master distillers but it serves a purpose for the argument. New gins are flooding the market and while a few years ago we saw excellent gins launching at reasonable prices (for example, Brecon, Sipsmith, Whitley Neill), very little in the last year has released without a £30+ price-tag.

On a personal and somewhat trivial level , this irks me; my hobby is getting more and more expensive. On a more serious level, I’m questioning whether there are really that many gins which justify the price-tag.

Two years ago, I nearly coughed-up my own pelvis at the price of No.3 and Oxley. Gin at this prices was uncommon and the gins were of tremendous quality. Now, you only have to go to somewhere like Master of Malt and sort by price to see what I’m talking about – 50% of the gins on sale there are over the £30-mark.

The only way to find out for sure will be to try them all and, even then, taste is a very subjective thing, so I doubt there will ever be a definitive answer to these questions I pose here.

Crown Jewel Gin

Gone by the wayside: Crown Jewel Gin

On a less subjective note, the populous spends on a bell-curve; from budget gins at one tail, to mid-range gins in the fat-middle and premium gins at the other tail. If product releases are skewed toward the premium-end of the curve, this is unsustainable at best. With too little spending to go around and too many products on the market, many brands will end-up discontinued. My main concern is how many great brands will we lose because the market is flooded with overpriced guff? You would hope that great brands will stand the test of time and endure, but history is littered with great gins that have since gone the way of that goldfish from the fairground.

To my mind, a £30+ bottle of gin should be really special. Something that you buy a friend as a present. Something you recommend when someone asks, “Bob likes his gin – can you recommend a good one for his leaving present?”. Something you leave on the shelf and drink sparingly to make it last. Something that makes you utter “Wow!” every time you crack-open that bottle.

I can imagine it being hard for the creators of gin too. They spend months or years researching and experimenting, to eventually concoct what they think is the bees-knees; of course they will think that their creation compares with the best. However, there needs to be an extensive, objective assessment of where a product sits within the various price brackets.

The world needs more gins like Brecon; an excellent gin at a very reasonable price. I suppose that there’s an argument that this one went the other way and didn’t price high enough – but everyone loves their top-quality bargain and I think that’s a pricing strategy unto itself. On the flip-side, no one wants a rip-off, which brings me full circle really.

What do you think? Do the recent barrage of premium gin releases justify their price-tag, or are we just seeing egos inflating prices? Have you discovered any bargains recently?


Cash Register image courtesy of Jo Jackman on flickr

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