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Gin – the saviour of the distillery?

 - by Dug

While the economy flounders, gin is enjoying a renaissance with new brands popping up nearly every week. Why is this?

The rise in the popularity of gin is inextricably linked to the cocktail revival and to understand that, we need to look at what has gone before. Both the UK and US have, in the last decade or so, explored good coffee, wine and beer – no longer satisfied with being told what to enjoy by unchanging and stagnant brands; the population has explored the heights of quality and settled into a much better-informed groove. We have taken control of our consumption in key lifestyle areas.

The same can be said for every aspect of life. Chip-board and melamine have been replaced by real wood, polyester and nylon have been replaced by cotton and silk, and we are exploring real food like it is going out of fashion. We have been taking control of our consumption and demanding better quality products.

Let’s face it though, good wine is a joy but even at the epiphanic heights of top-quality wine, it is just wine. There is variation but you are still drinking fermented grape juice – wine is wine, and it can be easy to get a little bored and jaded after a while. The same can be said for coffee; once you know what good coffee is, you know what to look for and you know what to expect. It is good wine, good coffee and good beer, but it is still just wine, coffee and beer.

Cocktails

Cocktails

Cocktails on the other hand, are very different. You can take a small number of good ingredients and embark on a voyage of discovery that sees you drinking something new and different with every refresh of the glass. 12 Bottle Bar is the epitome of this; with just twelve bottles (including bitters) they make hundreds of cocktails accessible to the masses without calling for weird and esoteric ingredients.

I think the cocktail revival is absolutely an expression of this exploration of quality and the rejection of the mundane. I think it’s also and expression of our embracing of novelty. The internet has driven a stream of discovery and novelty into the lives of millions and has connected people with similar interests across disparate locations. One person’s discovery is no longer limited to friends and family – it can be spread across the globe and in such an environment, quality thrives.

This is all very good, but what has this to do with gin saving distilleries?

Distillery

Distillery

Times are hard, the economy is in a shambles and consumer spending is slow. Bastions of the high street have gone under and swathes of small businesses have disappeared. It is only natural that some distilleries are feeling the pinch.

Now, it takes both supply and demand to fuel a successful market and it is a fair assumption that there is demand for gin with the cocktail revival in full-swing. The next piece of the puzzle is the supply; it doesn’t take a rocket scientist at a distillery to identify this demand, but unlike whisky that requires aging, gin is pretty-much ready to bottle and sell as it comes out of the still.

The vodka market is saturated and the increasing demand for gin, potential for instant revenue and the ability to produce a gin that differentiates itself from the competition makes it only sensible to look to gin production to prop-up short-falls in sales.

So while the blossoming of new gin brands is understandable from a demand perspective, it it also natural that the distilleries will turn to gin in order to remain solvent in these difficult times.

It is an interesting thought that the gin revival could be preserving traditional whisky production for future generations.

 

Update: 11/09/2011

I thought I would add a little disclaimer to this post.

This is entirely based on my mental ponderings and is not founded on hard journalistic research or scientific survey. It was supposed to be posed as a question to provoke thought, rather than as fact, or a hypothesis to be explored rather than an authoritative statement; I’m not sure this came across too well in the above post.

I also don’t believe this hypothesis to true for every single case of a distillery branching-out and exploring new products. I think is could be true in some cases.

Ten random questions about gin.

 - by Dug

I love digging through analytics; apart from being interesting to see which posts are attracting the most attention, it can give a real insight into what people are looking for when they land on a site.

Here are ten questions that people typed into Google in the last 30 days. These people ended up here on Gin Journey and their query went unanswered. I doubt they will be back, and the queries are so specific, I doubt the information will really be of much use to many others, but here are some retroactive answers…

 

From where can I buy Rangpur gin?

Tanqueray Rangpur can be bought in a host of online shops (such as The Drinks Finder and The Whisky Exchange), but if you want a bricks-and-mortar shop, then Waitrose is your best bet.

 

How many units are there in a bottle of Tanqueray?

Using the Cleave Books alcohol content calculator, the unit content for a bottle (70cl) each variety of Tanqueray gin is as follows…

 

How to get a distiller’s license?

This is far from easy (as the guys over at Sipsmith will likely tell you). However, this page on the HM Revenue and Customs site has a pretty comprehensive guide.

 

How to make gin and tonic with mint?

You read my post on gin & tonic with mint. Simple.

 

What is in Juniper Green gin?

Juniper Green Gin has surprisingly few botanicals for a gin of its quality; they are…

  • Juniper
  • Coriander
  • Angelica
  • Savory

 

Where can I buy Blackwood’s gin?

As with Tanqueray Rangpur, Blackwood’s gin can be found in a host on online booze shops, but if you want to avoid postage costs, then Sainsbury’s sell it at a very reasonable price.

 

Where can I find Oliver Cromwell 1599 gin in New Jersey?

Unfortunately, you might not be able to. Oliver Cromwell 1599 is a gin produced exclusively for Aldi stores. Aldi are in the USA and the locations of stores in New Jersey can be found here. However, Aldi’s US website only lists beer and wine. It is probably best to pop in to a store and have a look to be sure though.

 

Where is Gordon’s gin produced?

In the UK, Gordon’s Gin is produced in Scotland, but this has only been the case since 1998. Here is a brief timeline of locations…

1769: Gordon’s gin starts production in the Southwark area of London.

1786: Production moves to Goswell Rd in Clerkenwell, London.

1984: Production moves to Laindon, Basildon in Essex.

1998: Production moves to  the Cameron Bridge Distillery in Windygates, Fife.

There are also a series of distilleries across the globe that produce Gordon’s Gin for international distribution. Exact figures are hard to come by, but in 1966, the 13th plant producing Gordon’s gin (the Plainfield Distillery in Illinois, US) opened; how many of these have since closed and how many more have opened, I don’t know.

 

Why can’t you buy litre bottles of gin?

You can my friend, you can.

A quick Google search shows a plethora of brands selling their junipery offering in 1 litre bottles. Of course, I am in the UK and the person posing this question may not be; I am unaware of specific laws in other countries banning the sale of gin in 1 litre quantities.

 

Why is Bombay Sapphire not a gin?

It is.

Some people don’t consider Bombay Sapphire to be a real gin. The definition of gin is a spirit which derives its dominant flavour from juniper berries; Some people hold the view that, in Bombay Sapphire, the juniper is not dominant enough and this has lead to a pseudo-category of spirit dubbed “vodka-gin” where low-juniper gins reside.

I can see the reasoning; at what point does a vodka flavoured with juniper become a gin? Flavour dominance is a very subjective thing and having clear definitions is not going to be possible.

Personally, I class “vodka-gins” as a category of gin; so, in my opinion, Bombay Sapphire is a gin.

 

So, there you have it; not the most interesting post in the world, but one that both entertained me and expanded my own knowledge in a few areas.

Six types of sloe gin

 - by Dug

Back in October I started making a gallon of sloe gin. It was drained, strained filtered and bottled and left to mature a little more. I do intend to share my tasting experiences in the near future as well as a side-by-side comparison against Sipsmith sloe gin, but first I have to share a little moment of crazed diversification I had this week.

Sloe Gin Bottle

Sloe Gin Bottle

I found these rather charming little bottles on a homebrew site (Dorset Homebrew to be precise). I love flanged corks in spirit bottles; that distinctive squeak, followed by a pop epitomises absolutely everything about opening a quality bottle of spirit. This likely comes from my days of drinking whiskey and is one of the simple aural pleasures in life.

Anyway, the short of it was that I wanted some. I knew immediately what I could do with them; I read a smashing-sounding sloe gin recipe over on Gin & Crumpets (you can find it here) that used, amongst other things, star anise and black pepper. They are both fantastic flavours and I really wanted to experiment with both. I decanted my sloe gin into a couple of empty Hendrick’s bottles, although I still had one and a half litres left over. These little bottles have allowed me to decant this into 250ml portions and add individual ingredients to further develop the flavours.

So now I have six 250 ml bottles of sloe gin, each flavoured with one of the following…

  • Star anise
  • Black pepper
  • Cinnamon
  • Vanilla
  • Cardamom

I also have a plain one, if you were wondering where the sixth bottle went.

I am rather looking forward to trying all of these. There are some interesting choices of flavour and I have little doubt that there will be one or two that just don’t work, but I am equally sure that there will be a few spectacular ones, all of which will inform the next batch of sloe gin come autumn.