You may have noticed that the popularity of gin has skyrocketed in the last few years and the signs are that it isn’t going to land anytime soon. Indeed, there’s a well-known single malt distiller in Scotland who says that sales of their gin, which was only launched in 2011, are set to overtake sales of their whisky.
This all got me thinking as to why and how gin has changed from a fuddy duddy tipple for ladies who lunch to an á la mode potation for the sophisticated and fashionable.
Part of its success could be because of the way it is served in the southern Mediterranean – in a balloon glass with lots of ice and a vast array of garnishes. Holidaymakers would then head home and create their own Gintonica. Also the fact that now bar-tending isn’t just seen as a summer job but as a professional career in its own right, with bartenders being much more innovative and creative in their work.
This gin-aissance has produced a craft-beer type of industry all over the world – in the last year alone there were 50 new gin distilleries in the UK! Their artisanal approach is clearly working – if only winemaking could be seen in the same light, as after all winemakers are craftsmen: they plant and tend to the vines, harvest the fruit when it’s perfectly ripe and then make the wine! It is even more skilled than most distillers as they don’t just buy the main ingredient to make the base spirit.
Anyway, back to gin. It isn’t just acceptable to put another gin on the shelves – the contemporary gin tippler wants authenticity, history and to know about the people who make it. They want to know where was it made? By whom? In what size batches? And by what methods?
There are a few things that might just slow the gin revival – the first is the cost. Unfortunately, it just isn’t possible for a craft gin to compete with the prices of Gordons, Beefeater and Plymouth as the scale of production is so small. Also there is a fear that the desire to be different could mean they are tempted to experiment with different flavours – just like the vodka trend in the 1990’s. There are already some sweet gins available – mostly marketed to people who don’t actually like the taste of gin but who want to be seen as fashionable. Thankfully the majority, and those which are most popular, have more interesting spicy, bitter and herbal flavours.
Over the last few years as we have seen a rise in the offers of new gin we get an email nearly every day from another distiller. But as with our wine, we keep the right selection on Le Bon Vin’s shelves. We choose the most flavoursome, unusual or just plain excellent gin. In 2016 we welcomed Friday Chic Gin from Portugal which sits well with the others on the shelves and more recently we received Echlinville Gin from the distillery of the same name (read more here) and the premium Forest Gin. There’s Hobart No.4 from Tasmania from the makers of the World’s Best Whisky which has won awards at the 2016 Gin Masters competition. We also have Ireland’s only single-estate gin that uses vapour distilling to infuse the botanicals (Jawbox Belfast Cut), finally Sheffield’s own Sir Robin of Locksley – you may have seen the iconic bright green packaging and filigree label design.
So what comes next? We do expect this boom to slow, but only a little bit, the gin-ophiles will find their favourites, be it a London Dry, Old Tom, Genever or one of the new wave.
Whatever you choose – and don’t forget to use a good quality mixer as, like Fever-Tree says, ¾ of a drink is a mixer so choose the best – try a Gin Tonica – grab a chilled balloon glass, fill it with ice, pour in a generous measure of your chosen gin and serve with a special garnish. Let the gin-aissance continue!
See the article published on the Sheffield Telegraph website here.