Is the gin category in danger of losing its way?

16th October, 2013 by Tom Bruce-Gardyne

Despite vague definitions, questionable juniper involvement and an over-saturated category, there’s been a surge in new premium gin brands. But how many will survive?

Gin Masters results

Will the creative freedom associated with gin be its downfall?

“I think it’s always been attractive to make your own hooch,” declares Ricky Christie, the brains behind the new Scottish single malt gin Gilt, which has just won its first UK supermarket listing in Sainsbury’s.

At April’s Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America show in Orlando, he was struck by “the huge buzz around craft distilling. I think it was harking back to the old moonshine days with people selling this ‘naughty, but nice’, illicit side of spirits”.

Over in Chicago, Paul Hletko of Few Spirits describes gin as “one of the more fun spirits to make because there’s so much freedom to be creative and do different stuff. The other nice thing from the business point of view, is that you can produce it quickly. We’ve probably tried 50 different gin recipes – some good, some not so good. In the same time we’ve also tried 50 whisky recipes, but I’ve no idea which are any good yet.”

In the US, gin “certainly has the reputation as the classic British spirit, but microdistillers are having an impact and people are beginning to understand that gin isn’t exclusively out of the city of London”, says Hletko. “A lot of us small distillers are trying to carve out our own style of gin and create something different.” Like many, he sees no point in simply replicating London dry gins which the Brits have down to a T.

“The American style is going to be less juniper and a lot more citrus-forward. We make three gins and our mainstream one has a very soft, gentle, grain-forward style.”

The other driver for a different style may be the quality of tonic water in the States which tends to be less bitter, and sweetened with fructose or corn syrup. When mixed with a gin packed with juniper, the resulting G&T has not always been a happy experience. “I would say half the people who come through the door have a bad prejudice against gin,” says Scott Harris of the Catoctin Creek distillery in Virginia. “It’s a very polarising spirit, and we come across a lot of non-drinkers who have this negative image from college, and this idea of ‘Oh, it’s just pine needles’.”

One Response to “Is the gin category in danger of losing its way?”

  1. Jon Hillgren says:

    Nice to see Kierstin on picture. She works at Hernö Gin Distillery in Sweden, the worlds northernmost.

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