The Gin Masters 2013 results

11th July, 2013 by Becky Paskin

Judges were on the whole, highly impressed by the creativity, innovation and high quality at this year’s Gin Masters, reports Becky Paskin.

Gin Masters results

Innovation and premiumisation were the mantras of the day at The Gin Masters 2013

Every so often a Spirit Masters competition can present a striking snapshot of a category’s progression, and a glimpse of where it is headed in the future.

It happened that The Gin Masters 2013 was one such competition, presenting the judges with an eye-opening indication of where demand lies within the category, and the scale of innovation occurring.

This year’s event drew a larger number of entries than any previous gin round – with a diverse selection spread across all categories – as well as the greatest medal haul of any Gin Masters to date.

True to form, the British weather disappointed the judges with a miserable day on London’s Canary Wharf; a less than optimal climate to be tasting this most refreshing of spirits.

Nevertheless, with a stunning view of the O2 Stadium and its mountaineers, across the river Thames from The Gun’s grand River Room, our Gin Masters judges gathered eagerly.

Joining myself as chair this month were Barny Ingram, bar manager at The Gun; Emma Stokes of Gin Monkey; Mark Connolly, range manager of Spirited Wines; Herchelle Perez Terrado, spirits buyer for Waitrose; Anne Jones, media manager for wines, beers & spirits at Waitrose; and Sean Connolly, bar manager at The Botanist.

First up was the standard round, which immediately commanded the judges’ attention and applause. “I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of some of these gins,” exclaimed Gin Monkey’s Stokes. “Some were heavily dominant on the juniper, but you’d expect that with this level of gin so they can shine through with tonic.”

So impressed were they with the quality emanating from the standard entries, the judges awarded a medal to the majority of gins in the round.

“It was great to see such great quality at low price levels, and such a diverse range on the market,” added Waitrose’s Jones. “One or two in particular stood out as being fantastic value.”


Mark Connolly and Barny Ingram get stuck into the day’s gin selection

The quality was obviously high in the standard round, with most entries juniper led, London Dry styles, and few straying from the traditional botanicals found in most gins. Consumers are apparently seeking quality and not innovation at this low price point (all were under £12).

That quickly changed when we approached the next two categories: premium and super-premium, where creativity and diversity was the name of the game.

While premiums turned out to be another medal-attracting round, garnering five Masters, three Golds and three Silvers, at least two gins warranted some debate from the judges, divided over their flavour profiles and heavy reliance on unusual botanicals. One in particular upset Stokes for its apparent absence of juniper. “For me it really pushed the boundary too far of what a gin can be. The fruit flavours were too heavy and masked the other botanicals,” she said.

The largest category of the day turned out to be the super-premiums – somewhat reflective of which end of the market is witnessing the lion’s share of sales growth.

“The size of the super-premium category was noticeably much bigger this year than in previous years, reflecting a shift in demand in the general gin market towards high-end products,” noted Daisy Jones, associate publisher of The Spirits Business and organiser of The Spirit Masters.

“People are obviously willing to spend a bit more on their gin these days.” While some high-end brands charge a premium that’s not reflected in the quality, every gin entered in this category delivered spectacularly on aroma, taste and consistency.

“They were a real step up from the standard and premium categories,” said Perez Terrado. “The ceiling for gin is stretching into the super-premium level and people are starting to look for products that deliver consistency across nose, palate and packaging. The category was pleasingly vast with many flavour profiles represented from traditional juniper to herbaceous gins in all their glory.” The Gun’s Ingram agreed, adding that the “growing demand in this price bracket makes for a very exciting time for gin”.


The Gin Masters 2013 judges: Mark Connolly, range manager of Spirited Wines; Anne Jones, media manager for wines, beers & spirits at Waitrose; Gin Monkey (Emma Stokes); Sean Connolly, bar manager at The Botanist; Becky Paskin, deputy editor of The Spirits Business; Herchelle Perez Terrado, spirits buyer for Waitrose; and Barny Ingram, bar manager at The Gun.

The other category that surprised the judges with its large number of entries was the micro-distillery round, which indicates the rising number of craft distilleries and small-batch products on the market. However as Stokes remarked, craft doesn’t necessarily equal quality. “I was surprised that the micro-distilleries didn’t score higher but I’ve always been an advocate that small and boutique doesn’t always mean better, so I guess I’ve ended up proving my own point.”

Rounding off the day on a positive note was the spiced gin round, which contained just one solo entry but returned a Master. Judges commented on the gin’s balanced yet unique flavour profile, and praised the use of unusual spices as botanicals.

“It’s good to see some innovation refreshing the category which is a reflection of just how much consumers are willing to try something new,” said Mark Connolly. “It would be fair to say that some, such as the spiced gin, were more successful than others, but producers are obviously giving great thought to the quality of the spirit and botanicals they use.”

Overall the day’s judging showed a great deal of excitement for the category that has been described as ‘stagnant’ in the past, but with some sure signs of production innovation, creative use of untraditional botanicals and a swell of new brands at the super-premium end, gin’s future, unlike the Great British summer, looks refreshingly bright.

The full list of The Gin Masters 2013 results are on the following pages.

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