Limited-edition gins were predicted to be big in 2017 and, just four months in, that certainly seems to be the case. However, producing and marketing such experimental gins can be an expensive gamble; one that, despite potentially offering great rewards, is often too risky for micro-distilleries to attempt single-handed. Increasingly, distilleries are turning to a third party to help produce their limited-edition gins by spreading their risk and providing a platform to market the end product.
Craft Gins is one such party, passionate about promoting Craft Gin distilleries and mixers. And, luckily for all us gin-lovers, they have just started to foray into the world of limited-edition gins too. Craft Gins began life when three friends, Jass, Roberto and Tim, opened two independent spirits shops, Tomoka Spirits Boutique, in Hertfordshire in 2012. Back then, they stocked all sorts of booze but, from the beginning, had a particular passion for small batch and craft spirits. They pride themselves on being an early stockist of Warner Edwards, Tarquins and Masons and, as their gin shelves in the shops grew from from 12 to 80 bottles, they decided, in 2015, to set up a website to focus on the craft gin sector.
The first challenge that greeted them was agreeing what the potentially contentious term ‘craft gin’ meant. Jass, Roberto and Tim decided that, for them at least, it meant gins created and produced by independent distillers with their own stills (rather than contract distilling). Immediately this resulted in them dropping from the website some of their favourite gins, such as Botanist and Monkey 47. On the other hand, they created some fairly persuasive arguments to retain others, including Portobello Road (who still create their limited-edition gins in-house) and Sipsmith (who are, rightly, recognised as pioneers of the craft gin movement despite their recent partial sale to Beam Suntory).
“Craft in distilling means many things to different people but, for us at Craft Gins, it means spirits created with care and passion in small batches by independent distillers and distilleries. These pioneering distillers bring with them a flair for innovation and creativity, re-creating vintage styles of gin from past centuries and cultivating locally grown botanicals in their own back gardens. What unites them all is a profound enthusiasm for artisan distilling and a belief that the best things really do come in small batches!”
Craft Gins’ website, which launched in October 2016, is more than just an online shop; it truly does pay homage to some of the best gins in the business. The close relationships Jass, Roberto and Tim established with some of the micro-distilleries in their mutual early days really shines through on the website, which promotes the distilleries with stories – and a level of detail – you rarely find elsewhere, least of all on commercial retail sites.
“Working with this new generation of passionate and creative distillers encouraged us to put together a website dedicated to them and their extraordinary gins. We are sure you will find their stories just as fascinating and engaging as we have.”
The stand-out feature of the Craft Gins website is their focus on provenance. Every gin distiller (and tonic producer) has a page dedicated to the story behind their launch and products. In addition to this, there is a wealth of information on each individual gin, a nifty interactive map to help you locate your nearest craft gin distillery, and a comprehensive search function allowing you to discover gins by their dominant flavours, be that pepper spice or summer fruits. What particularly appeals to me about Craft Gins is that it is clearly produced by people with passion, who want to help you find a gin that you will love, rather than merely trying to make a quick buck.
Enthusiastic to capitalise on their close relationships, and keen to give people the opportunity to taste different expressions from each distillery, Craft Gins officially launched their limited-edition range in March 2017. It is an exciting (and, of course, financially lucrative) opportunity for Craft Gins but, in return, they offer distilleries an online platform as well as an opportunity for brand recognition that they wouldn’t really get working with other companies such as That Boutique-y Gin Company who produce their own (albeit stunning) labels.
This, presumably, is what excited Hackney-based micro-distillery 58 Gin about working with Craft Gins. 58 Gin was originally a one-man operation, launched by Mark Marmont in 2014, and is still one of London’s smallest micro-distilleries. 58 Gins have previously produced a limited-edition 58% gin as well as sloe, elderflower and Oregon grape gins, and now they have collaborated with Craft Gins to produce a small run of just 270 bottles. And the bottle is an absolute stunner; 58 Gin’s Art Deco style logo, designed by celebrated tattoo artist Mo Coppoletta, recreated in stunning bronze with a matching burnished wax seal.
The classic London Dry-style gin features Javan cubeb pepper and Indian liquorice root, to add exotic spicy notes, and lemon, blood orange and pink grapefruit peel to provide refreshing citrus flavours. 58 Gin Limited Edition is classically juniper-heavy on the nose. To taste, there is juniper to the fore but with subtle hints of citrus and warming, spicy notes on the finish. It is a soft gin, despite its 43% ABV, with a mellow mouthfeel. Craft Gins recommend serving this gin as a G&T with a twist of blood orange zest, or mixed with Sicilian Lemon Tonic and a sprig of lemon thyme; I found the lemon tonic a little overpowering in the latter but, as a straight G&T, it is undoubtedly a classic.
58 Gin Limited Edition is a wonderful gin and a worthy addition to any shelf. But there will no doubt be plenty more to come from Craft Gins. In addition to extending their regular, largely British, gin range, and adding more mixers to their current range of BTW, Fever-Tree and Square Root London, they are also in talks with a number of distilleries about producing more special-edition gins. I’m told one of these is Masons Gin, which is very exciting and, given that they have previously produced a limited-edition gin with Southwestern Distillery (Tarquin’s Blood Orange and Lavender Gin, which sadly sold out prior to the launch of the website) we can but hope there is something on the horizon from them too. It is definitely a website worth keeping a close eye on!
Purchase 58 Gin Limited Edition from Craft Gins at £39.95 for 50cl.
With thanks to Craft Gins for the complimentary bottle of 58 Gin Limited Edition.