Not only have I been celebrating five years of blogging this month, but there’s also been World Gin Day – which coincided with National Rosé Day – and World Martini Day to toast. And, as if that wasn’t enough, I’ve also had the honour of judging about 260 gins for the International Wine & Spirits Competition Awards 2021! Read on to find out what happens behind the scenes and who won some of the top medals.
Figures released by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association this month show that off-trade sales of gin equated to an incredible 80 million bottles, worth £1.3 billion, up 30% in a year. Of that, around 40% of the total gin market was made up of sales of flavoured gin which broke the £500 million barrier for the first time.
“Our latest gin numbers underline that reports of gin’s demise as the ‘go-to’ spirit are wrong. Sales of gin have never been this high in our shops and supermarkets before – but this is encouraging news for our reawakening hospitality industry, too – some of these sales are certain to shift over to pubs, bars and restaurants.”Miles Beale, Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association
Furthermore, the WSTA reported that the total number of distilleries registered in the UK in 2020 grew to over 560, up from over 440 in 2019, with the number of distilleries in England almost tripling since 2016.
In sadder news, production at Victory London Distillery has ground to a halt with Brexit causing issues with the sourcing of their glass bottles, and their plastic-free refill cans also getting stuck at the border for weeks. With enviable determination not to go back to using single-use plastic, Victory have instead decided to accelerate their full rebrand which was initially planned for later in the year. You can now expect to see Victory’s new look, and more sustainable bottles, on 1st August so be prepared to lend them your support.
New Gin Alerts
June saw a World Martini Day Gin produced in collaboration with Locksley Distilling, and the launch of Mr (Marco Pierre) White’s Gin which is described as juniper-forward and includes botanicals such as orange, lemon verbena and fresh lavender. I also couldn’t resist purchasing a bottle of The Sourcing Table’s new limited edition bottling of Capreolus’ Garden Swift Gin aged in a Tokaji barrel.
My Month in Gin
This month saw The Gin Guild’s Ginposium 2021 go live, and free to view, online. With a wonderful range of interesting seminars, including Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller discussing The Distiller of London, it was an honour to take part in a panel tasting and discussion with David T Smith, Alice Pearson (Cotswolds Distillery), Rosie Milsom (ATOM Brands), Emma Stokes (aka Gin Monkey) and Bernadette Pamplin (Under The Ginfluence). Watch below to find out our thoughts on Supercritical Gin, Procera Green Dot, Hendrick’s Amazonia, Citadelle Jardin d’été, Bombay Sapphire Sunset, Adnam’s Jardin Mexicano, No. 3 Cotswold’s Wildflower and Tanqueray Blackcurrant Royale.
It was also a privilege – and a whole lot of fun – to join the International Wine & Spirit Competition judging earlier this month. Taking place in London for the first time, 2021 was the biggest spirits judging in IWSC history with 80 experts judging over 4,000 samples. IWSC judges sit in panels of 3-4, privately blind-tasting and assessing spirits in flights of about 10-12. Afterwards scores are discussed and medals agreed, with Gold and Gold Outstanding medals also approved by a member of the Spirits Judging Committee. Initially a pretty nerve-wracking experience, I’ve come to really enjoy the process, from testing my palate with new gins to discussing my opinions with, and learning from the experience of, my fellow judges. (And the almost obligatory cocktails at Bar Swift afterwards are always enjoyable too!).
Gin was the biggest category this year with the spirit making up over 1,000 of the entries and Contemporary gin seeing the largest growth in medal winners. The competition sees around 60% of all entries receiving a medal so congratulations to all the winners, but especially to the makers of Biggar Strength Gin and Lantic Gin Winter Botanicals who both won Gold Outstanding, Hernö Old Tom Gin, Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz and Hapusā who all claimed Gold, and Gŵyr Rhosili Dragon Strength Gin who achieved a Silver. The full results are available here with the overall trophy winners to be announced on 5 July.
Welcome to My Collection
This month I have gratefully received The Oxford Artisan Distillery’s Organic Dry Gin which featured in my Gin Magazine article on sustainability (now available online), Staffordshire’s Sixtowns Gin in its stunning Wade bottle inspired by the county’s famous potteries and bottle kilns, and not one but two bottles from Hrafn Gin: their brand new Cranachan Gin launching tomorrow (1st July) and Valkyrie Gin which has already won my heart and (almost certainly) a place in my top ten for the year!
Thank you also to Ice Club for a discovery pack of their extraordinarily clear ice cubes, to York Gin for their brand new Gin & Tonics in a tin, and to Georgie & Henners for their tempting tasting trio. And thanks to me for my sample of John Robert’s Botanic Request London Dry Gin and their Buttered Washed Salted Martini, which went down a treat on World Martini Day!
Catching Up and Looking Forward
With so much going on this month I’m still yet to write my #GinADayMay recap (sorry!) but hopefully I’ll get that done soon. And in the meantime, there’s the London Cocktail Week Warm-Up to enjoy celebrating 30 of the city’s venues that have no outside space and have suffered the most from a summer reopening. Better yet, if you grab your wristband now it will also be valid for the main month-long event in October! 🍸🛎🛎