Gin is booming, without a doubt, but we’re also starting to see something of a backlash. A backlash against gin-and-tonic everything (see #StopFuckingWithGin), a backlash against flavoured gin (see Hayman’s Call Time on Fake Gin campaign) and a backlash against both a lack of transparency and the misuse of terminology such as “artisan” and “handcrafted”. There are certainly people out there making small scale craft gin by hand, but they have to compete against the big brands – brands with money and trademarks, many of which are not even making their own gin – just to get noticed. I believe that now, more than ever, these small businesses and micro-distilleries deserve a bigger platform and greater promotion, to which I hope to contribute. One such producer is Deerness Distillery.
When so many new gins are launching every month in the UK and further afield, how do we bloggers and enthusiasts keep up? I like to keep a close eye on Instagram and Twitter where I share my finds with a #newginalert, while gin festivals are also a great way to not only hear about new releases but taste them too. I can still walk into a bar or pub and spot a gin that I’ve yet to try, but it’s pretty rare that I’ll never even have heard of it before. But that was how I first came across Inshriach Gin, and that was just the beginning of this serendipitous story.
A shed can be many things, from a small store for the lawnmower to a comfortable place of retreat, but few sheds contain gin distilleries. And even fewer distilleries are housed in an award-winning Shed of the Year. But that is from where Inshriach Gin hails; 2015’s Shed of the Year on the Inshriach Estate, deep in the Cairngorms National Park. Where better, then, to hold the London launch of the newest edition to the range, Inshriach Navy Strength 57%, than East London’s stunning Shed Village; itself a contender for Shed of the Year in 2016?
It is not an easy task to keep up with the new distilleries, and new gins, being launched at the moment. Nor can it be easy, as a small batch distillery, to get your name out and your voice heard above the din of the competition. Some things help though: a good story; a beautiful bottle; a sell-out first batch! Avva Gin had all this, and more, as they wisely teamed up with The Juniper Club to become the gin subscription service’s second gin of the month in November 2016.
Recent years have seen the craft gin market grow exponentially. And the truth is that while some new gins are exceptional, many are not. And while many new gins embrace an ever expanding list of increasingly unusual botanicals, some work and some don’t. Some gins taste distinctive but many don’t. That doesn’t necessarily make them a bad gin of course, but without seeing the bottle some gins are just not that easy to identify, particularly when mixed with tonic water. It was this that Dale and Vicky McQueen wanted to address when they launched McQueen Gin. From the very beginning they were determined to create something different and distinctive. McQueen Gin was never going to conform.
It must be easy, when you create an award-winning, best-selling spirit, to rest on your laurels; to take it easy, sit back and let the money roll in. This, I would suggest, is an alien concept to Alex and Jane Nicol, founders and co-owners of The Spencerfield Spirit Company. Prior to setting up Spencerfield Spirits, Alex Nicol, a keen whisky aficionado, held executive directorships at Glenmorangie and Beefeater Gin (amongst others). Now a close-knit, family-run business, the story of Spencerfield Spirits, and their passion for continuous innovation, dates back to the mid-1700s.
Scotland is, famously, saturated with both gin and castles. And now the Queen, resident of Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire and well-known to enjoy a daily Dubonnet and Gin before lunch, has a new local tipple to try as Esker Gin launches in Royal Deeside. Indeed, one of Esker’s central botanicals hails from Balmoral’s neighbouring Kincardine Castle Estate.
On one of the northernmost tips of the British Isles, in Dunnet Bay, lies a distillery, and a gin, born of the earth. Martin and Claire Murray opened Dunnet Bay Distillers in August 2014 with the goal of creating spirits which “reflect the Caithness way”. It took over 55 experiments to perfect their gin recipe but they eventually settled upon a combination of local and traditional botanicals, which only they know, and Rock Rose Gin was born.