Are there too many “premium” gins?

During my seemingly endless sabbatical, I’ve had half-an-eye on the world of gin and noted the many new releases in recent months; one of the things I’ve clocked is that almost every new gin released costs north of £30.

Cash Register

Cash Register

18 months ago, a gin priced at £30 would have been a relatively rare thing and it would have almost been guaranteed to be good. These days, every gin released is “very special” in some way or other and is firmly placed in the upper-premium price-bracket. Are there really that many top-notch gins hitting the market or are there just lots of overpriced, or sub-standard (depending on how you look at it) gins launching in an attempt to cash-in on the new wave of interest in gin?

Ultimately, gin is relatively easy to produce compared to, say, whisky,  which needs years of ageing, and anyone with the right skills and an idle still can crank it out. This is a somewhat over-simplified view which besmirches the awesome talents of master distillers but it serves a purpose for the argument. New gins are flooding the market and while a few years ago we saw excellent gins launching at reasonable prices (for example, Brecon, Sipsmith, Whitley Neill), very little in the last year has released without a £30+ price-tag.

On a personal and somewhat trivial level , this irks me; my hobby is getting more and more expensive. On a more serious level, I’m questioning whether there are really that many gins which justify the price-tag.

Two years ago, I nearly coughed-up my own pelvis at the price of No.3 and Oxley. Gin at this prices was uncommon and the gins were of tremendous quality. Now, you only have to go to somewhere like Master of Malt and sort by price to see what I’m talking about – 50% of the gins on sale there are over the £30-mark.

The only way to find out for sure will be to try them all and, even then, taste is a very subjective thing, so I doubt there will ever be a definitive answer to these questions I pose here.

Crown Jewel Gin

Gone by the wayside: Crown Jewel Gin

On a less subjective note, the populous spends on a bell-curve; from budget gins at one tail, to mid-range gins in the fat-middle and premium gins at the other tail. If product releases are skewed toward the premium-end of the curve, this is unsustainable at best. With too little spending to go around and too many products on the market, many brands will end-up discontinued. My main concern is how many great brands will we lose because the market is flooded with overpriced guff? You would hope that great brands will stand the test of time and endure, but history is littered with great gins that have since gone the way of that goldfish from the fairground.

To my mind, a £30+ bottle of gin should be really special. Something that you buy a friend as a present. Something you recommend when someone asks, “Bob likes his gin – can you recommend a good one for his leaving present?”. Something you leave on the shelf and drink sparingly to make it last. Something that makes you utter “Wow!” every time you crack-open that bottle.

I can imagine it being hard for the creators of gin too. They spend months or years researching and experimenting, to eventually concoct what they think is the bees-knees; of course they will think that their creation compares with the best. However, there needs to be an extensive, objective assessment of where a product sits within the various price brackets.

The world needs more gins like Brecon; an excellent gin at a very reasonable price. I suppose that there’s an argument that this one went the other way and didn’t price high enough – but everyone loves their top-quality bargain and I think that’s a pricing strategy unto itself. On the flip-side, no one wants a rip-off, which brings me full circle really.

What do you think? Do the recent barrage of premium gin releases justify their price-tag, or are we just seeing egos inflating prices? Have you discovered any bargains recently?

 

Cash Register image courtesy of Jo Jackman on flickr

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8 thoughts on “Are there too many “premium” gins?

  • August 27, 2013 at 3:17 am
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    I agree with what you’ve written but should point out that existing gins are trending upwards. Plymouth has jumped nearly £10 in a year and priced itself right out of my “regular tipple” category.

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    • September 21, 2013 at 8:26 pm
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      Blimey, you’re right! It has shot up in price hasn’t it?

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  • September 20, 2013 at 2:09 pm
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    Not sure how much demand there is, or will continue to be, at this price point. The proliferation of new releases will make it more difficult for all these premium gins to succeed. There is just too much choice out there.

    Currently at Tesco, the crap Hoxton gin is at £10 off. Having said that, even the highly rated No 3 is £8 off – £26 for 70cl. Not such a bad deal

    Reply
  • October 12, 2013 at 1:06 am
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    Not sure if that was aimed at me Dug but will proceed as it was:

    Pernod Ricard have been very blunt in that they want to move their product “up market” and because history isn’t something that should be changed the price point will have to suffice. Instead of sending out review samples like confetti and hoping people like your good self like it for the money they’ve gone with the emperors new clothes gambit.

    Haha whoops just found your review, seems you thought of it as something in the region of insipid? I’ve found it great in things like a Last word, a Bramble and even a simple Tom Collins. The St Germain & vodka drink you mention at the start of the review should be another great use for it as well!

    Reply
    • October 12, 2013 at 7:35 pm
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      Hi “And”,

      I’m going on inference as to who you are, so forgive me if this makes no sense (I might have it wrong).

      It wasn’t aimed at you at all – it wasn’t until after I wrote this piece that I found out about your price changes. I was mainly commenting on the propensity for new gins to be targeting that top-tier price bracket and not really being worthy – I think this will damage the deserved reputation and sales of those that should be in that price-bracket. Market forces will solve the problem eventually but we will likely see some fine gins become collateral damage.

      To be honest, I’ve never been overly happy with the review you refer to. Some of my earlier attempts could do with revisiting and that one needs it the most. Yours is also the brand that has caused me a great degree of self-doubt; everyone I speak to loves your gin and while taste is a very subjective thing, I sometimes wonder if I got that one very wrong. I don’t cope with subtlety very well and tend to prefer more forthright, blatant flavours but I’ve learned a lot since then and maybe it’s time to reassess and expand.

      Reply
  • January 7, 2014 at 1:15 am
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    Dug, I should have put “was that a reply to me?” instead of “aimed at me” I wanted to indicate my post was a reply to you as I can’t work out who is talking to who in the layout of this comments section. I’m pretty sure you’ve got it wrong as to who I am – a mere consumer of gin in the liquid and written form. That was one of the times I had been doing both simultaneously so my tone might have been off, rest assured I was and am only speaking as an enthusiast not a shadowy industry figure hoping you’d change your opinions, I don’t even blog!

    Saying that I stand by my comment. I find Plymouth a great base in the sweet, summer cocktails (allowing me to dial back on the stock syrup and subsequent cloying mouthfeel) and a nice reliable G&T. It’s a better version of Bombay sapphire to my mind. I find it an excellent gateway gin.

    My attempted point was; now Plymouth has been shunted up the price ladder I think it’s overpriced. I’m buying up any of the (greatly reduced) art deco bottles I can see to stockpile as the only things that have changed are the packaging and price point. I ~£15 a 70cl bottle loved it but now it’s up in the same bracket with Martin Miller’s (RIP) I’m not giving it a second glance.

    As you rightly point out market forces will dictate the outcome but I’d hate the gin industry to become littered with defunct admired brands in the manner of the British automotive industry.

    Sorry for the mix up followed by a tardy & wordy reply, I left my real email in the appropriate box if you’d like to correspond further.

    Reply
    • December 5, 2014 at 11:34 pm
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      Hey And,

      I do apologise – I had read something between the lines in your reply that obviously wasn’t there. I will put my paranoia back in its box.

      Reply

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