Gin – the saviour of the distillery?

While the economy flounders, gin is enjoying a renaissance with new brands popping up nearly every week. Why is this?

The rise in the popularity of gin is inextricably linked to the cocktail revival and to understand that, we need to look at what has gone before. Both the UK and US have, in the last decade or so, explored good coffee, wine and beer – no longer satisfied with being told what to enjoy by unchanging and stagnant brands; the population has explored the heights of quality and settled into a much better-informed groove. We have taken control of our consumption in key lifestyle areas.

The same can be said for every aspect of life. Chip-board and melamine have been replaced by real wood, polyester and nylon have been replaced by cotton and silk, and we are exploring real food like it is going out of fashion. We have been taking control of our consumption and demanding better quality products.

Let’s face it though, good wine is a joy but even at the epiphanic heights of top-quality wine, it is just wine. There is variation but you are still drinking fermented grape juice – wine is wine, and it can be easy to get a little bored and jaded after a while. The same can be said for coffee; once you know what good coffee is, you know what to look for and you know what to expect. It is good wine, good coffee and good beer, but it is still just wine, coffee and beer.

Cocktails

Cocktails

Cocktails on the other hand, are very different. You can take a small number of good ingredients and embark on a voyage of discovery that sees you drinking something new and different with every refresh of the glass. 12 Bottle Bar is the epitome of this; with just twelve bottles (including bitters) they make hundreds of cocktails accessible to the masses without calling for weird and esoteric ingredients.

I think the cocktail revival is absolutely an expression of this exploration of quality and the rejection of the mundane. I think it’s also and expression of our embracing of novelty. The internet has driven a stream of discovery and novelty into the lives of millions and has connected people with similar interests across disparate locations. One person’s discovery is no longer limited to friends and family – it can be spread across the globe and in such an environment, quality thrives.

This is all very good, but what has this to do with gin saving distilleries?

Distillery

Distillery

Times are hard, the economy is in a shambles and consumer spending is slow. Bastions of the high street have gone under and swathes of small businesses have disappeared. It is only natural that some distilleries are feeling the pinch.

Now, it takes both supply and demand to fuel a successful market and it is a fair assumption that there is demand for gin with the cocktail revival in full-swing. The next piece of the puzzle is the supply; it doesn’t take a rocket scientist at a distillery to identify this demand, but unlike whisky that requires aging, gin is pretty-much ready to bottle and sell as it comes out of the still.

The vodka market is saturated and the increasing demand for gin, potential for instant revenue and the ability to produce a gin that differentiates itself from the competition makes it only sensible to look to gin production to prop-up short-falls in sales.

So while the blossoming of new gin brands is understandable from a demand perspective, it it also natural that the distilleries will turn to gin in order to remain solvent in these difficult times.

It is an interesting thought that the gin revival could be preserving traditional whisky production for future generations.

 

Update: 11/09/2011

I thought I would add a little disclaimer to this post.

This is entirely based on my mental ponderings and is not founded on hard journalistic research or scientific survey. It was supposed to be posed as a question to provoke thought, rather than as fact, or a hypothesis to be explored rather than an authoritative statement; I’m not sure this came across too well in the above post.

I also don’t believe this hypothesis to true for every single case of a distillery branching-out and exploring new products. I think is could be true in some cases.

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8 thoughts on “Gin – the saviour of the distillery?

  • September 11, 2011 at 9:37 am
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    I know my friends and I are drinking a LOT more gin these days as
    We can’t handle the wine hangovers any more!

    Reply
    • September 11, 2011 at 12:01 pm
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      Yes, a night on the red wine leaves me a bit damaged these days too.

      Gin (well specifically G&T) very rarely leaves me with a hangover.

      Reply
  • September 12, 2011 at 2:48 pm
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    Interesting insights regarding gin and diversification Dug and there is evidence that this is happening and has been happening for a while. Caorunn and The Botanist Islay gins are both produced by whisky distillers and the French Citadelle brand is part of the portfolio of a Cognac house. I have noticed that Adnams have recently branched out into distilling and are now bottling two gins and several vodkas as well. Further afield, American import Junipero is made by Anchor Brewing Co. which is better known for it’s excellent Anchor Steam and other beers.

    Reply
    • September 12, 2011 at 10:33 pm
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      Thanks for the comment RG; some good examples there.

      I think the evidence is anecdotal at best. There are many arguments as to why these distilleries might be diversifying and unless anyone from of these distilleries are willing to come forward and be very candid about their businesses, we will never know for sure. I like the theory though – it fits the evidence and it makes sense.

      Reply
  • September 12, 2011 at 8:11 pm
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    I’m liking the thoughts on beer, wine and coffee. I’m not sure I agree with the beer and coffee aspect, but wine certainly is just wine! It will be interesting to see how long it takes for the gin market to become saturated, I’m not sure it won’t come pretty soon….

    Reply
    • September 12, 2011 at 10:26 pm
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      If you are drinking coffee, it is because you want a coffee. Good coffee is fantastic, but unless you start using it as an ingredient, you won’t get the variation you do with cocktails. I think that is the thing about the cocktail revival; there is a depth of variety that you simply cannot achieve with a single beverage. You can know all about beer, but if you don’t fancy a beer, it is no use to you. Gin is the same; with a few exceptions, gin is gin – you get good ones and you get bad ones. Cocktails on the other hand offer such a depth of choice that, unless you don’t want anything alcoholic, there will be a wide choice of things to suit your desires no matter what they are.

      This is a *really* broad set of statements and there will be a fair chunk of people that it won’t apply to at all. I am talking about the general populous as a single herd-like entity really.

      I completely agree about your comment about market saturation. There are a lot of gins on the market and, as with all boom industries, the weaker performers will start to disappear as the market gets more and more diluted – the market will begin to shrink and we will be left with the better brands. There will be casualties along the way that we will rue the disappearance of. I seem to have tried a small mountain of gin and I have only just scratched the surface.

      Reply
  • January 11, 2012 at 9:05 am
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    BBC Breakfast did a short piece on gin at just before 7 this morning. Annoyingly the BBC do not put BBC Breakfast on iPlayer so I cannot post up a link. The general gist was that gin is enjoying a revival. They talked of the number of new micro-distilleries cropping up and visited the Sipsmith Distillery. They also shot some footage from inside Graphic. I think it was a follow-up to a news item that appeared on the site a few weeks ago:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-16201140

    Reply

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