Anyone who has been to any bar, pub or restaurant recently has probably noticed the surge in gin products on the market. We are in the era of another gin craze. Or the Ginaissance, if you will.
It truly is a great time to be a gin fan. While once your choice were limited to Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray or Beefeater now most pubs will have a couple of random bottles to interest the connoisseur. But where has this trend come from? And more importantly where will it go?
Where it has come from is not so much of a mystery: Gin has been popular in this country for centuries. Although not always in the form that it is today. When it was known as ‘mothers ruin’ in the days of Hogarth’s gin lane (see picture below) it was less of a refined drink and more an instrument of mass drunkenness. But those days passed, although with them did the diversity, and small distilleries were closed down as the big corporations took over. And that was the way it stayed for a long time, and no-one really thought they were missing out much.
Or nearly no-one. It was only a few years ago that companies such as Sipsmith started producing their own small batch gin in a garage, but it started somewhat of a Gin revolution. Now there are micro-distilleries popping up everywhere, and it feels like a new gin is being launched every week. Featuring different botanical recipes, or modern interpretations of old recipes or fruit infusions the range of flavours that you can discover is broader than ever. One of the more interesting gins I’ve tried recently is the Spanish Gin Mare, flavoured with Olive, Rosemary and Basil among other things. Or the German Monkey 47, flavoured with no less than 47 botanicals! A world away from all the traditional London Dry styles.
So then, where do we go from here? I can’t help but feel there must come a stage of saturation in the Gin market. It already feels like there are more than I can keep up with! And spirit shelves in bars and supermarkets can only hold so much. And when you factor in the fact that nearly 80% of each bottle is tax, it certainly makes me wonder how anyone will continue to make much money from it if competition were to push prices down.
Another thought that was raised on my recent gin tasting evening, was whether there will eventually be a transition to drinking gin neat. It is one of the few premium spirits that is almost exclusively drunk with a mixer. And tonics in particular to have their own flavour to add to the drink. When you consider the care and craftsmanship going in to all of these products, it seems rather strange that the first move is to alter the flavour. Sure it would take a bit of getting used to but there is no reason it couldn’t happen, right?
Whatever comes next there are sure to be lots more lovely gins to try, there are already so many that I need to get round to! But of all the challenges I’ve ever faced this is one I am definitely looking forward to. And maybe hold the tonic, just every now and then.
For anyone who is interested in discovering more about gin with me, I run tastings and courses at South London Wine School, all information can be found here.