Premium and craft gin is on the rise. In the last two years sales have jumped 18% and astonishingly British gin makes up 20% of the worlds supply. But what’s driving this growth? One word. Craft.
Craft gin distilleries are popping up faster than you can say G&T. According to figures released by HMRC at the end of 2014 applications for distillery licenses have jumped a massive 1500% and show no signs of slowing.
But what exactly is craft gin?
We hear that word a lot at the moment. Craft beer. Craft spirits. Craft gin. Craft cider. But what does it actually mean? To cut to the chase there is no industry definition of what constitutes craft.
Thinking about things from a consumer perspective craft means authenticity, quality, small batch and made with passion. Not big brand mass production made solely with profit in mind.
This passion for provenance commands impressive levels of customer loyalty. If your product tastes great, is made with passion you’ll have an army of brand ambassadors spreading your story far and wide.
But don’t be fooled, consumers can be incredibly demanding and innovation is key for craft distillers to stay alive.
Flavours, tonics, glassware are some of the important innovations for the craft gin category. We spoke with brand ambassador for Langley’s No. 8 (Birmingham’s local gin) and all round Gin’tleman Carl Hawkins who gave us some of his thoughts on how brands and bartenders can innovate to keep drinkers engaged;
“A good quality tonic, interesting garnish and decent glassware can lift the whole gin drinking experience. We’ve moved from the standard juniper gin, Schweppes tonic and a lime wedge.
The Spanish style Copa glass has helped to boost the visual appeal, although I think Pat Butcher at the Queen Vic has been pioneering gin in a wine glass since the 90s.”
And what role do mixers play?
“Artisan tonic producers are creating some really interesting flavours and styles which adds another dimension to the gin experience. Fever-Tree’s expansion into Elderflower, Mediterranean through to champagne-esque styles had bought another layer to lift the G&T.
There’s some great stuff coming out of Barcelona such as Peter Spanton’s Cardamom tonic. You’d happily drink these tonics on their own but obviously it’s better with a slug of craft gin.
And the final touch is presentation. Bar tenders are experimenting with garnishes. Grapefruit, orange zest even rosemary and olives can add a point of difference and create a ‘meal in a glass’ feel.”
What does this mean for the on-trade?
There’s a huge opportunity for bars and pubs to capitalise on the innovation and consumer interest in craft gin but it does take training.
Invest in your bar staff teach them about the botanicals, glassware, garnishes and encourage them to engage in a conversation with customers.
Once bar staff feel passionate about gin and its ingredients the up-sell to customers is easy. Even the way the gin is served gives opportunity to encourage consumers to spend a little more – a large G&T served in a Copa with plenty of ice can command up to £10 per glass so investment in training can be made back pretty quickly.
If you want to learn more about gin we suggest you get in contact with the Gin’tleman himself Carl Hawkins. He’s running gin tastings at Loki Wine in Birmingham and Speed Gin’ing at Bar Opus also in Birmingham. Check his website for details.