In the UK at the moment, it feels a bit like every man and his dog are setting up their own gin distillery. After a seriously rocky history, gin is back with a bang and the world can’t get enough. The classic British tipple is worth some serious money too.
In 2016 figures from HMRC showed gin exports rose by 12% to £474m. That’s significantly better than exports of British beef and soft drinks.
In the UK alone, something close to the figure of 34m bottles of gin were sold in 2016 alone. That’s sixty four bottles of gin per minute! That made for total sales of around £1.1bn.
Of course, inevitably, that has meant that some gin brands have risen to the top. Slingsby, Sipsmith and Portobello Road Gin were the triumvirate at the top of Britain’s independent gin revolution.
In fact, to be precise, only two of these are still truly independent since Sipsmith was acquired for £50m in December 2016 by Japanese drinks firm Beam Suntory.
Currently, there’s room enough in the industry for everyone who wants to have a go take a shot.
However, there’s a good chance things won’t stay this way. So how can gin companies stay on top once the fad ends? Well, part of the answer might be innovation.
It’s noteworthy that both Slingsby and Portobello Road have taken the opportunity, while the market conditions are good, to flex their creative muscles.
Slingsby’s Rhubarb Gin has become a best-seller almost overnight. In fact, a Slingsby spokesperson, Georgina Cowley, confirmed to Verdict that the Rhubarb Gin was actually a better seller than their original gin.
It isn’t hard to see why. Slingsby Rhubarb offering is totally unique in both colour and taste. It has the capacity to appeal to both casual drinkers and hardcore ginthusiasts with its sweet yet classic taste.
Portobello Road Gin’s tactic to stay ahead of the game
And while Slingsby have found one solution to stand out from the crowd, Portobello Road Gin have found quite another.
The small distillery was founded on London’s Portobello Road and has since become perhaps the biggest independent UK gin manufacturer. They’re a buzzy brand who drew headlines after opening the Distillery, a brand new home for the brand, in late 2011.
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This special building is on Portobello Road itself, and has become a mecca for gin lovers. Guests can enjoy special craft gins in one of the venue’s many bars. The Spanish tapas restaurant upstairs is one of the finest places to eat in all of London.
Downstairs is the Ginstitute, a recreated Victorian ‘gin palaces’ where groups of visitors can learn about the history of gin in sumptuously-presented tours, while quaffing handmade cocktails. The experience ends with guests creating their own signature gin to take home with them, which can be reordered from the Portobello Road website time after time.
In early 2016, the Distillery added a new string to its bow in the form of a hotel on the upper floors. The luxurious rooms are a bargain at just £150 per night (cheaper than a Travelodge in the centre of the city) and, instead of a minibar, they come with a complementary cocktail-making station in each room.
A brand new venue is to open in Manchester in early 2018.
Of course, despite all these extras, ultimately, it’s all about the drinks. Like Slingsby, Portobello Road love to twist their classic recipe. Each year, one of their directors crafts a bespoke, limited edition gin, adding a new twist on the classic taste. These ‘Director’s Cut’ gins are limited to a production of just 1,000 bottles each.
Portobello Road Gin’s Director’s Cut No. 3
This time around, it was the turn of Portobello Road’s master distiller, Jake Burger to craft the limited edition Director’s Cut. And it is quite something. Burger essentially threw everything gin-lovers know out of the window. Instead, he has combined Britain’s love of gin with a traditional Mexican alcohol, Mezcal.
The result is a deliciously creamy gin filled with wintery, Christmas tastes. Burger explained that this particular gin could be the one to convince consumers that gin needn’t just be limited to a summer gin and tonic.
Burger also explained exactly how this new blend is crafted and why an entire turkey is involved.
Now watch: How to serve the perfect gin and tonic
Of course, with all this talk of gin, has there ever been a better time to treat yourself to one? We’d suggest not. Burger also took the time to explain exactly how to serve gin professionally: