Monday, 22 February 2016

Gin Trends in 2015

It has been a busy year in the world of Gin for those of you that haven’t had time to accustom yourself with it here is a list of just some of the many things that have been happening.

New Distilleries
First thing is you can’t help but notice the number of new distilleries popping up. This trend isn’t only happening in London but all around the world from The US to Australia to South Africa, Scotland, Spain, Belgium and just about every other developed country. Craft spirits is a real and growing trend and most of these new distilleries are producing a Gin. With the Gin sales steadily growing in most countries and booming in some like the UK where there has been a 25% growth in sales value since 2012.

New Festivals
Along with all the new distilleries there has been a huge increase in the number of festivals dedicated to Gin, most developed countries now have at least one dedicated festival where you can go along and meet the distillers, owners and brand ambassadors of the exciting new Gins on display.

New Bars
There seems to be a new dedicated Gin bar popping up just about every week and that is all over the world with most large cities boasting at least one place to immerse yourself in the Gin experience and taste to your hearts content. If there isn’t one near you then the time is now to take advantage of that gap. The best thing about these bars is they are having a trickledown effect with many non-dedicated gin bars expanding there ranges making it easier for us Gin enthusiasts to have a good night out without having to compromise. 

Botanicals have gone crazy
It is not uncommon these days to have Gins made using distilled ants, seaweed, asparagus, salt water or even cream. While some of these might be gimmicks there are some real flavours gems that have been discovered in this process.

Botanical have become more local
Beyond the crazy botanicals distilleries are also focusing on local ingredients often grown or foraged locally so if you see a crazy dishevelled looking crazy person scrambling through the undergrowth sniffing flowers and chewing on leaves it’s probably just your local distiller looking for something new and interesting to flavour your next batch of gin with.

Botanicals of the season
Seasonal Gins are becoming more popular with craft distillers. Just like your fruit and vegetables different ingredients are in bloom or harvested at different times of the year making it a logical step for small batch producers to make gins that use interesting seasonal ingredients. This also allows gin makers to create Gins that people are more likely to drink all year round for example a richer earthier Gin can be produced for winter while a light citrusy version can be made during summer.  

Barrel Aging
This is an ever growing trend especially with the time delay meaning these products are slow to market. Barrel aging a gin requires no specific period for legal purposes and Gins often suit a softer or shorter aging process so that the tannins of the wood do not overpower the flavours of the original gin but rather work in balance. Barrel aging is exciting adding another level of flavour and texture over the already complex botanical flavours created in the initial Gin distillation. Aged Gins are also proving flexible in cocktails often making a perfect and interesting substitute for an equivalent dark spirit like a bourbon or rum.

Grain to glass
Another popular trend particularly in the US is grain to glass, simply meaning that the grain you grow is used as the sugar source for your fermentation  before the distillation process to make gin. This movement highlights the fact that they make their own raw spirit to make there gin rather than purchasing raw ethanol and redistilling it to make gin. This generally leads to a gin that incorporates a more grain flavoured taste with botanicals that complement this flavour. This is opposed to the flavourless neutral spirit that many distillers use as a blank canvas that will let the flavours of the botancials shine. In my experience many of the small distilleries that purchase their ethanol for re-distillation are finding other exciting ways in which to add value to their products and ensure they conform to the craft mentality. These might include using multiple different types of distillation and or steeping to extract flavours that can’t be replicated with more traditional single pass distillations. There are many arguments for and against and you will have to try multiple examples of both to make up your own mind.

Consumer awareness
Consumers are becoming more savvy like the craft beer revolution gin drinkers are starting to ask the questions who made this product where was it really made, how was it made and what ingredients were used to make it. So in other words a certain demographic of enthusiasts wants to know more than just what the brand story is. These enthusiasts are looking for Gins that are made locally using the best ingredients and processes to get the best flavours. Because at the end of the day flavour is becoming increasingly important as more and more people are wanting to taste Gins neat and undiluted.
There are a few cocktails that have really pushed to the front in particular the Negroni continues to go from strength to strength with its bold bitter sweet flavours a perfect evening cocktail something that often provides a much needed alternative to the G&T.
The martini is also increasing in popularity with many bars actually being able to make a good one; it is not as big a risk as it was just a few years ago.

Large Global distributor interest
While the craft Gin phenomenon is still in its early days the big boys are already circling as seen with Pernod Ricard’s recent purchase of a controlling interest in Monkey 47 a gin considered by many Gin geeks to be the best in the world. I think you can expect more of these manoeuvres by the large spirits conglomerates over the next couple of years similar to the precedent set by craft beer. I think it is to early yet to tell how these takeovers will affect the consumer’s perception of the brand and also how active a roll these big players will take in controlling the direction of these companies. We can only hope that these acquisitions will help grow consumer awareness by increasing the global availability of some good quality spirits and educating consumers in why they should drink better quality. With the flow on effect being that this will help to grow the craft gin sector for all the micro distilleries out there making great products but struggling to make ends meet! 

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