How do you tell the difference between a Gin lover and a regular punter at a bar? You don’t need to - the Gin lover will tell you they’re a Gin lover. I jest, of course.
The Gin boom of the past few years means consumers have more options than ever open to them, and with more Gin, comes more Gin fanatics. And who can blame them?! Gin is no longer an old-fashioned, out-dated drink consumed by your great aunt Mildred. Gin is varied, with a multitude of flavors and styles readily available in every bar and every supermarket. There’s a lot to love.
But sometimes it feels like the true Gin aficionados - from the bloggers to the journalists, to those who know their Gimlets from their Gin Rickeys - are a little obsessed with the provenance of their Gin. They want to know exactly where it's made, by who, with what ingredients and where those ingredients are from.
But does the average consumer even care? Or do the brands that don't disclose this information risk getting left behind?
The argument for going big on provenanceWhen it comes to food, as a society, we’re more aware than ever of the ingredients, what’s locally sourced and how and where it’s made. We care about what food we put into our body, so why shouldn’t it be the same for Gin?
There are many Gins that disclose all of that and more, and the best are the ones in which you can take a sip and be transported to that specific place:
Tarquin’s GinProduced at the Southwestern Distillery where the ethos is “inspired by the wild Cornish coast,” Tarquin’s Gin is big on provenance; the flagship Gin is made with Cornish water and hand-picked violets from Devon. Sure, you’d never know the water was local, but when was the last time you had violets in a Gin?
Moreover, Tarquin’s has released a limited edition Gin for the past three years in collaboration with Gin Foundry. The 2019 edition, called Treth Ha Mog (which roughly translates from Cornish to mean beach and smoke), aimed to capture the essence of sea air and barbeque smoke at a beachside cookout. And you know what? One sip and you can practically feel the sand between your toes.
Isle of Harris GinThis Gin aims to capture the “rare and elusive Spirit” of the island which is based in the remote Scottish Outer Hebrides. The Isle of Harris Distillery was created not only to make great Gin, but to bring the local community together, acting as a focal point for the island’s residents to come together and connect over a drink.
The Gin itself uses locally hand-dived sugar kelp seaweed as its star botanical, but in an act of true community Spirit, the distillery avoids overharvesting to serve its own interests, instead leaving the kelp to recover and grow whenever there’s no ‘r’ in the month. Even the bottle transports the drinker to the island; the rippled glass evoking the waves on the shore of the distillery.
The argument against making provenance a selling pointSure, there are a myriad of factors to consider when choosing a Gin; is it affordable? Value for money? Does it taste good? Is the bottle nice? Will it look good on my home bar? Will it work in my favorite cocktail vs a G&T?
Where a Gin comes from and what it’s made with is just another factor to add to the longlist. If we cared more about where each and every Gin is made, and needed a romantic ‘brand story’ to make the origin make sense, we’d be putting a lot of the smaller, independent Gins made at contract distilleries (where a third party company actually distills the Gin) on the scrap heap.
True, those using contract distilleries should be willing to disclose it. Anything else could be deemed as trying to hoodwink the consumer. But if it tastes good, does it really matter if the Gin you’ve bought is made by the owner of the company in their shed, or by a master distiller at a contract distillery with years of experience?
Our top picks of Gins made at contract distilleries:
Fords GinFords Gin is the result of a collaboration between Thames Distillers’ Charles Maxwell - an 8th generation distiller, and Simon Ford, legendary bar owner. Rather than provenance, Fords Gin focuses on the bartender experience; designed to be a perfect balance of botanicals to make the Gin shine in any cocktail.
Portobello Road GinThis well-regarded Portobello Gin started life at number 171 Portobello Road (hence the name), on the site of the Portobello Star pub. But as they grew in popularity, they upscaled production by contract distilling via Thames Distillers. So while the name, recipe and origins of this Gin are very much integral to its brand, does it matter that it's no longer made on the same site if more people get to enjoy it? Nah, mate.
Colombo No.7Gin Based on a 70 year old Sri Lankan recipe, Colombo No. 7 is made with pretty standard Gin botanicals (juniper, coriander, angelica, liquorice), as well as domestic cinnamon, ginger and curry leaf, resulting in a truly authentic taste of Sri Lanka. Today, the Gin is made by Alcohols Ltd., a contract distillery in Birmingham, England. Fearing government intervention in private distilleries, the owners of Colombo No.7 moved production to the UK, but the recipe remains the same.
Ultimately, it comes down to consumer preference. If provenance and origin really matters to you, you’ll go out of your way to seek out that information where possible. But for most people, I’d wager that taste comes out top of that list.
Afterall, if a Gin tastes good, does it really matter? Let us know what you think in the comments.
cover image: Ford's Gin