Wine out?! No, not really. I love wine. I wrote about it for 4 years, so the stuff’s pretty much ingrained in my psyche now.
Yet - I am starting to enjoy gin too, and there’s definitely not space for both in my evenings… The solution? Visit the country’s largest annual Gin Festival and answer two questions:
Does gin offer as many great opportunities for creativity as the world of wine?
What can us Marketers learn from the fancy, new image gin has as the classy, indie person’s drink?
I’ve attended and worked enough wine tastings to know the importance they hold for brands seeking to get their name under the customer’s nose. Physical tastings are such an important touch point for those in the industry – they’re where the everyday ‘fiver a bottle’ wine drinker can try a few tipples outside of their comfort zone, and miraculously turn into a sudden buff. All it took was a little bit of friendly guidance. Also, amateur tasters begin to enjoy wine more, hence they’ll spend more. So as the weather grows warmer and I am drinking more gin, I wonder, is this mirrored in the gin industry?
I've noticed several of my local pubs and bars have adopted a ‘gin focus’ over the last two years, offering a variety of exciting garnishes, (other than dried out lime) and cocktails, (dangerously drinkable).
Add to this the scientific fact that I'm part of a rising Twenties trend to sip on a gin & juice rather than a sugar-powered cocktail or sickly cider.
Gin bottle labels are growing increasingly artistic, (I know this as I save mine and stick flowers in them. They're too pretty to bin). Hendrix limited edition bottle artwork is a particular favourite of mine.
Yes, based on my observational market research, the world is chanGINg before our very eyes.
My first gin tasting took place on a balmy July evening In Norwich. It was a revelation. By the end, I felt thoroughly bathed in juniper.
I was not only exposed to 100x gins, which I could access at random, (the FOMO side of me freaked) but I was also thrown into a sub-culture of Gin-Heads who seem to do this sort of thing regularly.
There was a quirky, indie feel to the entire evening, complete with dim lighting and live, upbeat folk'n'fiddle music that filled the hall. Men wore shirts, suspenders and non-Movember moustaches, while women swanned about elegantly in heels, fascinators and full-length floral dresses. No one was lary, and you didn’t have to worry about a passerby swishing wine on your shoulder with glee as they ran off to find another 15% red.
I took a little break to people watch. I know you do it too, don't lie. Such was the pleasant, sophisticated atmosphere of Gin Festival 2016, that it was easy to grab your gin and choice of tonic and chill in the atmosphere. It’s also easy to understand how the founding couple, Jym & Marie, have been successfully growing this event every year since its launch back in 2012.
They even were humble enough to share their recipe for the the pefect G&T... which I'll now share with you:
THE PERFECT G&T
Heaps of chunky ice
Shot of your favourite gin
2/3 to 3/4 quality tonic
Garnish to match your gin’s profile
Served in a stemmed Copa glass
THE GIN WITHIN.
The comparison between gin & wine was perhaps not a fair one. In just 4 hours I saw enough examples of creativity with this spirit through variations of garnishes, (such as bell pepper) to layers of aromatics you find it hard to fathom are distilled into one clear copa of liquid.
As Marketers, what can gin teach us? Well, it shows that something great is often the sum of its parts and rarely successful on its own. It also demonstrates that you can literally brand ANYTHING. Wine has been unfairly stamped with the 'snob' label, whereas gin suddenly has this rising underground band of juniper fans who enjoy a good, clean time with a bit of Mumford and Sons on the side.
Now if you’re a proper gin fan, and everything I have said prior to this makes you angry… you’ve probably had too much gin! But, this next part is for you.
I profiled six of my favourite gins showcased at the Gin Festival. I invite you to try them with their recommended garnishes. I also highly recommend that, if you haven’t already, you visit the festival if it rolls into a city near you!
...And make sure you dress the part, or they’ll only serve you Beefeater.
CREATED IN: Guernsey
WHY TRY IT? Reminded me of fond memories in Australian summers, swimming at the beach dodging blue bottle stings.
HIDDEN FLAVOURS: Gorse flower,s (also known as ‘ulex’... I had to look this up, never heard of it!) with pepper, nutmeg, spice and a slight menthol sweetness.
GARNISH: Pink Grapefruit
TARQUIN’S SINGLE ESTATE CORNISH TEA GIN
CREATED IN: Cornwall
WHY TRY IT? It’s brewed with tea, and I’m 50% English. Natural attraction. It’s also limited edition.
HIDDEN FLAVOURS: With any single estate products, the flavours are intensely unique and full of character. It’s made from locally grown Cornish tea leaves and coupled with honey, lime zest and ginger.
GARNISH: Hibiscus Flower (not from Grandma's garden)
SIR ROBIN OF LOCKSLEY
CREATED IN: Sheffield (Robin Hood represent!)
WHY TRY IT? I attended the distiller’s masterclass, where he claimed that this was their attempt to create a “sipping gin”, which could be drunk neat...
HIDDEN FLAVOURS: Nothing hidden here, it’s all upfront! Juniper with subtle elderflower behind it, bit of sweetness, grapefruit and citrus sitting there too.
GARNISH: Zilch. Have it neat.
CREATED IN: Portugal
WHY TRY IT? It was red gin that sounded like it was named after a charismatic European dictator. I was intrigued.
HIDDEN FLAVOURS: Herby and fruity at once, or “sweet and sour” as the bartender joked. The flavours are best described not as a Chinese Takeaway menu option, but as sherbet soda meets rosemary and lavender. Was a potent one this!
GARNISH: Lemon and Green Cardamom + Lemon Tonic
WEST WINDS ‘THE CUTLASS’
CREATED IN: Margaret River, Australia
WHY TRY IT? As a daughter of Sue & Karl Kennedy, Skippy and ACDC, part of me needed to know what iconic Australian gin tastes like…
HIDDEN FLAVOURS: Heaps aromatic this little dipper, shoves itself right up there in ya schnoz! I discovered there’s Aussie bush tomazzos worked into this lil beaut too! Also a bit of cinno and lemon whizzin around in there aye. No whinging here mate - this was fresh and delish.
GARNISH: Bell pepper
BATHTUB SLOE GIN
CREATED IN: Kent
WHY TRY IT? I’d heard of ‘bath tub gin’ but never tasted it. Apparently it was the prohibition way to produce homemade gin, and the quality can actually knock your socks off.
HIDDEN FLAVOURS: I am now in love with sloe gin. It’s sweet, tart and fruity with marzipan flavours. It goes down more like a liqueur than a 33% spirit. Paired with the lemon tonic = perfect refresher!
GARNISH: Just lemon tonic. Yum.
Feeling thirsty now? Great, I've played my part then.
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