I won’t lie… I’ve been writing this post for a couple of weeks. I’ve almost finished it four times. I’ve deleted it, restarted it and toiled over how to approach it. It needs to be right… It needs to not be preachy and it needs to be unbiased.
Like most passionate “proper gin” drinkers I have an opinion on these gins but I’m going to try and write this factually and with indifference… I’ll likely give my thoughts at the end (in the interests of transparency and honesty but also to open the floor for honest discussion through social media without me appearing to hide my views while seeking that of others).
Recently there has been a lot of debate about these novelty style gins within the die hard gin community. Just this week the Telegraph released an article (Telegraph article) discussing the Gin Guild’s war against “fake gins”. Essentially this is touching on the poor labelling on bottles whereby it appears designed SPECIFICALLY to trick the uninformed into purchasing something believing it to be something else… In this case picking up something that is likely a cheap and nasty liquid with a big GIN on it when its not even close to gin and is barely a gin liqueur… It is perceived that these companies are doing this to make a few quick quid off a booming marketplace and tricking consumers at the same time.
Just to be clear… Before we go any further with this post… Gin, by definition HAS to be a minimum ABV of 37.5% and taste, predominantly, of juniper. Simple, right? Apparently not.
I want to look at a few things;
- Shimmering/Novelty Gins
- Pink Gins,
So lets begin…
Recently I stopped in on a debate with a “gin” brand whereby someone I follow was asking these guys why they needed to add shimmer to the liquid.. Through reading this thread and looking at the labelling I pointed out that it wasn’t gin… It sat at 37%. The company tried to argue about it and eventually realised that they were wrong. Apologies were dished out and promises made to look into the error.
So why are we getting glitter added to our gins and why do we need a unicorn or flavouring to sell it?
Let me kick off by saying that I won’t be naming ANY of the brands discussed as I don’t feel the need to and also I don’t want to give them the publicity… I’m sure most of you will know EXACTLY who I’m talking about.
So we get these gins that sparkle and have little unicorns on them or catchy “fun” names and are clearly part of the novelty market… They’re the gin equivalent of a really terrible secret Santa gift at work… You know what I mean?
I’m pretty sure gin isn’t meant to be ten quid and taste of marshmallow… that is an atrocity… There is nothing “gin” about that…. 20% for a marshmallow liquid and it’ll cost you nearly £20… Unbelievable. You could get a semi decent bottle of actual gin for just a wee bit more.
The addition of these liquids to the market are diluting the pool of good liquid and confusing the consumer and their understanding of what gin actually is… I see posts ALL THE TIME on pages whereby folk are proudly proclaiming they picked up a bargain bottle of gin… And its this unicorn muck… They don’t even realise. And this is the problem isn’t it?
It’s important to remember though that just because it has a unicorn doesn’t make it trash… The Glasgow Distillery created a gin for a supermarket recently and its got a unicorn on it… I reckon this is because the unicorn is, apparently, Scotland’s national animal… Also given the distiller I’d fully imagine this to be a gin of decent to good quality… These are the guys that make Makar.
Pink gin is a thing… It has been for some time… BUT… It is not what is currently being sold. Pink Gin, by its definition, is a gin with angostura bitters added… This is how it gets it’s colour… not fruit… not colouring… Angostura bitters…. Very very simple.
Now though we have the insta-friendly world of pink gin where its, predominantly, fruity flavours that give it it’s colour… Not a drop of angostura in sight.
Similarly to the novelty gins these gins don’t generally taste much of juniper, HOWEVER, they do generally sit at 37.5% or above putting them, at least, into the correct ABV bracket. Some even have a hint of the juniper at the back… Most don’t though.
Again, given the fact that this “style” of gin is being used wrongly it is misleading the consumer and causing confusion in the industry. With these gins can we accept the lack of juniper if the ABV is right? Should we accept it? Should they be changed from “PINK GIN” to “FLAVOURED GIN” so as not to confuse the two?
Some of the biggest brands in the gin industry pump out a load of gin liqueurs… Alongside their core gin range.
For some reason these are more accepted than the novelty gins… Which are basically gin liqueurs… Why is this?
I, personally, believe it’s because these bigger brands (mostly Edinburgh Gin) are labelling their product better with the word LIQUEUR fairly clearly displayed as part of the dominant branding as opposed to being hidden in tiny font underneath the word GIN in bold font, capitalised and underlined!
I think the other thing for me with these “branded” gin liqueurs is that there’s a general feeling that the liquid inside will be of a superior quality than the stuff previously mentioned.
Usually sitting about 20% and full of different flavours… They’re also priced more reasonably… Could be the glitter that increases the price of the other stuff… Glitter might be expensive gear.
IS THERE A PLACE FOR ALL THESE LIQUIDS?
So… Is there a place for these things? I’ve always argued that these things are a good “entry way” to gin… The thing is though that without correct labelling people don’t know that what they’re buying ISN’T gin and don’t progress into actual gin as they think they’re already on it.
Gin Liqueur from the big brands doesn’t hide what it is… It’s a spirit, most likely, aimed at people that don’t like spirits… It’s a way in. It’s a way to get people interested in the brand and, thereafter, the real deal.
I feel that alot of these things do have a place provided the labelling on the bottle and categorisation of the liquid therein is correct.
Gin Liqueurs in particular have an important role to play in introducing people to gin and all its wonderful flavour profiles and the whole world it opens up. Given that the liqueurs are often mixed with prosecco they do have a huge audience and its an audience that MAY be open to trying “ginny gins” down the lines. These customers will ultimately contribute to the market positively and help to fund our future liquids.
I’ll be honest that this post hasn’t been as unbiased as I’d have liked but I’m not changing it… This is how I’m happy with it being written… Fully transparent, totally out in the open. The type of “heart on my sleeve” writing that I want to have associated with my posts. I’ve kept it a bit more serious than I normally would given the subject matter and how important it is to so many.
I’ve been really excited to get this finished and posted as I’m looking forward to what people have to say on the matter. Please let me know your thoughts and I hope this reads well as I genuinely have put several re-writes and multiple changes into it… Lots of work, lots of effort and lots of love.
As always become one of the contributors to world peace by joining me on social media:
I’ll catch you on the next one.
Great post and so topical. I believe that the legislation needs to start keeping up with the industry. False claims are not allowed on food products so why should they be allowed on alcohol. I think labelling needs to be much stricter – even with some of my favourite brands there is no info on the bottles! There is clearly a market for these novelty drinks and thats fine but they are not bringing anything positive to the gin industry.
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It absolutely does… gin needs protected the way whisky is… customers need to be more aware, the makers need to be responsible.
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