THE BLOG

What Next for the 'Gin Renaissance'?

05/11/2015 10:56 GMT | Updated 04/11/2016 09:12 GMT

It's great to be living and working in London at the moment. There's wonderful food, wine, shopping, entertainment... and perhaps most of all gin.

There certainly is a whole lot of really great gin.

Within five minutes of our London Wine & Spirit School there's a working gin micro-distillery beneath a pub, a converted public toilet turned cocktail bar specialising in Negronis and a specialist gin bar serving over 80 different gins. There's gin lining the shelves of our cellar, being tasted in our classrooms, and there's even gin in some ice-cream I have in the freezer.

We've just brought on board a new Spirits Educator, Will Lowe. Will's day job? Master Distiller at The Cambridge Distillery.

While once the streets of London were lined with slumped men, women and children swigging their woes away on 'mother's ruin', the gin renaissance (as it has been coined) has seen a move away from these negative 18th Century perceptions towards a 21st Century embodiment of an artisanal delicacy.

As Will explains to his spirits students, "this gin explosion hasn't come from nowhere - it is the result of some very hard work by a relatively small number of people."

He charts the recent increased interest "back to the tail end of the last century, with the powerhouse that is Bombay Sapphire. Great packaging and a completely unique marketing campaign ensured that Bombay took the world by storm. More recently the branding of Hendricks, with its apothecary bottle and Victorian styling, has recruited a new generation of gin drinkers."

The next steps in the gin resurgence came alongside an increased interest in the production and provenance of our food and drink.

Sipsmith, the first traditional distillery in London for almost 200 years, brought London Dry Gin out of the history books and into the present day. In 2009 they began to welcome visitors through their doors - the vast majority of whom had never had the pleasure of seeing a gin distillery in action - and spread their infectious enthusiasm for the drink.

Meanwhile, a few miles away in Highgate, Sacred Gin's Ian Hart was pioneering the process of vacuum distilling gins in order to preserve the freshness of the botanicals he was using.

Since these innovations began, we've heard a lot about the gin renaissance -consumers have never had so much choice. There seems to be a new brand hitting the shelves every week, the vast majority of which are made to a very high standard.

So how are producers like Will Lowe finding ways to stand out from the crowd?

"If we're brutally honest, there is an enormous cross-over from one distillery to the next. With more and more gins entering the market, I believe it is those with a genuine point of difference that will still be with us in years to come."

Will has distinguished his own Cambridge gin by looking locally, rather than globally, for sources of flavour.

"Our Cambridge Seasonal Gin was the first of its kind - a gin made to showcase the immediate environment of the distillery on a seasonal (and therefore constantly changing) basis. Created with locally grown and foraged botanicals, all individually distilled under vacuum at low temperatures, it's completely unique."

This model of local sourcing has been picked up by artisanal producers such as Warner Edwards and Rock Rose, both of whom are making full use of their location to great effect in the crafting of their gins.

Recent stats show little sign of gin production slowing down, and I for one am far from bored by the idea of refreshing myself with a newly released gin, paired with a premium tonic and garnished with whatever herb, spice, bark, fruit or scented candle I'm told will enhance it best.

It's great that this thriving spirit is produced so abundantly on my doorstep, but I'm equally keen on some of the father flung gins - Spain and Germany are producing some particularly exciting spirits at the moment. I'm also optimistic that new enthusiasm towards exploring new premium gins will lead people to want to know more about other spirits as well.

PS. Did you see our earlier blog post on English Wine? If not, you can read it here and visit the WSET YouTube channel for a compilation of interviews with English wine producers here.

If you would like to learn more about gin or develop your spirits knowledge, courses from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) offer a step-by-step approach to building up your knowledge. Visit http://www.wsetglobal.com for more information and to find your nearest course provider.