Gin sales have surged lately, especially in England. Mixologists around the world are creating new fun cocktails, with gin as the base spirit, and consumers of all ages are (re)discovering how unique and flavorful gin can be. New gin brands are proliferating, all with juniper as the predominant botanical (one of the requirements for a spirit to be called gin), but some with hints of newly added botanicals and other flavors, creating outsized consumer demand. This ancient spirit, which dates back to the 16th century Dutch, and later revolutionized by the British, is truly undergoing a “Ginaissance.”
Global gin sales increased 8.3 percent year over year from 2017 to 2018, and the surge was particularly pronounced in England. The volume rose by 52 percent in the 12-month period beginning in February 2018 (compared to 1.5 percent in the U.S., in the same period).
The reasons for gin’s rise in popularity are many and varied. One observer suggested it began in 1999, when a Scottish distillery, Hendrick’s, released a blend infused with cucumber and rose. Another suggested it dawned in 2008, when a British distiller, Sam Galsworthy, successfully fought for the repeal of the Gin Act of 1751, which forbade that any new distilleries be opened in London. He immediately opened one, as did many others.
Still others believe gin took off because of media portrayals of the spirit; witness how many martinis were consumed in the popular television show Mad Men. It’s also possible that the “Ginaissance” is a result of the increasing popularity of plant-based diets. Or because Millennials have taken to the spirit.
Some experts, like Proof66.com editor Neal McDonald, wonder whether it’s a renaissance at all. As he put it in an interview with Thespiritsembassy.com:
“It precisely matches the mood and temper of the modern consumer. Where vodka bores, where whiskey falls in tedium, where tequila is raucous … there stands Gin. Still there; always there. You were but distracted for a moment.”
Suffice it to say that this is a minority viewpoint, and that for whatever reason — likely a combination of those mentioned — the “Ginaissance” rolls on. Between 2011-18, the number of gin brands in England doubled, and 2016, when 40 new distilleries opened in the UK, came to be known as the Year of Gin. That year also marked the end of a decade that saw U.S. imports of British gin increase by a staggering 553 percent.
Now the spirit has taken root in such far-flung places as India and Japan; a distillery in the latter nation, Roku, released its first gin in the U.S. in 2018. And while the old standbys like Beefeater, Gordon’s and Bombay Sapphire remain, new brands are constantly being introduced. Consumers should be encouraged to try these new and exciting gins, whether sipping or mixing, the “Ginaissance” is upon us…Cheers!