The Craft Gin Explosion

What Is Craft Gin?

In the context of gin, ‘craft' is a fairly nebulous term, with no firm definition. Of course the rising popularity of gin has been catalysed by the emergence of small batch distilleries, often operated by tiny teams hailing from obscure parts of the UK, so the size of the operation has a lot to do with working out whether a spirit counts as craft gin or not.

This essentially means that none of the big name brands, owned by multinational corporations, can truly claim to be producers of craft gin, since they will probably be pumping out vast volumes of spirit and sending it to every corner of the planet. Even clever marketing ploys which promise craft-style gin should not be enough to mask the mass-produced origins of certain products.

Conversely a gin can prove itself worthy of the craft label if it has particular people to point to in its origins. Master distillers, brilliant botanical selectors, vibrant spirit visionaries and spirit science whizzes are all found at the heart of every good craft gin company. Profit is still important, but it always takes second place to creating the best possible end product.

Why Has Craft Gin Become So Popular?

Gin has never really disappeared from the drinks scene in the UK; it has simply seen its fashionableness ebb and flow over the decades. The gin craze of the 18th century aside, throughout the 20th and early 21st century, it was a staple of British culture, without being anywhere near as widely enjoyed as it is today.

So why is craft gin so popular now? Why are people obsessed with gin again, when at the turn of the millennium it was a distinctly un-sexy option to buy or order? While it might seem like a massive marketing push made the rise of gin possible, it is actually down to the unpicking of some longstanding legislation surrounding its production.

Essentially it was impossible for small batch gin distilleries to operate because of regulations dating back several hundred years. Extensive campaigning in 2009 eventually allowed for stills of under 1800 litres in capacity to be operated under full license,  paving the way for the proliferation of dinky gin distilleries across the country and igniting the flame that would become the raging fire of craft gin's current popularity.

It is worth mentioning that while craft gin is now seen as a thoroughly British trend, it is actually only thanks to efforts on the other side of the Atlantic that there was even interest in reviving this spirit as a trendy tipple in the first place. American distilleries which cropped up to create compelling craft gin products proved that there was demand for this type of product and soon the rising popularity of gin spread to the UK.

Examples Of Craft Gin

There are many different craft gin brands currently available to buy if you are looking to expand your knowledge and get an appreciation for the rise of gin in its current form. Here are just a handful of the most intriguing and alluring options to consider adding to your drinks cabinet.

Sipsmith is perhaps the most noteworthy example; not only because it is recognised as being a delicious drink that is distilled to perfection with a bevy of brilliant botanicals but also because it is the brand which pushed for a change in UK regulations that helped this craze to flourish in the first place.

Aber Falls is a Welsh gin that is brewed to hit the sweeter end of the taste spectrum, delivering a smooth drinking experience and packing a peppery punch which melds well with the liquorice and juniper botanicals, amongst other key ingredients.

Whitley Neill's handcrafted dry gin is one of the success stories of the craft gin boom. It can now be found in virtually every supermarket chain, but it manages to retain its home grown roots thanks to its meticulous production process and its mouth-watering flavour that helps it to stand out from generic dry gins that used to rule the roost. Check out the Blood Orange and Rhubarb & Ginger varieties from this same distillery if you want even more amazing tastes to tempt your tongue with.

Hendrick's is a gin brand that predates the current craft gin explosion, yet it is worth mentioning because it still sticks to traditional production methods and is produced in small batches at its Scottish facility where a lot of care and attention is paid to the ingredients and distillation. It is one of the best ways to introduce the unconverted to craft gin.

Edinburgh Gin is another brand that has burst onto the scene in an impressive way in the past decade, with small batch distillation used to create a compellingly dry yet suitably floral and fragrant finish. Various varieties are offered, many of which are inspired not by exotic botanicals, but by ingredients which are available within the surrounding area of the distillery.

Fun Facts About Craft Gin

If you are hoping to impress your friends with your knowledge of craft gin, here are a few pieces of information to toss in when you are next enjoying a drink together.

·         Gin is essentially identical to vodka, in that it can be distilled from a number of agriculturally sourced grains. What makes it distinct from this other spirit is that it must rely on juniper berries as a key flavouring ingredient. Indeed without juniper, gin would be a distinctly duller concoction in most cases.

·         In the UK alone there are over 300 craft gin distilleries, meaning that the number of producers has effectively doubled within the course of five years. This has led many to refer to the current trend as the ‘ginaissance' since it has signalled the rebirth of gin as the UK's spirit of choice for both casual drinkers and connoisseurs alike.

·         In 2018 a total of 73 million bottles of gin were purchased by British consumers, setting a new high watermark for sales and confirming that this was now a multibillion pound industry. This explains all the attention it has been getting from larger drinks manufacturers, looking to swoop in and capitalise on the groundwork laid by small craft gin distilleries.

·         Craft gin has shirked seasonal shopping trends and is now popular throughout the year, finding favour with consumers both in the summer and during the colder months.

·         The rising popularity of gin has resulted in England overtaking Scotland in terms of the number of distilleries that are in operation, which is a historic sea change that tips the balance away from whiskey and towards gin.

The Future Of Craft Gin

For the time being the future of craft gin is looking very bright indeed. As you can see from all the record-breaking sales figures that have been reported, people in the UK are thoroughly enamoured by this revolution and are continuing to fuel further growth.

Of course this also means that there will be more mainstream imitators of true craft gins that are looking to jump on the bandwagon and hoodwink people into believing that they are enjoying a small batch product, when in fact the spirit is produced on an industrial scale. This is no bad thing, of course, so long as the quality is high enough; a similar state of affairs has arisen in the craft beer market.

The upwards trajectory of craft gin is of course partly based on the fact that it has become fashionable. From trendy hotspots in London to isolated yet appealing distillery-based drinking holes in far flung parts of the country, people are tuned into the idea of seeking out gins of this kind just to look good. Even so, the dedication to quality and innovation which is apparent in many of the hundreds of brands that have emerged this past decade shows that some fashions are worth celebrating.