2019 was a year of great growth for Scottish Gin in the number of new Scottish Gins released along with new brands, new distilleries and optimism. All under the cloud of ‘the gin bubble is going to burst any day now’ rhetoric that’s been peddled pretty much since gin showed signs of being popular. As we entered 2020, only a few predicted that what started out as an outbreak of an unknown virus would soon bring the world to a stand still.
Covid. Brexit. The two words that dominated 2020. 2020 flipped everything upside down and turned us all inside out, with the additional uncertainty of Brexit to navigate at the end of 2020, it’s a year that won’t be forgotten in a hurry. As lockdown loomed, Scotland’s gin maker’s traditional sales channels came to an abrupt halt. Sales within wholesale, the on-trade and off-trade slowed. Many of Scotland’s gin makers who had planned for export deals or were on the cusp of entering new markets had to put everything on hold.
A number of new Scottish Gin brand launches were postponed. Product releases were pushed back and those gin makers with distilleries that offered Scottish Gin experiences to visitors had to close their doors. As for physical gin events, these too were curtailed and for some gin makers, gin events and shows are a welcome source of additional income. It’s safe to say 2020 was a scary, trying and testing year for everyone in Scottish Gin and of course most businesses.
As the pandemic took hold, many of Scotland’s gin makers turned their resources to producing hand sanitiser with many supporting their local frontline workers in the NHS, care services, fire, police and mountain rescue. With a global shortage, many of Scotland’s gin makers and brand owners stepped in to help fill the gap in the supply chain until mass production of hand sanitiser caught up with demand.
With lockdown came the closure of the hospitality industry, which at times felt sporadic and random. Close. Open. You can’t serve alcohol. You can serve alcohol but only outside. It appeared there was no rhyme or reason for some of the restrictions that were imposed, specifically on hospitality businesses. Other businesses that were public facing were left open to operate and generate income with minimal Covid restrictions and safety measures in place. All the while the hospitality sector jumping through numerous hoops, dotting the i’s, crossing every t and investing in safety measures for customers. Yet they were amongst the few businesses open to the public that were forced to close their doors.
When politicians started pointing fingers, they always seemed to fall on hospitality first. And as a key sales channel for drinks producers, every bar closure, every restaurant, every hotel that couldn’t open its doors was another lost opportunity. In some cases, business development opportunities and relationships that had been months in the making were lost.
Still, lockdown saw a number of establishments launch cocktail kits for home, take away cuisine and online cocktail masterclasses. It allowed mixologists to get creative and in some cases appear before the camera in virtual events where you could mix along at home. Some launched new drinks delivery services where you could order online, helping over stocked bars generate some income and keep the doors virtually open.
In the background on top of everything else, Brexit quickly loomed. Many of Scotland’s gin makers who might only order in a pallet or two of bottles were ordering in as many as they could to help prevent any possible disruption to their production. Scotland’s gin makers who have relationships with distributors and wholesalers in the EU awaited the UK/EU deal in anticipation so they could quickly get to grips with the new legislation and processes of getting their Scottish Gin into Europe.
Leaving the EU will pose challenges along with opportunities and if there’s one thing we know Scotland’s gin makers are not scared of, it’s a challenge. They’re creative, focused and we believe they can overcome anything that’s thrown their way. With the likes of Scotland Food & Drink, other organisations and individuals championing Scottish Gin, we’re optimistic that Scotland’s gin industry will continue to thrive in Europe and around the world.
With lockdown came restrictions on meeting loved ones but nearly everyone with a device and internet connection jumped online to meet, chat and socialise. The new normal also provided Scotland’s gin makers with a new and unique format for meeting and engaging with consumers. Live cocktail demonstrations, meet the makers, distillery tours and more could all be done virtually. You could be sitting at home with an event tasting pack talking with a gin maker on the other side of the world, learning and enjoying. It’s one of the positives we have seen from 2020 – more and more of Scotland’s gin makers and brand owners embracing new ways of engaging with gin drinkers; something we hope continues to grow.
2020 Scottish Gin in numbers
Creating and managing the world’s largest A-Z directory of Scottish Gin allows us to log the Scottish Gins released in any given year. The data helps us look at which gin styles proved most popular, new brand launches and more. Looking at our final data for 2020, there were:
- 102 new commercially available Scottish Gin expressions released – down 35% from 2019.
- Of the new commercially available Scottish Gin expressions released 30% were Flavoured, 30% Distilled, 30% London Dry, 6% Navy and 4% for Old Tom and Cask Aged.
- 31 of the new Scottish Gins were made under contract for brand owners.
- 16 new Scottish Gin brands came to market – down 50% from 2019.
- 3 new distilleries opened producing Scottish Gin – down 86% from 2019.
- The most popular month for releasing a new Scottish Gin appeared to be August with 15 new Scottish Gin expressions, followed by October with 13 new releases.
- The council area with the highest number of distilleries producing Scottish Gin remains the Highlands with 15 distilleries.
- There are approximately 167 individual Scottish Gin brands on the market with a combined 497 Scottish Gins available to buy.
New gin brands included Shoogle Spirits, Tear Drop Gin, Gorgeous Gin, Snawstorm Spirits, North Point Distillery, Paisley Gin, Farmhouse Gin and Forget Me Not Botanical Gin, to name a few. The trends for 2020 do show a slow down in the number of new expressions, brands and distilleries. Is this a bad thing? We believe not. Gin and Scottish Gin are here to stay. No matter how hard some try and label gin a fad or a bubble, people love gin. That’s not to say too much of a good thing can be good. 2020 has been undeniably difficult for everyone across all business sectors but has seen many refocus their efforts on marketing their products, telling their stories and engaging directly with their customers through their social media channels and digital content. Many producers have had to explore new digital formats, use new tools and for some even add new e-commerce sections to their websites.
UK gin sales in general, going by the data available, for 2019/2020 showed that gin sales grew to £2.6 billion from March 2019 to March 2020 with 83 million bottles sold and gin proving to be the most popular spirit across online platforms during lockdown with an extra 10 million bottles sold by online retailers compared to the same period in 2019. The true impact of Covid on sales for 2020/21 is yet to be published and although we expect to see a decrease in sales overall, we remain optimistic that 2021 can be a year of innovation and we’ve been delighted to see a number of Scottish Gin brands embracing online digital events, a trend which will no doubt continue to grow.
The Gin Cooperative on the road
Having visited close to 70 Scottish Gin distilleries over the previous two years, 2020 was the year we’d planned to go island hopping and visit the west coast of Scotland. A week long tour of Scottish Gin distilleries and meeting the makers and our members was something we’d really been looking forward to. As with every other facet of life in 2020, we put our plans on hold but that didn’t stop us from getting out on the road when it was safe, sensible and legal!
1881 Distillery & Gin School
We were fortunate at the start of the year, pre-lockdown, to have visited 1881 Distillery & Gin School at Peebles Hydro. We were given a private tour of the distillery and had a chance to meet with the distillery team and chat all things distilling, Scottish Gin and learn more about the hotel and area. We were treated to a gin school and cocktail session where we picked from a selection of botanicals before distilling our own gins and finishing the session with some 1881 gin cocktails. This was the third gin school we’d experienced and it really was great fun. There’s one thing can be said about all gin school experiences, with the guidance of an experienced distiller to hand, the hardest part is always coming up with a name for your gin!
Although not a member of The Gin Cooperative, we made time to meet with one Scotland’s newest gin makers, Bloodline Spirits, the distillery responsible for Rule Gin, which went on to win Silver in the Distilled category at the 2020 Scottish Gin Awards. Based in Peebles in the Scottish Borders, the co-founders of Bloodline Spirits are both gin lovers. And with one of the co-founders family links to a global whisky empire, a lost family fortune and a still that was named after a dear grandparent, our visit provided lots of fascinating insight.
Caorunn Gin at Balmenach Distillery
We also visited the Highland home of Caorunn Gin before lockdown at the Balmenach Distillery. We’d met Gabrielle from Caorunn a few months before at the Spirit of Speyside festival in Elgin, where we took part in the Caorunn sensory workshop. The workshop involved using your sense of smell to identify botanicals along with taste samples to try and breakdown the flavours and profile of Caorunn gin, another amazing Scottish Gin experience.
When we visited the distillery, it was closed to the public so we were treated to a private tour of the distillery and Carounn Gin Borthy by Gabrielle. The visitor experience at the distillery is similar to the workshop we’d attended a few months before, except it takes place in the distillery right next to the still where the magic happens. And this is most definitely a working distillery. The weighing room where head distiller Simon weighs up the botanicals for each batch of gin using traditional weighted scales. The copper valves and industrial, almost steampunk-esque stills and of course the berry chambers, where the foraged botanicals are left to dry. It’s a distillery experience that puts a smile on your face in a stunning part of Scotland, famous for its distilling heritage.
Just a short drive from Caorunn is the Cairngorm Gin Distillery, where we caught up with Jack Smith, founder and distiller at the Cairngorm Gin Company. Jack’s background in cuisine, along with encouragement from family, saw him set-up his own distillery to create a gin that balanced flavours, incorporated the local area and build a brand that captured beauty of the majestic Cairngorms in a bottle.
We sat with Jack and his Dad and loved learning more about Jack’s journey into the world of spirits and distillation. It’s good to see young people coming into the world of distillation and Scottish Gin for the right reasons. They’re passionate. They want to add value to their local area. They want to create a business they can nurture and grow along with creating a premium Scottish Gin brand. The Scottish Gin category and wider spirits and drinks category in Scotland needs people who are invested in its success.
It’s the one thing we put at the top of our list of best moments. Yes we get to sample lots of amazing Scottish Gins, we get to experience and see first-hand Scottish Gin being made, we get to travel all over Scotland and witness and learn about the inspiration behind the many gins and brands. But the one thing that glues Scottish Gin together is the people. We say it a lot. It’s the people that make Scottish Gin a special place to work in.
Darnley’s Gin Cottage at Kingsbarns Distillery
Although we’ve visited the distillery before, we’d planned on and off throughout early 2020 to return and take part in the gin school experience. As fate would have it, with stricter safety measure in place and tighter restrictions at the time, we decided to once again postpone the gin school experience but go ahead with our socially distanced visit. When we’d visited previously the gin school was just being finished and it was looking great. Tucked away behind a hidden door in the Darnley’s Gin Cottage, the team were establishing the range of botanicals and installing stills but putting the finishing touches in place.
When it was deemed safe and we were allowed to leave our area for work purposes, we finally made plans to return and catch up with Scott Gowans, the head gin distiller to learn more about the impact of Covid on the distillery, which also includes the Whisky-making Kingsbarns Distillery. Having met Scott previously at a gin event, it was great to learn more about the process and his own background in brewing and distilling. Although the visitor experiences were on hold at the time, the shop and cafe remained open. One upside to the distillery being quiet was we were treated to a private tour of the gin distillery and finished gin school. It’s a bit like Dr Who’s tardis – from the outside it looks relatively small but when you get inside there’s a wonderfully presented tasting room that looks into the gin still room. And the gin school is tucked away behind a secret wall in the tasting room. We can’t wait to visit in better times and see what Scott thinks of our Darnley’s Gin School gins.
City of Aberdeen Distillery
Aberdeen is where we’ve spent most of our lives so we were thrilled and excited to see the city’s first distillery in over 80 years open its doors at the very end of 2019. Combining a gin school experience along with a working distillery, we attended the official opening just a few months before the country went into lockdown, where we were treated to a City of Aberdeen Distillery gin making experience.
We visited once again in 2020 and caught up with co-founders Dan Barnett and Alan Milne to learn more about their background, what inspired them and the complicated journey to establishing Aberdeen’s first gin distillery in nearly 100 years. It’s what we’ve learnt about the new wave of distilleries that have opened over the last decade; you have to be super passionate and committed to open your own distillery. Having got to know Dan and Alan, they share both traits along with actually caring about what they do, how they do it and making it a fun, positive process and experience. Although the distillery has released a number of distillery expressions, Dan and Alan are currently finalising their flagship Aberdeen Gin, which is due to launch in 2021 after a variety of recipes were developed and made available to the public to sample and vote.
The biscuit factory doesn’t sound like it should be the home of a distillery but it’s one of the two main distillery sites for Edinburgh Gin. It’s been a key part of our membership and our business, that we treat all Scottish Gin makers and brands as equals, peers and regardless of size of production, all have their own story to tell. The only thing that gives away the fact that one of Scotland’s best known Scottish Gin brands makes their gin here, is the Edinburgh Gin logo on the van parked outside and the smell emanating through a broken pane of glass. There’s no bells, whistles or marketing polish here. It’s a working distillery producing Edinburgh Gin. Specifically used for the production of a number of the core range of Scottish Gins.
We met with some of the distillation team and Finlay Nicol, whose family established the business and grew the brand before transitioning ownership to Ian McLeod Distillers. It was great getting to learn more about the production, botanicals and the Edinburgh Gin story. A batch of Edinburgh Gin Seaside was coming off the still during our visit. We were also given some insight into the new distillery and new as yet to be announced releases. We struck it lucky with the weather as well, which meant we were able to take some Edinburgh Gin expressions around Edinburgh for a photoshoot that saw us visit the Royal Edinburgh Botanical Gardens and take a walk up Calton Hill as the sun set over Edinburgh.
Although Crabbie’s have been producing gin and whisky in Edinburgh since they opened their Chain Pier Distillery, the long term plan was to open a dedicated distillery with visitor centre and distillery experience. With gin production and whisky production set to move to the The Bonnington Distillery in Leith, we visited just before the stills were commissioned to get a tour of the new site, which was ultimately delayed in opening to the public in 2020 due to Covid.
We met up with Graeme who showed us round the new distillery. It’s a fantastic space in heart of Leith and a fitting home for the next generation of Crabbie’s spirits. Graeme explained that the water used in the distillery comes from an ancient aquifer approximately 147m under the distillery. Along with the whisky stills, manufactured by the team at Speyside Copper Works, the 500 litre Arnold Holstein pot still is used exclusively for the Crabbie’s gin production. With work on the new Port of Leith Distillery ongoing, plus Holyrood Distillery, Pickering’s Gin at Summerhall Distillery and with plans for a new Edinburgh Gin Distillery, Edinburgh is soon going to have a fantastic and diverse range of gin experiences on offer… something we can all look forward to!
Little Brown Dog Distillery
We’re lucky we live in a region that’s not short of distilleries, with some of the world’s best known and loved whisky distilleries and brands on our doorstep. We’re also close to all of Aberdeenshire’s gin distilleries with a few just a 10 minute drive in the car. It was at the Spirit of Speyside Festival in 2019 we first met Andrew Smith, co-founder of Little Brown Dog Spirits. He’d mentioned him and his co-founder Chris Reid were working on some exciting new spirit projects. Fast forward to 2020 and pre-launch of LBD Gin, we were invited over to the distillery by Andrew who advised us to bring our wellies as we were going out foraging. Welly and Barbour clad, we took the four mile drive over to the other side of Bennachie, a famous hill and local landmark.
Andrew and THE LBD (yes, there is a real little brown dog) took us through fields, over streams and had us scaling barbed wire fences to show us where some of the botanicals for the as yet to be released gin were foraged. For a minute, it felt like we were on an episode of the Crystal Maze as Andrew showed us an array of botanicals. Had us picking, sniffing, licking and eating. It was a blast.
We headed back to the distillery for a well earned seat and a chat with Andrew to learn more about the new gin, Andrew and Chris and their respective backgrounds and try some samples. Andrew went full Tom Cruise a la Cocktail. Blow torch and smoker at the ready, Andrew prepared a variety of conflations for our enjoyment. The thing with Andrew, Chris and Little Brown Dog Distillery, is that they make things fun. They’re totally dedicated and focussed on producing great tasting spirits but distilled with an equal amount of sarcasm, fun and tongue in cheek.
McQueen Gin in the Trossachs on the outskirts of Callander has continued to invest, grow and push their business and brand forward. We visited and met with co-founder Dale McQueen shortly after we started The Gin Cooperative. Since that first cup of tea and chat, we’ve watched as Dale, Vicky and the McQueen team have grown considerably. This includes their distillery, their range of Scottish Gin expressions, their team, their customer base and routes to market; all whilst doing things the McQueen Gin way.
The pace at which the distillery and business has grown is a reflection of the hard work, time and without a doubt risk taking along the way. When we caught up with Dale and Vicky in 2020, we were shown the new look, streamlined McQueen Gin range. When we visited a year earlier, it was to attend the opening of the new distillery and to see the new bottling line, which even then was impressive. This time round Stuart, the distillery manager, took us round to show us the latest developments and investment in the distillery with lots more in the pipeline.
Having launched their first gin expression around the same time as we launched The Gin Cooperative, we finally made it down to the historic market town of Linlithgow to catch up with Ross and Alyson Jamieson, two of the co-founders of the Linlithgow Distillery. We’ve followed their journey and even the few times we met them at events they were always super passionate about their gins and clearly care about their local area.
Incorporating local landmarks, historical figures and more into their branding and packaging, Ross and Alyson showed us around their distillery, which like many across Scotland, is in an industrial unit on the outskirts of Linlithgow. We really enjoyed our visit as Ross talked to us about the benefits and complexities of the two G-stills used in their gin making process. Alyson also showed us some of the botanicals and explained how each of them work in their core LinGin, plus a few secret botanicals, but obviously our lips remain sealed.
Ross was excited to let us try the first in the new Linlithgow Gin range of cask aged gins. For us, cask aged gins can be a hit or a miss, sometimes they just work and sometimes they fall short of the mark. The sample Ross let us try was one of the nicest cask aged gins we’d tried for a long time. With a depth of flavours and a finish that just keep going. Vanilla, caramel, smoke, wood, earthy notes. It’s always a pleasure visiting distilleries and our members. It’s simply a bonus when we get to try new gins and recipes under development. As they say, it’s a tough life but someone has to do it!
Roehill Springs Distillery
Another local gin maker to us is Roehill Springs Distillery. Based on the family farm just over the Aberdeenshire border in Moray, Shirley and Duncan Morrison started producing gin in August 2019 with the release of their first Scottish Gin expression, Gin No.5. With a background in distilling, having served his time at a local well know distillery and more recently gaining further distilling qualifications, Duncan welcomed us into the distillery and Shirley into their home, for an informal chat about the Scottish Gin industry, their farm and how gin was helping them diversify.
Both from the area and with strong family ties to the Roehill Spring, where the distillery takes its water supply from, it really was inspiring to chat with a local couple who showed courage, drive and determination to create the distillery, brand and gins.
On our last visit of the year, we managed to catch up with the always fun Walter Micklethwait, the founder and distiller at Inshriach Gin. On the outskirts of Aviemore in the Cairngorms National Park, and on the Inshriach estate sits the Inshriach distillery. Since our last visit, Walter had finished his new bottling room providing much needed room having previously bottled between the distillery and a neighbouring distillery. It’s the one thing gin makers seem to be jealous of when it comes to other distilleries, is how many heads does your filler have!
Walter told us the impact Covid has had on the estate, with Inshriach House normally available for rent and the estate hosting weddings and events, providing a big source of income for the estate. Despite this, Walter remained upbeat and in good spirits. We got a sneak peak of the then yet to be released video promos he’s been working on for the distillery along with family chat, the industry, lambing, chickens and everything else in between. Plus some very exciting plans for the future of the distillery and estate.
We’re lucky we get to meet the people behind the Scottish Gins we all enjoy. Our members are more than members. They are our friends, our colleagues, they are the people who contribute to The Gin Cooperative that let us share their stories. They all work extremely hard in an ever growing and competitive gin market. Next time you’re at the supermarket and looking to buy the cheapest gin, stop for a minute. Does the big gin brand in the green bottle need your money? Will your purchase help a real gin producer? Or could you spend a little extra and buy something that’s been made with care and love and know that when you’re sitting at home sipping on a wonderful gin, your money has helped keep a genuine small craft gin producer keep the lights on for another few days. How and where you spend your money on gin matters.
Growing a positive voice for the Scottish Gin industry and our members
Throughout 2020 we pushed ahead with our editorial schedule and continued to help tell our members stories and help our audience discover Scottish Gin, including publishing over 95 original features. Along with maintaining our presence on social media, growing our audience, levels of engagement and reach, we continued to invest time and resources in creating original content. It’s now over three years since we set-up our social media channels and we have carefully grown a genuine audience of followers through curated content that adds value to our members.
Long term, our plan has always been to create an archive of amazing Scottish Gin content that others can enjoy and take inspiration from. With 269 news and original editorial features along with our social media channels, we’re proud to be providing a positive voice for Scottish Gin and showcasing the spirit we love to our audience.
We also got out from behind the camera and organised a number of Facebook Live events with some of our members, friends from the gin community and like minded businesses involved in the world of Scottish Gin. And as they say, never work with children or animals. Our youngest decided to break her bedtime routine and made a few unscheduled appearances. We had the sheep from Deerness Distillery add a chorus of baaaas to our chat with Adele and Stuart from Deerness Distillery. We even had an owl when we chatted with Hamish Martin from The Old Curiosity Distillery. We had a blast doing these interviews and it’s something we hope to continue in 2021.
The end of 2020 also saw us launch our online Scottish Gin shop, which was a year in the planning and six months in development. Working with a specialist Dundee based e-commerce and web agency, our shop finally went live in the middle of December 2020. It’s been yet another massive investment in resources. The website build and development, licences and premises, stock and more. We’ve been supported by a number of members and business partners with the launch, stock, advice and more, so a big thanks to everyone who’s helped with the project.
Our shop provides us with an additional platform to help educate and inspire the consumer to discover Scottish Gin. We’re excited to see our range of Scottish Gins in the shop grow and look at exciting ways we can help consumers discover our members products, brands and stories. It allows us to create a positive brand experience around the Scottish Gins we stock and a content rich shopping experience that provides the greatest level of detail and insight about the Scottish Gins featured.
Our membership continued to grow in 2020 with a number of new gin makers joining us, along with a number of members who are now going into their third year of membership. And as of 2021, we’ve decided to make membership by invitation only. Creating content along with managing The Gin Cooperative, International Scottish Gin Day and now a shop, takes a lot of time (and energy).
We also feel it’s fairer to our existing members that we continue to focus on supporting the members who have given us their seal of approval and supported us, helped us grow our platforms for Scottish Gin and see value in what we do. Our business works because we work hard, our members contribute, and we work together to tell the story of Scottish Gin. And as our social media channels grow and traffic to our website grows, we feel it’s only right that the people who share our goals and values, who have continued to support us and what we’re doing to raise the bar for Scottish Gin are the ones who can benefit the most.
We have never excluded any gin brands who meet our criteria from being listed on our A-Z of Scottish Gin and provide all of Scotland’s Gin makers and brand owners with a free profile page that we manage for them and keep up to date. We’ve always felt it’s important to give consumers the full picture of Scottish Gin, which is why every Scottish Gin made in Scotland by a business based in Scotland, that believes in and champions Scottish Gin, is listed in our directory.
The Scottish Gin category
From the offset, our belief has been to call your gin a ‘Scottish Gin’, means it should be made in Scotland. This includes distilled, rectified and cold compounded gins, made from a neutral base spirit, not a pre-made gin. When the actual gin part of your gin isn’t made in Scotland then, for us, it’s not a Scottish Gin. To keep it simple for the consumer, we set a criteria on day one for what we believe makes a Scottish Gin ‘Scottish’. As consumers who felt they had been misled by brands promoting their gin as Scottish Gin, we’ve always felt strongly that using the term ‘Scottish Gin’ to sell your products means your gin should genuinely be made in Scotland. As the category has evolved considerably over the last 3 years, we have taken the opportunity to refine our criteria but the principle remains the same.
For us, we see base spirit and botanicals like the canvas and paints for an artist. It’s how and where they use these elements that provides the geographical indicator. The influences of the local landscape, the stories, the people and more are what shape the direction of a Scottish Gin. For the distilleries that can make their own base spirit and/or forage local botanicals, this is something to be celebrated. But not everyone can, and this shouldn’t come as a shock, but we don’t have an abundance of Scottish lemons growing, thanks to our four seasons in one day climate.
Scottish Gin year on year continues to grow as a recognisable term. A term that adds value to brands and provides consumers with a benchmark for a gin being Scottish. And although there is no legal definition or recognised GI, we believe that businesses wishing to profit from the brand recognition and value to be gained from being able to promote your product as a Scottish Gin, the gin should be made in Scotland. It’s thats simple.
International Scottish Gin Day 2020
We made the difficult decision to postpone ISGD 2020 at the start of lockdown 1.0. Even our new date of 24th October was still a tough time for producers and trade. But we used the additional time wisely to plan for more digital events and content. With ISGD strategically set-up as a day for everyone to be able to celebrate Scottish Gin, in any format, in any location, it was still possible for people to get involved and in fact, think more creatively and collaboratively about showcasing some of their favourite Scottish Gins. Read our ISGD 2020 Highlights here, where we reflect on the second annual ISGD and take the opportunity to thank our amazing sponsors, members, supporters and the wider gin community for their ongoing support and participation in ISGD 2020.
The Scottish Gin Awards 2020
Although we’d spoken at length with the team at the Scottish Gin Awards about the judging process and format as part of previous editorial features, 2020 was the year we were kindly invited to be taste judges. But how do you judge gins during a nationwide lockdown? Online of course. The online judging process was so well coordinated and organised, it worked seamlessly for us.
Although at one point, Martin’s judging group was advised that most of the other groups were finishing their judging a lot quicker than his, because there was far less chatter in the other groups! Hint taken. But on a serious note, we feel it’s a sign of the commitment from the team at the Scottish Gin Awards to the industry that they managed to carry out the judging process to such a high standard and to do it all remotely, which was outstanding to witness and be part of.
The annual Scottish Gin Awards live event is one of the few nights in the calendar we get a night away from our young family. Get to put on the glad rags, spend the evening with other adults and share an evening celebrating the industry we love with the people we admire and respect. Once again, technology played a key role, with the Scottish Gin Awards team partnering with an innovative new software company who specialise in online events software.
The awards format saw all the attendees meet in a virtual room where the awards were hosted by Des Clarke. As the sponsor of the High Strength Gin of The Year category, we pre-recorded a short video announcing the nominees. And on the night our members took home a total of 22 awards across flavour and business categories including:
Scottish Gin Distillery of the Year
Gin of the Year
London Dry Gin of the Year
Navy Strength Gin of the Year
Gin Liqueur of the Year
Flavoured Gin of the Year
Old Tom Gin of the Year
Growth Business of the Year
Best Marketing Campaign
Excellence in Sustainability
Scottish Gin Destination of the Year
We joined a few of the winners and some of our friends from the gin community for a virtual after party. Unfortunately we have been sworn to silence about who attended and what was said but going by the fact we finished chatting at 1am, it’s safe to say it was a great evening of celebration for the Scottish Gin industry.
Looking ahead to 2021
We predict 2021 will see a higher number of new Scottish Gin brands come to market, with a number of brand launches put on hold in 2020, along with a higher number of new distilleries producing Scottish Gin. Scotland’s Gin makers will continue to look at expanding their portfolios of drinks including more limited edition distillery releases and experimental, small batch releases. We also predict we will see some existing gin brands look at rebranding and new packaging with a focus on bespoke glass bottles.
As we make plans for 2021, we’re grateful to all our members who have continued to support us throughout 2020 and welcome our newest members. We’re excited to see the reputation of Scottish Gin continue to grow and will continue our focus of promoting it as a premium spirit made in Scotland with care, love and craft.
As Scottish Gin and Scotland’s world renowned reputation for distilling continues to grow, the industry needs to maintain momentum and continue to focus on common goals. If one Scottish Gin business succeeds, the category benefits. Where one Scottish Gin brand makes inroads into new export markets, it opens the doors of opportunities for other brands. For every bottle of Scottish Gin discovered for the first time by a consumer or trade partner, it opens the first chapter of the story of Scottish Gin and leaves the book open for others to read. When the Scottish Gin category succeeds, we all benefit. And where it falls short we all feel the impact.
As we look to 2021, our message is clear. People shouldn’t see Scottish Gin as a quick way of generating some cash. You have to be invested in Scottish Gin long term. If you don’t have a genuine story to tell, if you don’t care about how your gin tastes or looks or are rushing to get your gin to market, then stop. Launching a Scottish Gin brand is a marathon not a sprint.
We’ve seen a growing trend in the last few years in the wider gin category of gins being pushed to market that fall far short of the mark of what ‘premium’ should mean. Ill conceived branding, tacky packaging, some woeful social media content. Gin should be fun. It should appeal to everyone and be accessible to everyone; it’s one of the things we love, is that there is no one definition of a gin drinker. And when it comes to Scottish Gin, we believe there’s a Scottish Gin out there for everyone. But we believe if new gin brands want to make their mark in the category and garner the respect and admiration from their peers in the industry, they must focus on being genuine and original, producing great tasting spirits and of course make them look great.
Too many people have worked hard, risked so much to create their brands, their businesses, their Scottish Gins. So much time and effort invested to make Scottish Gin look, sound and taste amazing. So many people are invested in the success of Scottish Gin as a drinks category and as a recognisable term that adds value to brands and businesses. Be a part of the puzzle that adds something new and helps make the picture clearer for consumers. Invest. Take time. Add your own valuable part to the story of Scottish Gin that raises the bar for the Scottish Gin category as a whole.