As the Gin Industry is expanding and the market is becoming hugely saturated with our favourite tipple one would expect that people would be (very) merrily dancing in the streets and raising their voices in chants of praise and exultation. To a degree this has happened. More and more people are talking about gin, writing about gin, taking pictures of gin, buying gin and drinking gin, but it’s not all positive.
2018 saw much debate and discussion surrounding gin. Gin Monkey confessed to having “lost it a bit on twitter” when she launched the #StopFuckingWithGin movement which targeted products such as gin and tonic crisps, gin cheese and gin mayo and called them out for being completely nonsensical. While Hayman’s asked us to join with them to “call time on fake gin” by trying to pin down the definitions and regulations regarding gin. This initially seemed to gather a lot of momentum before dissipating into the ether, but why? Is it because it is impossible to enforce, with too much subjectivity and too many grey areas or is it because of the lack of interest from the new wave of gin drinkers?
At the end of last year I was asked by Paul from The Gin Guide if I would like to contribute to an article entitled “Gin in 2019” which posed the questions ‘What does 2019 have in store for the gin industry?’ and equally ‘What does the gin industry have in store for 2019?’ The final article came out in two parts, with the first carrying the heading
Gin in 2019 – Part 1: Regulation, Transparency & ‘Novelty’ Gin
It was really interesting to find so many “industry experts” raising similar points and asking the same questions. One key theme which seemed to underpin everything was honesty and transparency. Trust is crucial in any relationship, no one likes to feel they have been lied to or mislead…I’m sure we all remember the Tesco horse meat fiasco and more recently who hasn’t heard of the disaster that was Fyre Festival!
I did a little bit of research, and it seems some of the most common questions asked of distillers and distilleries, by gin fans, at gin events are…
- What botanicals do you use?
- What’s the perfect serve or which tonic should we use?
- How did you get into gin?
- Have you got a pink one?
Surely all these questions can be answered with a quick internet search. It would seem that this massive gin boom has brought with it an onslaught of new drinkers in the gin world who just want to know what’s in their drink and if they’re going to enjoy it or not. So, if these are the most commonly asked questions by “Joe Public,” is it any wonder that websites, bottles and promotional materials are flooded with this information while the nitty gritty is left out? So the real question now is, are distilleries being misleading, or is it really that people are just not asking the right questions? But what even are the right questions? After chats with several other gin bloggers, these are the types of things which they want to know.
- Who is the distiller?
- Where is the gin distilled?
- How is the product made? What is their process?
- Why they started and what inspired them?
It was interesting to find some overlap in questions. People want to hear the personal side of the journey along side some technical aspect, to varying degrees.
So, herein lies the problem faced by distillers and the fine line which they have to negotiate. As a teacher we are told teach to the top and differentiate down. All our lessons are supposed to be presented to challenge the most able students, and the information then diluted down so that the less able children can still understand, access and learn. Adopting this approach in the gin industry may help to keep everyone satisfied.
If distilleries have enough pride and confidence in their product to want to showcase and sell it, then be proud about every aspect of it. If it’s contract distilled, (made by a third-party for the gin brand) then say it’s contract distilled, if it’s a compound gin, (produced without any distillation of botanicals) then say it’s a compound gin. If people are educated on what this means and most importantly why this process/setting/location has been chosen over others then people will have a better understanding of the product in particular and the industry as a whole.
At the same time, if we are asking distillers and distilleries to be honest, we as bloggers, influencers or whatever we choose to call ourselves, in turn need to extend the same courtesy. I write my reviews and articles for fun and as a hobby, I don’t receive any payment for them aside from a sample of the product…well how else am I supposed to form a judgement unless I’ve tried it?! Reviews need to be truthful, honest and sincere, but when it comes down to it, it really is just one person’s opinion. Not every gin is going to be my favourite gin and I’m certainly not going to like a gin just because it is gifted to me by someone to review. At the same time I do appreciate that (in the vast majority of cases) a lot of time and effort has gone into creating the product and who am I to say it’s rubbish? Just because we don’t like something, doesn’t make it bad. The long and short of it is everyone is different, therefore everyone’s tastebuds are different, therefore everyone will have a different experience tasting the same gin! It is so subjective which is why I will often reference my Hubby or a friend who has also tried the gin, cocktail or product and I try to give their opinion too, but I’m not going to pretend I like something just to please someone else.
If we approach our reviews, and brand owners approach their products, in a more open and honest way I do feel we will all maintain credibility, dignity and self respect, which will in turn gain the respect of others. We are all entitled to our own opinions, we should just ensure we are polite, tactful and considerate in our wording. At the same time, I think those who are ambiguous or misleading should also be prepared to be held to account. People aren’t stupid and a half truth will soon catch up with you, particularly in this day and age when everything really is just a quick google away.
So that’s it, let’s just all be a little bit more honest and accept that you can never please everyone.