THE UNITED NATIONS OF GIN
Amid political upheaval, gin stands strong
So here we are: new year, new decade, new geo-political landscape. Wherever you’re reading this, it shouldn’t have gone unnoticed that some things have changed in the last couple of months. Not least in the UK.
That said, a fair few things have remained the same: there’s still a blond mop-top in charge in both Downing Street and the White House, a Swedish teenager is still making herself heard on a Friday for the sake of the planet and gin is still making waves throughout the bars of the world.
As this is our awards issue, we have a perfect excuse to celebrate all that is good in gin and to shout about those products, people and places that have wowed us, whether we’re the ginerati or consumers.
There’s a temptation to fret about the impact that some of the upheaval will have on the international love affair with the spirit, particularly with the recognition of Britain as its “home” (if not, arguably, its birthplace). There’s even quite grown-up talk of “peak gin” having been reached, but I don’t buy that.
The relentless speed of development of gin has meant that we are still being babyshowered with innumerable gin goodies.
Distillers large and small have experimented with botanicals, with production techniques, with the base spirit (hats off, as Alice suggests on page 18, to the not-so-straight-laced older sibling vodka). Indeed, these two extremes of the spectrum feed happily off each other: while the volume producers have the budgets to keep the consumers’ appetite sated, the in-the-garage craft producers bring their gutsy “what if” approach to the game and add to our joy of discovery.
Perhaps us early adopters in the UK have started, subtly, to see what else we can tantalise our taste buds with and other cocktails and spirits are beginning to find their way onto our bar bills. But because gin so gloriously transcends borders, the word has got out.
What we are now witnessing is the start of a strong global gin boom. You only have to look at the winners and shortlisters in the World Gin Awards in the back pages to realise that Britain has been joined by a United Nations of Gin. Australia is adding to its wine and whisky with some fantastic gins, South Africa is loving gin like it’s never been loved before, the USA has woken up to the spirit and is distilling with alacrity and admirable derring-do, our friends in Sweden have been lavishing their supreme offerings on us for years, and now Brazil has arrived at the party bringing, let’s face it, possibly the world’s biggest choice of botanicals.
After glorifying the global nature of gin like that, it would be a tad disingenuous not to write about it in this issue. So we have sent Blair and Davin to the foothills of the Rockies in Canada to learn about the prolific output of the Last Best Distillery, our US contributor Aaron went to California to dig deeper into the pioneering past of the now Ryan Reynolds-fronted Aviation Gin, and we meet one of the surprising number of gin makers on Mallorca. Thijs has once again sent news from the genever producers in Europe and Virginia has searched New York for the finest gin joints. Kayleigh also reports on new and exciting gins emanating from Venezuela and Hong Kong. And closer to home, we learn that the world’s biggest gin exporter, Bombay Sapphire, is immeasurably greener than its bottle suggests. David T. Smith, in the meantime, has gathered some friends together to look ahead at what the rest of the year will bring us in the realms of the junipered spirit.
Whatever colour our passports are, we can all claim to be citizens of the world of gin
So whatever colour our passports are, we can all claim to be citizens of the world of gin. Finally, of course we couldn’t publish without sharing well over 20 gin tastings, which, with bottles from France, Germany, Iceland and Taiwan joining the panoply of nations already represented in this issue, demonstrate how multinational the spirit really is.