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Brand stories - the fun of craft




Boutique Gin at the Speciality Fine Food Fair  Olympia, London. 4 Sept. 

Who would have predicted in our beer loving island that one day the duty on beer sales would be outstripped by the duty on spirit sales? (Source: HMRC 2017. £3.38 billion from spirits : £3.32 billion from beer.)

Maybe we have gone full circle and back to the gin craze? This was in the first half of the 18th Century. The Dutch brought with them our new King William accompanied, to our apparent delight, by Gin.  We Brits were then hooked as Hogarth famously illustrated.

This time round our fondness and excitement for Gin has been a much more refined affair. And if Hogarth was still with us then I’m sure his drawings would feature groups of ardent trend disruptors, hip mixologists and the genuinely, yet earnestly sober, curious taste seekers. And all sipping knowingly at their latest boutique gin discovery!

The trend is we’re all drinking less  - but drinking better. ‘Craft’ has become the drinks business’ lode stone, much like ‘free from’ is for the food business.

I love the idea of boutique craft gin…  It’s relatively simple to set up - from a technical viewpoint - as the distilling time is can be measured in weeks. (Rather than years for whiskey.)

The permutations from the flavouring botanicals means that craft gin distilleries can offer a seemingly endless variety of flavours and styles. 

I was really excited to find this new (to me) boutique gin brand at the Speciality Fine Food Fair.

Poetic license I have to declare some bias here. The brand was developed and produced in the North East - my homeland.  In Sunderland to be exact. To me, this brand epitomises everything that’s exciting about boutique gin brands.

Their branding does a 180 to any pretence to be from ‘good ol’ days’. This brand is all about craft and provenance but firmly rooted in this century - with no faux glances to the past. 

The brand is an exuberant and welcome contrast to the perceived image of it’s home town. There is a great sense of fun about the brand, from the pun name  - Poetic License  - onto to the variety names. For example, take ‘Northern Dry Gin’. Sunderland couldn’t bring itself to do a ‘London’ Dry Gin and isn’t going to apologise for this either. The distillery even nicknames their distilling equipment - it’s called “Our Gracie”.

The people manning the Speciality Fine Foods Fair stand were in equally cheerful form. They brushed off with a resigned grin the prospect of the hard work needed to bring any boutique gin brand to market. (Ten years of your life anyone?)

It was also good to see Poetic License thumb nose the current dedication to ‘London Dry Gin” by developing an ‘Old Tom’ variant. 

This ‘Old Tom’ travels back in time to 18th century gin styles replicating the dry gin taste of the period which includes an infusion of rose petals!  

Unfortunately, I was too late at the stand to taste a sample. But I guess it has a defined ‘floral note’?

Boutique Vodka - Gin’s quieter sister

The contrast between Chase vodka and Poetic Licence’s offer also illustrates the diverity of approach by the boutique distillers. For me the stand out feature of Chase Vodka is their inspired offer of very ‘English’ flavours - Marmalade, Rhubarb, Elderflower and even smoked! This moves vodka from a commodity mixer drink into more of a connoisseur tipple of choice. And in turn matches the drinking styles of our Nordic and Russian counterparts who drink vodka with food much as we do with wine.

As a footnote, it’s also pleasing to see our friends at Anno Gin - a boutique distillery based in Kent, going from strength to strength. We worked with the owners a few years ago to develop their branding, back in 2011 just as the boutique gin market was emerging.

Incidentally, Poetic License also have their own boutique vodka. Develop as the perfect complement to Dry Martinis. 

Dry Martini! - now there a drink waiting to reshape itself? Anyone feeling shaken or stirred?

Peter Walker - Director. wonderlandWPA

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