Is It Ginuine? – The Alarming Growth of Fake Gin

Gin Tasting

The growth of the gin category continues at an incredible rate. It isn’t too long ago that bottles gathered dust on shop shelves, the product not enjoying the popularity that it does today. It is a fantastic time for gin drinkers and enthusiasts as many more exciting, delicious gins are now available to buy. However it is this incredibly fast growth that threatens to damage the category which risks losing it’s identify and confusing consumers.

In a bid to secure market share, new “distillers” are continuously searching for new unique selling points at the cost of quality and stretching the legal definitions of gin to the limit and beyond. Furthermore there are many new inexperienced distillers who are manufacturing products that they believe to be gin but which often fall short of what the legal definitions prescribe to be gin, particularly that which states that the predominant flavour (of gin) must be juniper.

Look & Feel of Gin

Certainly at craft level, how a gin looks and is presented seems to have become almost more important than how it tastes. The fact that it is presented in an expensive elaborate ceramic bottle often results in sales even if the consumer has no idea of what the product tastes like or even if the spirit within is what it claims to be on the bottle.

A very highly regarded manufacturer in Stoke on Trent announced this week that it was about to launch gin packaged in a decorative ceramic bottles. When I enquired as to what type of still was used to produce the gin they apologetically stated that they were unsure. When they announced the new product on social media the post achieved nearly 12000 shares in a little under 17 hours. I’m sure they’ll sell a lot of bottles of their product about which they know very little.

There are products being launched on an almost weekly basis that are so cosmetically manufactured that they look like at best fizzy soft drinks and at worst nail varnish. By law, gin must taste of juniper. If a product is being marketed as Parmo Violet gin, as Strawberry Candy Floss gin or as Sherbert Lemon gin, it is highly unlikely that the prominent flavours being displayed are that of juniper.

The way that our gins are sometimes served in bars has an impact too. All too often a gin will be served in huge goldfish bowl glasses with masses of ice, multiple garnishes and mixed with incredibly flavoursome tonics, more a gin cocktail than a gin and tonic, but once all of those flavours are built on top of the gin, the consumer is in any case unlikely to be able to detect whether the overpowered gin tastes of juniper or not and so the manufacturer gets away with producing a product more akin to vodka than gin.

What Is Gin?

In 2008 legislation was passed that stated that all gins must be:

  1. Made with suitable ethyl alcohol with JUNIPER* berries and other flavourings. (see note below)
  2. The ethyl alcohol must be distilled to the minimum standards stated in the Spirit Drink Regulations.
  3. The predominant flavour must be JUNIPER.
  4. Water may be added to reduce the strength of the gin but it must have a minimum retail strength of 37.5%abv.
  5. Further ethyl alcohol can be added after any distillation.

* There are very few rules defining gin but at the very least a gin must taste of and have the aroma of juniper. If a gin does not taste of juniper it is not gin, and the word ‘gin’ should not appear on the label. If your strawberry candy floss gin tastes of strawberry candy floss and not juniper then it is a strawberry candy floss spirit drink and not gin. The product manufacturer knows by wrongly adding the word gin then popularity, sales and profitability are likely to be maximised. I recently challenged a local company distilling gin having tasted one of their products and discovered that it did not taste of juniper. To my surprise their attitude was that because they were not told exactly what the proportion of juniper berries in relation to the rest of the botanicals used in the production of their gin, then they were not at fault and that it not tasting of juniper was a matter of opinion.

Gin Tasting

Gin Tasting

Defining Gin

The rules also legislate on three distinct definitions of gin:

GIN

  1. The ethyl alcohol does not have to be redistilled.
  2. Flavours can be either approved artificial or natural and these can be simply compounded (mixed with the alcohol).
  3. No restriction on the addition of other flavourings such as sweeteners or colouring.

DISTILLED GIN

  1. Must be made in a TRADITIONAL** still by redistilling neutral alcohol in the presence of natural flavourings but there is no minimum strength of the resulting distillate.
  2. Other flavourings, sweeteners and approved additives can be added after distillation whether natural or artificial.
  3. Distilled Gin may have approved colourings added.

** The legal definitions for both Distilled Gin and London Dry Gin state that traditional stills must be used for the production of the gin. To me, traditional stills mean copper pot stills. Many of the very recent small scale distillers are not using traditional stills, moreover most are using stainless steel automated stills. Stills made of copper make a clean and smooth spirit. The copper removes volatile sulphuric compounds which if remained in the distillate could result in unwanted flavours and aromas in the final product. Indeed the manufacturers of some of these new automated stainless steel stills know this, and so include small pieces of copper in chambers in the necks of their stills. The new automated stainless steel stills barely have room for enough botanicals to be used within the distillation process, and particularly do not allow enough space for the amount of juniper berries needed to ensure that the resulting finished product tastes and smells of juniper. I know of at least three brands of ‘gin’ being manufactured by new distillers with these automated stainless steel stills within a 30 mile range of my home in Staffordshire, their brands being very well known locally. The only part of the process that can claim to be handcrafted in the manufacture of gins in many of the new automated stainless steel stills is when the operator depresses the green ‘on’ switch on the front of the machine. The skill and knowledge required to accurately make the spirit cut is redundant as the machine takes over that responsibility from the operator.

LONDON GIN

  1. Must be distilled in traditional** stills by redistilling ethyl alcohol in the presence of natural flavourings (botanicals).
  2. The methanol level in the ethyl alcohol must not be greater than 5 grams per hectolitre of 100%abv alcohol.
  3. Flavourings used must be approved natural flavourings (botanicals) and they must impart their flavour DURING THE DISTILLATION PROCESS***.
  4. No artificial flavourings are permitted in the production of London Gin.
  5. The resulting distillate must have a minimum strength of 70%abv.
  6. NO FLAVOURINGS CAN BE ADDED AFTER DISTILLATION***.
  7. Other than a small amount of sweetener and water, nothing else may be added.
  8. No colouring can be added to London Gin.

*** A local ‘craft’ distiller near to where I live produces a gin presented in a decorative ceramic bottle and labelled as ‘London Dry Gin’. The back label states that flavours are infused after distillation, this precludes the product from being called London Dry Gin.

How To Buy Gin

Due to the change in the law regarding the minimum size of a still used to produce gin, many new small scale distilleries have recently opened throughout the UK, many of them making fantastic products of quality and integrity. For me, when a craft gin from a small local distillery is good, as well as tasting of juniper, the distiller paints a picture of the local environment through the use of local botanicals that grow near to the spirit’s place of birth. This idea of placeness is very important to me as a consumer and appeals to those who are interested in a product’s provenance and journey from field to table.

Placeness portrayed by a distillers use of local botanicals shows that they have invested time in creating and developing their brand. Their product name may also tie in to placeness and provenance but some lack that time invested as apparent all too often at the moment when a gin is simply named “(insert name of town) Gin”.

Some gin brands have been around for many years, some for decades, some for hundreds of years and have survived through challenging times when gin sometimes wasn’t as popular as it is today. These brands have survived because of the skill and tradition that exists within their businesses which enables them to consistently make quality gins.

  • Before you buy a bottle gin make sure you taste it neat. If it tastes of juniper (piney / citrusy) its good, and legal! If it doesn’t taste of juniper it isn’t gin.
  • Check out the distiller’s website and look for a description of the production process. Distillers using traditional copper pot sills will be eager for you to see their wonderful stills and there will be photos all over their website. If there is no photo of a still it is highly likely that it is either a) being produced in an automated stainless still or b) being made elsewhere on a site making contract gin in an automated stainless steel still.
  • Go to gin shows and taste gin (neat)! A great way to find out about gin products is to attend shows and tastings and speak to the distillers directly to find out about their production processes.
  • Buy your gin from your local independent who should be able to offer advice.

Non Alcoholic Gin

By definition there is no such thing as non alcoholic gin. By law gin has to be a minimum of 37.5% alcohol by volume.

Gin Tastings

Call Time On Fake Gin

In September 2018 producers of the finest of gins Haymans launched their campaign “Call Time on Fake Gin” highlighting the rise in producers marketing gins that have only trace notes of juniper  or juniper character overshadowed by other dominant flavourings. Have a look at the website for more information.

It truly is an amazing time for the category and for all of us who love gin. There is so much choice of fantastic product for us to buy and enjoy, lets not let fake gins ruin the fun for us. By demanding that our gin tastes of juniper we can help to call time on fake gin.

Slainte

David

 

 

 

 

Private Corporate Whisky Tasting London

Private London Tasting

We regularly host corporate whisky tasting masterclasses for businesses and their clients throughout the UK. This week we hosted corporate whisky tastings in both London and Manchester.

Private Whisky Tastings in London

We were invited to host a whisky tasting in Pall Mall, London at the prestigious Royal Automobile Club. During the tasting we entertained employees and clients with a tutored whisky tasting including six stunning hard to find whiskies perfectly paired with canapes specially created to compliment each dram

Authentic Whisky Masterclasses in London

Nobody in London can offer such authentic whisky tastings as we do. David was distillery manager at one of the largest malt whisky distilleries in Scotland, the mighty Caol Ila Distillery on the windswept and beautiful Isle of Islay. He’s lucky enough to have been given the responsibility of choosing whisky for limited edition bottlings and before moving to Islay regularly bottled his own single casks.

Our competitors hosting whisky tastings in London are brand ambassadors or sales representatives and whilst their events are engaging, they cannot offer the authenticity that we do, given our experience at the coal face of whisky production.

When we host a whisky tasting for your clients in London, we’ll be bringing Scotland to you.

Corporate Whisky Tastings in London

We specialise in hosting whisky tastings for any occasion whether it be a private party, a business reception or a corporate event. We can host a whisky tasting for your business in London or anywhere else in the UK. We also host private gin tastings in London.  Our whisky tastings in London are bespoke to every clients needs. Sometimes we host whisky dinners for clients in London, we work closely with the chef to ensure that each course is perfectly paired with each whisky.  If you would like further information about our private tastings or if you would like to check availability, please complete the form below and we will reply to you very quickly.

 

Private Whisky Event London

Private Whisky Tasting, Royal Automobile Club, London

We hosted a private whisky tasting in London at the Royal Automobile Club this week for a company who were entertaining their clients. We presented six stunning hard to find Scotch whiskies. Each whisky was perfectly paired with canapes.

 

1. Rest and Be Thankful Whisky Company Glenallachie (Speyside) 2004 Single Cask Single Malt Whisky

This was a stunning dram matured in European oak (cask number 9006411) previously containing sherry and yielding 607 bottles at cask strength (in this case 59.2%). I was told that this was a very special bottle indeed and we were not disappointed. The Glenallachie had a huge fruity nose with blackcurrants and bilberry leading on the nose and a burst of chocolate, raisins and black spangles on the palate. I don’t think the finish has ended even now!

Served with:

Chorizo and sun blushed tomato tartlets, crab beignets with sweet chilli, and tiger prawn tempura with sweet chilli sauce

 

2. Chorlton Whisky Company Burnside (Speyside) 20 Year Old Single Cask Single Malt Whisky

Another lovely dram bottled by the Chorlton Whisky Company. This whisky was matured in American oak and bottled at cask strength which in this case was 51.7%. The nose was very fruity displaying citrus and red fruit with pear drops and hessian on the palate. A real treat.

Served with:

Quail egg on parmesan crisp, and cream cheese on Thai asparagus cones

Private Tasting London Whisky

3. Master of Malt Caol Ila (Islay) 6 Year Old Single Cask Single Malt Whisky

An incredible Caol Ila bottled by the guys at Master of Malt, this was intense hallmark Caol Ila, an oily acidic mouthfeel , very smoky on the nose and great with the canapes particularly the fishcake with Thai spices.

Served with:

Smoked Scottish salmon with horseradish, baked new potatoes with creme fraiche, coconut crusted fish cake with Thai spices (!)

London Private Whisky Tasting

4. Douglas Laing’s Bunnahabhain (Islay) Single Minded 8 Year Old Single Cask Single Malt 

This is an incredibly good value single cask whisky bottled by Douglas Laing at 43%. This particular Bunna was matured in a sherry hogshead. A great introduction to Islay whiskies, this Bunnahabhain was made using unpeated malt.

Served with:

Halloumi and red onion filo, Parma ham and gorgonzola crostini

Whisky Tastings London

5. Bowmore (islay) Handfilled Distillery Only Single Cask Single Malt Whisky

I was really looking forward to tasting this very special dram, Bowmore is one of my all time favourites, I was especially looking forward to this one as it had been maturing in a Pedro Ximenez sherry butt for 16 years. The spirit was distilled in 1999 and bottled in 2016, this could only be purchased at the distillery by visiting in person and bottling it straight from the cask. The whisky was bottled at 55.7%. The nose was a fusion of citrus mandarin and smooth butter cream. On the palate there was a burst of blackcurrant with morello cherries and ripe plums, The finish was sweet treacle toffee or bonfire toffee with a little smoke to follow.

Served with:

Tipsy trifle shots and creme brulee

Arrange whisky tasting london

6. Bunnahabhain Moine Marsala Distillery Only Single Malt Whisky

Last but not least by any means was this awesome Bunnahabhain only available to purchase by visiting the distillery itself. There may be a few left at the distillery so go and collect yours! This whisky was distilled in 2004 and bottled in 2017 at 56.6%. It spent it’s whole maturation in marsala casks. The yield of the casks was only 564 bottles. The nose was all about bonfires, dried fruits, toffee and vanilla. On the palate there was ripe grape oak and sweet spice followed by a long rich and smoky, toffee finish.

Whisky Tastings

If you would like to find out more about what is involved in our whisky tastings, please click here for more info. We hope to see you at one of our whisky tastings in London soon.

 

Gin Tastings In Leek

Gin Tasting

Gin Tastings in Leek For You!

We host gin tastings in Leek, gin tastings in the Staffordshire Moorlands, gin tastings in the Peak District and throughout the rest of the United Kingdom. We also host gin and whisky tastings for private parties and at corporate events. We regularly host gin tastings in Leek for special occasions such as hen parties or stag parties at large self catering houses and private homes in Leek and further afield.

Gin Tastings

During our Gin Tastings guests taste 6 gins neat before preparing the perfect serve gin & tonic with garnishes as suggested by the distillers. Our tastings are fun and informative and are enjoyed by those both new to the wonderful world of gin and by seasoned enthusiasts!

Private Gin Tastings in Leek

As well as our regular scheduled gin tasting events around the UK, we arrange private gin tastings in Leek for private parties, stag parties, hen parties, corporate events and for special birthdays.

Scroll down the page to learn more about what is involved in our gin tastings in Leek.

Enquire About a Gin Tasting in Leek

To enquire about a gin tasting in Leek, or anywhere else in the UK, please call David on 07875 405 980 or complete and submit the form below and we will get back to you very quickly.

 

 

Gin Tasting Hen Party

Our Gin Tastings

When you join one of our gin tastings you can expect it to be a little different. Having worked in the distilling industry for many years, we know that the distiller who has painstakingly crafted the gin before you, wants you to be able to taste the spirit and to appreciate the difference between their gin and those produced by their competitors. The spirit is the heart and soul of any distillery, whether it be destined for a fine single malt whisky or for a premium London dry gin.

Gin tasting in your home

Nosing and Tasting Gin

At the beginning of our tasting I talk guests through the rationale of the choice of glassware that I like to use in comparative spirit tastings. I then demonstrate how to nose, taste and evaluate spirit.  I then ask guests to spend a few minutes nosing the neat gins, and to make a note of any aromas that they detect, there are no right or wrong answers, what one person gets will be completely different to the next.

We nose each of the gins ‘blind’, I don’t reveal the brand name of the gin until later, we then go on to having a taste of each neat gin, again to see if guests identify any particular flavours. We then prepare the gin and tonic using garnishes as suggested by the distiller and enjoy our first drink.

corporate gin tastings

The Gin Garnish and Tonics

I prepare the garnishes as suggested by the distillers for the ‘perfect serve’ for each gin. I always suggest to guests that they should perhaps taste the gin and tonic before garnishing. I believe some garnishes can totally over power the flavour of the gin. I don’t see the point in spending £40 on a special bottle of gin only to mask its character by adding heavily flavoured garnishes or tonic. I think it is similar in a way to how we drink single malt whisky. There is nothing wrong with adding  a large dollop of coca cola to your £50 single malt whisky, it’s just that the end product will taste exactly the same as it would if you had used a £12 blended whisky from the supermarket.

I adopt a similar approach with the choice of tonic for my tastings. There are many tonics on the market to choose from and It is great that people have their own favourites and that it is encouraging consumers to explore the gin category. During a tasting however, it is important that each spirit is tasted in exactly the same way, using the same glassware, some would argue without garnish, and if tonic is being used, exactly the same product for each serve. More often than not, my choice of tonic for my gin tasting events is good old straight forward Fever Tree tonic water.

Once each gin & tonic has been prepared and tasted, I talk about the gin brand and the history of the distillers who make it. I’ll also talk about the production process and botanicals, both traditional and local, used to make each gin.

We hope to see you at a tasting soon!

Chin chin

David