Once referred to as ‘The Opium of the People’ and ‘Mother’s Ruin’ this clear alcoholic spirit distilled from grain or malt and flavoured with juniper berries, known to us as Gin, has had a somewhat chequered past. Despite its unwholesome start and consequent demise, this easy to drink tipple is once more popular with British consumers, to the extent that festivals have sprung up in its honour. What is the background to gin drinking in this country, why the resurgence in popularity of this sociable drink and how can businesses piggyback on its popularity by attending Gin Festivals?
The first written reference to ‘Jenever’, a Dutch precursor to Gin, is dated around the 13th century, but gin drinking certainly took hold in this country in the first half of the 18th century, specifically in London. As a way to warm themselves in the winter and to cope with life in general, the city’s poor took to drink. Whilst French Brandy was popular with the wealthy, this along with beer, were unobtainable for those in poverty and so they looked for other options one of which was gin. It was cheap, due to the low duty paid on it, (2 pence as opposed to 4 shillings and 9 pence for beer), and abundantly available from around 7,000-dram shops, barbers, pedlars and market stalls, thanks to government reduced taxation on distillation of spirits. Initially it was used as a medicine for the relief of gout and indigestion which grew out of control and quickly became ‘dipsomania’ an old-fashioned term for an uncontrollable craving for alcohol. By 1743 practically anyone of limited means were drinking it, the men, the women and even the babies and children were administered gin to keep them calm and quiet! The harmful effects of consuming this spirit in such vast quantities is reflected in the documented facts that the death rate of the population exceeded the birth rate. Men were rendered impotent and the women sterile having disastrous effects on the demographics of the city at that time. People would do anything to purchase this addictive liquid including selling daughters into prostitution and exchanging wives for a few bottles. These unignorable details must have contributed to its label as ‘mother’s ruin’. To counter the Gin Craze of the people and epidemic of extreme drunkenness, Parliament passed several acts over several years to restrict its purchase and regulate consumption. Although the first act imposing licensing on distillation of gin had little effect, the taxes levied on the spirit soon became too much for the regular consumers and gin drinking waned, replaced by less expensive ales.
The Modern Renaissance of Gin
Fast forward two centuries and Gin drinking is enjoying its second hay day. Today the focus is on quality of the spirit and the addition of locally sourced ingredients. According to the Telegraph (2018), gin sales have tripled since 2009, with £4.61 being spent in 2017; that’s an increase of 32.5%. (ONS) In line with these statistics, 49 distilleries were opened in the same year, as opposed to only 7 closing, making a total of over 315 distilleries in the UK. What is the reason for this sudden popularity? The WSTA (The Wine and Spirits Trade Association) put it down to “premiumisation as drinkers are increasingly prepared to splash out more money on high end alcohol.” Data Consultants, Kantar, have some other theories for this resurgence based on consumers and changing social habits, clever image revamping and emerging brand leaders.
- Social habits of UK citizens have changed from frequenting ‘high tempo’ pubs and clubs to ‘mid-tempo’ casual dining at restaurants and bars. Youngsters, in particular, are drinking less but drinking better and have latched on to longer, more versatile drinks derived on the back of the cocktail era.
- A new image was created for gin via a clever marketing campaign created by Bombay Sapphire and adopting visually attractive bottles.
- The interest in premium gins was triggered by Hendricks due to its distinctive flavour and eye-catching image that brought the brand to life.
- Sipsmith Gin generated the growth in ‘craft gin’ drawing ideas and marketing already used in the US for ‘craft beers.’
- To improve the gin drinking experience a versatile range of quality tonics have been devised to enable consumers to create their own personalised version of the G&T.
- The basic ingredient of all gins is the juniper berry but there are now many variations on a theme with the addition of floral, fruit, herbal or spiced ingredients.
- The new evolution of ‘flavoured’ gins has kept this drink in trend and together with the addition of special gin glasses, has created a whole new drinking experience.
What’s on offer in the Gin stakes?
40 million bottles are sold in the UK every year, but as a nation we have our favourites from Old Tom, a sweetened version of London Dry, to the oldest version Genever gin, to the modern craft gins and of course Sloe, liqueur gin. There is a huge range of exciting brands available and each one has its own distinctive taste, origins, style and methods of production. The best-selling gins in the UK are;
- 2)Bombay Sapphire
- 8)Gin Mare
Whatever your personal taste, there is no doubt that gin is most definitely ‘ in’ but how can you possibly know which is your favourite without sampling them? Enter the Gin Festival, an event devoted to all things gin, where you can learn how they are made, served, mixed and even sample some for yourself. A gin bible provides information about each type to help you choose from the bar and trade stands offer a chance to buy the ones you prefer. Talks and presentations from some of the country’s most experienced gin smiths give you further insight whilst sharing their personal stories. Live entertainment adds to the festival atmosphere and this is all set amidst beautiful surroundings or within historical or contemporary buildings.
Setting up your Gin Festival Stand
Whether you’re a gin distiller, mixologist, supplier of mixers and tonics or produce interesting accompanying foods and snacks – whatever your gin connection, attending one of the UK’s Gin Festivals provides opportunity for growing important business relationships initiated by one to one contact with customers. But making sure your attendance is successful takes much thought, planning, organising and effort to execute. Once your budget is agreed, registration of interest is logged months in advance and preparation for the marketing campaign leading up to the event needs to be carefully scheduled to build up maximum following. Creating an eye-catching display stand to draw in the visitors also requires thinking about; you really want to make the best use of the display area purchased. For tips and advice on the step by step process of attending a Gin Festival take a look at our blog ‘How do I attract more visitors to my exhibition stand?’ If you need any help, the Roller Banners Team are on hand to recommend which display stands, roller banners and additional equipment from our Exhibition collection would work for you. With a wide choice of pop up stands, counters, link, single or doubled sided roller banners, as well as lighting, outdoor displays and tablecloths it can be tricky to choose the best products for an event. Call the studio today to discuss the main features and dimensions of your stand and one of the team will be happy to help put together the best layout for you. A professional design service is also available for those who are short of time or would like a professional finish to their graphics. For more details on how to set up an eye-catching stand and the exhibition process read our ‘It’s those finishing touches that get your exhibition stand noticed’ and ‘How to draw more visitors to your exhibition stand.’ If you’re more into your beer festivals than your gin festivals, check out our beer-related article instead!