Think Gin 2020 will take place on April 28 and this year, for the first time, it will run alongside a number of spirits events as part of Think Spirits 2020. DRN caught up with Think Gin’s ambassador and gin specialist David T Smith, to have a chat about all things gin:

What do you think retailers should do to enhance their gin ranges?

Because there is now such a great range of gins compared to ten years ago, it means there are now more choices of where you can buy your gin than ever before. So it makes sense for retailers to look at this carefully and rather than just stocking a huge collection of gins they should try to develop a more a select and curated collection.

I would recommend that retailers try to understand what people might want different gins for. People might be looking for exclusives or for some interesting and different gins, for example.

So retailers should spend the time going through and picking what works for them. That expertise is useful for consumers and I have come across places where this has worked quite well.

And how can retailers encourage consumers to explore and learn about the category?

There are different categories of gin and some of that can be confusing so what is useful is having some sort of signposting. There are consumers who prefer the traditional, London Dry styles of gin whereas others might have a preference for pink or fruit-flavoured gins, so making a clear distinction between these and where they are merchandised in store would help people to find what they want.

Consumers need to be able to have an understanding about what the main characteristics of that gin are. It doesn’t have to be really in-depth or technical information but having a simple way of describing the characteristics of the gin can work really well for consumers.

And it can also help to give some suggestions about how a particular gin could be served and that could also be a way to help consumers navigate the gin category. A newsletter or magazine can help to highlight the differences between each brand, and give ideas about different garnishes. Waitrose publications do this quite well and they also give ideas about simple cocktails that can be made at home.

What are the strengths of the gin category in the UK?

Gin continues to be popular and also it is quite accessible for lots of people. There are many different types of gin so there is a lot to explore. 

One of the biggest strengths is it has managed to do the cocktail thing well. It is a lot easier to do it for gin than a lot of other products.

The gin category has seen lots of new and good quality products and this is partly because it doesn’t require a big investment to start producing gin, as it does for many of the other spirit categories. Some of the gin distilleries that have sprung up are in tiny spaces, but they are able to produce a spirit quickly and it doesn’t need time to sit around ageing for years before producers can start to make profits.

The use of local botanicals is also a strength for this category and this has worked very well for producers around the UK, who have been able to highlight locally-specific botanicals.

I continue to see some really interesting products appearing in gin with more coming from the less traditional gin producing countries and so consumers are being introduced to new, exotic botanicals and flavours. I have seen some really good stuff recently coming from places such as New Zealand, Australia, Italy, India and South America.

I think there is still a lot of potential for consumers to find some really good gins that are priced at accessible price points such as £25 to £30.

What are the weaknesses of the overall category, particularly for the off-trade?

One is there is a lot of gin out there, which is both a strength and a weakness of the category at the same time.

So it is being able to navigate through what is good and what is not so good is one of the challenges for both buyers and consumers.

Why should spirits buyers attend an event such as Think Spirits?

One of the advantages of going to Think Spirits is that buyers are able to see a range of stuff that has been selected because it is interesting and of course you can go and talk directly to the producers all in one place.

A buyer can make an initial judgment about a product when they first see it but at this event they can also then add to this by tasting it and then finding out more about it, and then they can really get all the details straight away instead of over a longer period of time.