Interest in local beers has piqued too in recent years, with a growing number of craft breweries springing up across Scotland.
And it seems gin is also benefitting from this increased awareness of provenance.
Frazer McGlinchey, on-trade brand consultant for Scottish gin Caorunn, said the category is reaping the rewards of a growing interest in the ‘story’ behind food and drink.
“The greater awareness of provenance and flavour has definitely impacted upon industry and consumers alike, which is great news for a liquid with the nuance and character a premium gin has,” he said.
“Greater interest in where brands come from and what they are made of behind marketing and hype can only be a good thing for the brands with pride in their provenance and process.
“Consumers are more sophisticated and less easily fooled; when you have exceptional liquid made from great ingredients with passion it’s an unbeatable combination.”
Viv Muir, director at NB Gin – a small-batch spirit which is produced in North Berwick, agreed that consumers are increasingly interested in a gin’s origin, ingredients and story.
“Quality and versatility are key,” she said. “But so too is provenance – as customers are looking for something with a story behind it; you need something which is unique and that not everyone stocks.”
Growing interest in the ‘story’ behind gin brands was also highlighted by Alex Nicol, managing director of The Spencerfield Spirit Company, which produces Edinburgh Gin.
But it seems the thirst for provenance and quality goes beyond the spirit.
“Provenance is becoming increasingly important, particularly in the higher-end cocktail bars and with consumers who want to gain more knowledge on the brands they are consuming,” said Nicol.
“Gin is an attractive and growing category mainly at the premium end because consumers want to drink quality products when they are out and consume them in cocktails and with a good quality tonic.”
Many bartenders are recommending specific tonic waters and garnishes to match the botanicals in the gin.
Nicol is not alone in flagging the importance of pairing a premium gin with a quality mixer.
Liam Murphy, UK brand manager for Martin Miller’s gin, said a growing number of Scottish bars are working hard to change consumer perceptions of the traditional gin and tonic.
“Bars are also experimenting with their gin and tonics and trying to provide a better offer in terms of quality,” said Murphy.
“Venues such as The Finnieston bar in Glasgow, for example, are really starting to focus on the glassware, ice, tonic and variations in garnish; serves such as strawberry and black pepper, basil and grapefruit and blueberry and ginger with Martin Miller’s gin have been embraced greatly and opened consumers’ eyes to the fact that there is more to a G&T than a small piece of lemon and one melting ice cube.”
Karen Stewart of Wemyss Malts, which produces Darnley’s View gin, agreed.
“By their very nature, botanicals used in the London Dry-style gins have interesting provenance and there is a growing awareness of which gins contain each botanical,” she said.
“Gin and tonic is the traditional heartland for gin serves, but many bars and brands are recommending specific tonic waters and garnishes to match the botanicals in the gin.”
Stewart’s views were echoed by Graham Coull, director of Stirling-based VC2 Brands, which owns Boë Superior Gin.
Acknowledging that the gin and tonic remains the most popular serve “by a considerable margin”, Coull said operators can boost sales and encourage consumers to buy a more premium gin by focusing on quality serves.
“Consumers and publicans are willing to upgrade their gin to a premium craft gin and also willing to opt for the distillers’ preferred serve; ours is by rimming the glass with a wedge of fresh orange, filling the glass with cubed ice and pouring Boë Superior Gin over the ice, topping up with a premium tonic and dropping a wedge of freshly cut orange into the glass, which brings out the citrus and orange peel within the gin,” he said.
“Take pride in how you present your drinks; consumers have to invest hard cash into buying what you serve so take the time to give them real added value.”
James Wright, international sales and marketing controller at Halewood International, whose portfolio includes Whitley Neill gin, also advised operators to offer a selection of different serves when it comes to gin.
“Whitley Neill’s traditional serve is the G&T with a twist, served with a dash of Peychaud’s Bitters and orange wedges,” he said.
“Many brands are looking at subtle differences to the classic serves.”
Bob Fowkes, marketing director of Brockmans gin, said the increase in different styles of gin available has paved the way for operators to broaden the range of gin-based long drinks and cocktails they offer.
“We are working with several bar and pub groups, helping them to develop cocktails that show customers gin isn’t just about G&T,” said Fowkes.
“So, for example, the Brockmans Bramble and a new cocktail idea we will be promoting involving lemon sorbet will also help attract both new gin imbibers and revive interest in gin amongst existing consumers.”
The importance of the spirit’s versatility in appealing to both new and existing gin drinkers was also highlighted by Ian Peart, on-trade channel director for spirits at Pernod Ricard UK, whose gin portfolio includes Beefeater and Plymouth.
“As consumers become more savvy in the ways they drink gin, there is space for both ‘old school’ gin drinkers, who prefer the classic flavours such as Beefeater, and the ‘new school’ that seem to prefer the more modern interpretations with unusual botanicals,” said Peart.
“In the case of the former, they will be looking for an established name and a gin that has bold flavours of juniper and citrus, whereas for the latter, it is the more floral notes that tend to appeal.
“Cocktails present a significant opportunity for the on-trade and so licensees should ensure they include a range of gin serves on their menus to capitalise on this trend.”
And gin-based cocktails needn’t be complex, according to Katerina Podtserkovskaya, marketing manager for Gordon’s at Diageo.
“An easy way for publicans to add an extra, unique twist to their cocktails is to use a flavoured gin such as Gordon’s Elderflower or Gordon’s Crisp Cucumber as the base spirit, and go the extra mile with eye-catching garnishes,” she said.
“Gordon’s Elderflower is best-served with ice, tonic and a garnish of strawberries, whilst Gordon’s Crisp Cucumber is best with slices of fresh cucumber as a garnish.”
James O’Connor, senior brand manager for Hendrick’s gin at distributor First Drinks, advised operators to offer a range of different serves when it comes to gin.
“Anything you can do to help customers navigate the category is helpful – for example, presenting new serves on drinks menus and blackboards or training staff to ensure they can educate customers on individual brands’ ingredients and heritage,” he said.
The role well-trained staff can play in boosting gin sales – and encouraging consumers to choose a more premium brand – was underlined by Marcus Pickering, of recently-launched Pickering’s Gin, which is produced at Summerhall Distillery in Edinburgh; and Tim Homewood, brand ambassador for Tanqueray No. Ten.
“It is very important to encourage all staff to know their products’ provenance, and of course to have tried and sampled them so they can quite simply offer a hands-on experience when offering advice to their customers,” said Pickering.
Homewood said staff are the “biggest asset” in a venue.
“You can have the best food, drink and beautiful surroundings but if your staff aren’t up to scratch it doesn’t count for anything,” he said.
“There are a whole host of gins on the market now and this can be confusing for the customer; it’s the job of the bar staff to help guide them towards the right choice for them.”