Established last year, organisers of International Scottish Gin Day are looking forward to filling your social media feeds with lots of ginspiration tomorrow.
The Scottish gin boom is the gift that keeps on giving. Every few months there is a new release and with a whole host of varieties including London Dry, Old Tom and flavoured gins to name a few, the scene is a bustling playgroup of juniper-based goodness.
Looking to help increase the public’s knowledge of Scottish gin and all the industry has to offer, husband and wife team Martin and Natalie Reid launched International Scottish Gin Day (ISGD) which takes place tomorrow (Saturday October 24) to celebrate one of the country’s fastest growing sectors.
Founders of The Gin Cooperative in December 2017, Martin and Natalie promote the places, the people and the brands within the sector giving the public the chance to discover the stories behind Scottish gin.
Adapting to go online
This year’s International Scottish Gin Day looks a little different to the last event as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic and the restrictions around hospitality.
Martin said: “Year one we put in a lot of work into building relationships with some of the world’s best bars. For example we worked with the beverage team at ATLAS Bar in Singapore, which is regarded as one of the world’s best bars and he result was a special tasting menu with 25 new Scottish gins added to the permanent collection and famous gin tower.
“The Gin Palace in Melbourne, Whitechapel in San Francisco, Mr Fogg’s and Merchant House in London were among many who put on special menus, which we helped coordinate. I guess it showed the appeal of Scottish gin, that some of the world’s most respected bars were happy to be part of it.
“Scotland’s gin makers opened the doors of their distilleries and welcomed visitors to help celebrate. There was so much content on social media with notifications coming through every minute and there were stories in national and local press. It was an amazing feeling seeing everyone celebrating Scottish Gin.
“Year two has been completely different. With Covid-19 impacting hospitality and retail, we’ve had to put a lot of our plans on the shelf. There was an event scheduled for a flagship store in London along with a number of events at some really amazing venues and bars.
“One of the few positives to come out of 2020 is the number of Scotland’s gin makers and others in the world of gin embracing digital content. Live Q&As, virtual distillery tours, tastings, cocktail masterclasses and more.
“We’ve had a lot of valuable support from our official ISGD supporters. We always wanted it to be a platform that not only showcased Scottish gin but some the amazing bloggers, writers and content creators who we’ve come to know, respect and call friends.
“We also provide a free sponsorship spot on our website to a chosen charity each year as a way of giving something back. Last year it was the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, the charity established by Doddie Weir to help raise awareness of MND. This year we partnered with Friends of ANCHOR, a charity and cause I know well, having spent a fair amount of time at the Anchor Unit as a patient with a hereditary health condition They do an amazing job helping support the patients visiting the clinic for treatment and it’s a charity and cause that I’m really proud to be supporting.”
With a series of online events lined up to take part in, guests are encouraged to link up with friends on Zoom, post pictures of their favourite gins on social media and log onto the numerous events that will be available to view.
From quizzes to virtual ceilidhs, not to mention cocktail masterclasses and more, there’s plenty to get involved in.
Martin added: “Online events are taking place as far afield as Melbourne. The Gin To My Tonic, a specialist gin and events company, are putting on a virtual ISGD 2020 Festival featuring five Scottish gins. You can buy a tasting pack, join them on Zoom and meet each of the makers behind the gins. Each one will take you around their distillery on a virtual tour or showcase a cocktail. Jaro Design are doing a taste of Lanarkshire with the five gin producers from the area taking part in an online tasting.
“Isle of Harris Distillers will host a virtual ceilidh celebrating their island community, gin and music. Linlithgow Distillery are hosting a live cocktail masterclass and The Borders Distillery are running complementary socially-distanced tours and tastings at their distillery, which must be pre-booked. Kintyre Gin are running a virtual gin tasting and Q&A and we’re hosting our own live Scottish Gin Quiz on Facebook.
“Our official supporters are hosting free/non-ticketed online events like cocktail shake-offs, distiller interviews and Little Brown Dog (LBD) Spirits in Aberdeenshire is also getting in on the action with an ‘In-the-Wild Foraging Experience’ with Juniper Chick at noon tomorrow.
“One of our official supporters, Sandra Lim, known as Juniperchick, will be chatting with Andrew from LBD Spirits on her Instagram live. He’s going to be taking us all on a virtual forage around Bennachie showing us some of the local botanicals he forages for use in the gin.”
The original event, which was scheduled to take place on August 8, was postponed until October 24 due to the coronavirus pandemic and restrictions continuously changing,
Martin said: “At the start of lockdown in March, we decided to move the date from the August 8 to October 24. We had hoped this extension would provide enough time for the hospitality sector to get used to the new norm of operating a venue under restrictions.
“Sadly many hospitality businesses have jumped through hoops, created a safe space for customers and their staff and are now being faced with a very uncertain future. Natalie and I feel really sorry for all businesses that have been impacted by the results of Covid-19; bars, restaurants, hotels and more. These are the places where we have some of life’s most enjoyable experiences, it’s a shame to see so many business owners being hit hard.
“We picked August as it crossed over the Scottish and English school holidays, we hoped in Scotland especially that the start of August was normally decent weather so we’re hoping the date might go back to August. We’ll see what the feedback is like after this year’s event.”
Launching The Gin Cooperative website, which originally listed 150 gins from 70 brands, Martin says the growth in the market has been huge, with more than 450 gins and 150 brands now having a presence.
“When we launched our website in April 2018 our A-Z of Scottish Gin featured 150 Scottish Gins from 70 brands. That’s now sitting at well over 450 Scottish Gins and 150 Scottish Gin brands. The growth of the Scottish gin category has continued to grow at a staggering rate when you consider in 2014 there were only a handful of gins and brands.
“I think we’ll continue to see new brands come to market with exciting new gins. I know of at least 15 new Scottish gins scheduled for release before the end of the year. That said, and we’re seeing it already, the growth of the category will inevitably slow. Partly due to what’s going on globally but also brands understand that there can be too much choice when it comes to gin. It’s better to have a few key, standout products that are recognisable and can help build your gin brand, than putting out gins for the sake of it.”
But with lots of questions around what classes a Scottish gin as Scottish, Martin says at The Gin Cooperative it is all about the heritage of being made in the country that classes a gin made in Scotland as Scottish gin.
“As for what makes a Scottish gin ‘Scottish’, it’s a question that’s been going on for some time now and was a big part of why we started on this journey from consumers to industry. We believe there’s a lot of benefit from using the term Scottish Gin on products and in marketing. The term holds value and meaning. Of course, not all gins marketed as Scottish gin are made in Scotland,” said Martin.
“From the offset we’ve made it clear we believe a Scottish gin should be made in Scotland by a business based in Scotland. That business should also actively promote and believe in the term Scottish Gin, champion the term and see long term value in protecting the term. It’s then up to the consumer to decide where to spend their money but if they have all the facts about where a gin is made, they can then make an informed choice on which gin they’ll buy.”
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