This time I thought I would delve a little into the subject of the different ways in which the owner of a gin brand (an individual or company) can get Gin into a bottle that has their label proudly emblazoned on the front of it. It’s worth stating loud and clear again here… I’m not a Gin snob, by that I mean to say If what is in the bottle is Gin (see my flow chart) and to my palate tastes nice, or I believe that to another palate might taste nice, then this is the most important aspect. All of the extra detail adds to the experience but it’s a little like garnish on a Gin and tonic, It’s an enhancement but not the main show.I do have to admit to not being immune to feeling disappointed when I find out that what I thought was a very personalised product is actually being produced by a 3rd party (contracted out). I would like to think that if I knew this beforehand I am unaffected by the production process, but if I find this out at a later date the disappointment does weigh more heavily than it should. It, therefore, pays to be upfront and transparent at least for me.
So in true The Wizard of Oz style… Let’s pull back the curtain and take a brief look at (these classifications are my own):· Big production· Contracted out (3rd party)· Small production In house
I’m purposefully not going to mention brands or people in this blog but I’m sure we can agree that brands owned by drinks companies with turnover of in excess of 12 billion pounds are likely to be classed as ‘big production’ regardless of their humble roots. Companies of this size are unlikely to buy into a sub-brand that is not capable of producing more than 20,000 bottles per year (this is a guess). Although the only difference I see is the skill involved in producing a consistent gin, batch after batch, year after year this is a huge skill that I am sure even small batch distilleries will marvel at. So it is scale that differentiates for me here and not skill
This is a wide banding, so I think it warrants some form of subcategorisation:
Contracted out by a passionate individual
The passionate individual here in my mind is an individual that has a driven purpose to produce a gin of a particular flavour profile, potentially using a set of botanicals that speak to them personally. They then hand this vision to the contract distillery in a number of ways depending on their desire for involvement. I have heard of individuals hiring ‘time’ on experimental small stills within the contract distillery, working autonomously from or closely with the Master distiller***. The results of this experimentation arriving at a recipe to be scaled up on the contract distilleries larger stills. This can be a sort of short track to market as the years of knowledge that the contract distiller has built up is brought to bear fast fruits of the combined labourAlternatively, all of the experimentation is performed on the owners own small still, and the final recipe is then moved for production on a large scale with their contract distilling partner.
Contracted out for business purposes.
In my mind, this is where a company or an individual calls upon a contract distiller to use their “pattern book” of recipes and tweak it slightly to produce something for the customer. I can almost imagine conversations along the line of “how much to produce X thousand bottles of Gin, that is a bit more citrus/peppery/herbal/pink than your A-B-C Gin”. The end result is that the master distillers still put the same level of skill and time to produce a quality Gin. In my mind, the only thing that is harmed is the extra enjoyment of feeling involved in the brand owners journey and passion.
Small production in-house.
This is probably most similar to microbrewing. This also bears subcategorisation
Owner with distiller on payroll
This for me can be similar to contracted out as far as the skill involved in production but the work pre and post liquid production is performed/arranged by the brand owner.
This is as involved as it gets. The person(s) that have the vision drive and determination to produce their bespoke Gin are involved in every aspect of production. If it is back story and provenance that enhances your drinking experience then this will be the pinnacle‘grain’ to glass…..Now within this last group I feel I need to make a special mention of those special individuals that feel that producing a small batch in-house gin is just a little bit too simple, and that they have a need to control the production of the base spirit. Its probably just me but if I had to think of a fictional character who might be driven to do this sort of thing if his interest had been to produce Gin, I think of Patrick Bateman 😂😂😂:
If for me the taste and feel of the spirit in the bottle is the most important then the production method or manufacture is less important. Having said this it still influences me, and I have to ‘check’ myself often when I start getting gooey eyed over a beautiful bottle, or a really compelling back story – we are all human and there is no shame in being influenced by something that someone has spent many thousands of pounds constructing, in order to do just that.
The classifications above are no doubt incomplete, perhaps if you disagree with the classifications you can still gain some insight by the way that I am using them, and that this may be how others with similar Gin interests but not in the industry view this aspect of production.
*** When I mention Distiller above, I am including those methods of Gin production that do not require a still, but ‘compounder’ does not have the same ring even though it requires similar botanical blending skills.