Recent twitter posts and online media articles and blogs have compelled me to jot down a few personal thoughts about provenance in spirits production/marketing.
Just to put a few things straight, for those of you that believe I may be a garnish short of a G and T as you have seen my previous tweets on similar subjects…. No.1 for me is the way my Gin smells, tastes and feels in my mouth, everything else is secondary, but I have an appreciation for the power of suggestion and marketing. I tweet predominantly about Gin, so this is where I will focus – but I believe these thoughts are transferable largely to other alcoholic spirits. Please remember I do not regard myself anything other than a Gin enthusiast, I am by no means an expert… I use this blog and my meetings with other Gin enthusiasts to continuously update my knowledge.
There are some countries that have a firm belief that by ensuring that production of a spirit is restricted and limited to a geographical region then this will ensure that quality can be controlled in a positive way, and will also have a positive marketing effect. However, in the gin world I am aware of only two Gins with some form of geographical Indicator (GI) protected status: Gin de Mahón (Majorca); Vilnius Gin (Lithuania). For the record Plymouth Gin no longer has GI status as Pernod Ricard decided to not renew this way back in 2014/15… This would appear to open up their options for where it is distilled in the future.
I have written a few words on what I believe Gin is and should be, so this article is more about the almost ethereal matter of does it matter where the gin is produced? For me this splits in to two areas of interest:
1) Is the taste of the Gin affected by the area or region of production?
2) Is the quality of the Gin affected by the area or region of production?
I believe that as the largest elements that affects the taste of a Gin are the botanicals in use, and these botanicals can be procured from anywhere in the world and can be used in dried and fresh forms, the location of the distilling has little to no effect on distillation.
I suppose it is possible that extreme conditions or geography might affect production, but to my knowledge no gin is produced at the north pole, nor on the edge of a caldera, or even on the slopes of Everest, so this isn’t going to be a factor. The still equipment in use will be a factor but again this has no relation to the geo-location of the still itself.
Wanting to control the quality by limiting the geography of a particular alcoholic drink, has plenty of precedence (as mentioned above only 2 in the Gin world though), There is a database available for those that wish to peruse the 29 different types of spirit and find out what is protected and where: http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/spirits/index.cfm
interestingly this database is showing no “Gins” at all, but it does show 14 records for “Juniper flavoured Spirits” I may investigate to find out why, because the two I mention above do appear to be true Gins (ABV etc). Anyway, I am delving in to too much detail once again.
I believe quality can be controlled in a positive way by restricting production to a smaller governed area. In France this is taken even further with Cognac as their stills are forced by law to be only operational October 1 through March 31 and this assures that distillation only occurs when the raw botanicals are at their best for distillation. As an aside, do some reading up on Citadelle Gin to find out how hard it is to get an exception to use a still that is used for Cognac production, for any other distilling purpose other than Cognac.
Defining an area that is governed more closely can have a positive effect on the quality of the gin, because distillers within the area are more closely scrutinised, but also because it could have an effect on how readily distillers meet professionally and share ideas. It also engenders a desire to produce a quality product that is revered within their peer group.
Scottish gin is one such geographical area which I believe is being indirectly controlled in this positive way, albeit whilst actively choosing to not legislate in he same way as Scottish whisky. Unlike other areas (eg England) there are few groups who actively work to promote the products from that area. most notably: The Gin Cooperative and The Scottish Gin Society are two groups that spring to mind.
So for me, location does not have much of a direct influence on how a gin tastes unless indigenous botanicals are distinctively used and those botanicals cannot practically be exported or used elsewhere. Also, the quality of the gin is not directly related to where the still is located. However if an area chooses to exert some form of peer group ‘belonging’ then this can I believe have a positive impact on quality of the Gins produced – Scotland is probably the strongest example of this I can find.
I would love to see more comeradery within the Gin market in England, but I fear in England we just are not that great in banding together in the same way as the Scottish are. Its a shame because I really can see that is it is having a great effect on Scottish Gin production and acceptance. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is mirrored by the Irish distillers next.
Does it affect my Gin purchases – at the bar, yes… as I will feel I will be getting a level of quality control driven by being Scottish. However, my bottle purchases are always driven by the tasting at the bar and merely being Scottish,Irish, English or in a pretty bottle will never be enough to make me buy a whole bottle without trying. Others will of course have their opinion.