After two years of virtual sessions, experts from across the gin industry celebrated getting together again for The Gin Guild’s information-packed networking event, Ginposium.
Held at RSA House in London for the first time since June 2019, the event saw long-established and new gin industry representatives from across the UK mingling with distillers and producers from Australia, India, Estonia, Slovenia and Sicily. Three Past Masters were in attendance: Christopher Hayman, Charles Maxwell (who also spoke) and Martin Riley.
Speakers focused on key business aspects of gin production from investment to using Artificial Intelligence; understanding legal constraints to health and safety – combined with opportunities to taste the latest innovative gins on the market.
The annual Ginposium is an industry highlight, which ties in with World Gin Day on 11 June and the Junipalooza festival to put gin centre stage.
Speakers included Rachel Sutherland from Warner’s Distillery, Kathy Caton from Brighton Gin, Ben Marston from Puddingstone Distillery, as well as Past master of the WCD, Charles Maxwell on the benefits of contracting-out distilling.
With the Guild’s increasing role in protecting the gin category, Jo Cook, from Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards, gave a vital run-through of the do’s and don’ts of labelling and marketing gin, including gin liqueurs and branding low and no alcohol drinks.
Chris Pitcher, another liveryman, and financial analyst from investment research company Redburn (Europe) Ltd, discussed Ginvestment – exploring post-pandemic recovery, evolving consumer trends and challenges facing the gin industry.
He highlighted how gin had fared better than many spirits during the on-trade closures of the pandemic and rebounded more quickly, with worldwide gin consumption in 2021 9% above pre-pandemic levels.
A returning highlight of the Ginposium was a tasting of new gins, led by gin specialist and spirits writer David T Smith of Summerfruitcup.
On Tuesday 17th May at Vintners’ Hall, an audience of 120 people attended the 10th City Debate organised by the Worshipful Company of Distillers, and after a two-year hiatus due to covid, were treated to a lively debate addressing the topic: “This House believes that the consumption trends of today’s younger generations will have significant impact on the future shape of the spirits industry”.
The debate was ably chaired by Trevor Sterling, who explained that there would be a pre-debate vote on the opinion of the audience, and this showed 73% in favour of the motion, with 27% disagreeing.
Paul Mathew opened the debate, proposing the motion. Paul owns several high-profile bars in London, and also launched his own brand of 0% alcohol aperitifs under the ‘Everleaf’ brand – his key message was “ignore change at your peril”, concluding with the example of the dairy milk industry, with its many alternatives which are now in demand, and readily available.
Tom Warner, founder of Warner Edwards Distillery, then opposed the motion – giving many examples of how the spirits industry was grabbing “the rampant opportunity presented by changing trends”, and his animated speech was built around the firm belief that human nature is driven by the desire to get together, and it is the ‘ritual’ which is important, although the products consumed may change.
Sanjeet Aujla, Beverages Analyst at Credit Suisse, seconding the proposal, homing in on ‘Generation Z’, and the current trends of younger generations living their lives through social media, with the obsession of looking and feeling good, which was one of the key drivers of the growth in lo- and no-alcohol beverages. He quoted that “Gen Z spends 40% less on alcohol than millennials” and questioned whether the spirits industry is able to compete successfully with beer.
Finally, and seconding the opposition, Claire Warner – co-founder of the Æcorn Brand – pointed out that the drinks industry is one of the most creative and innovative industries and yet many have missed the glaring opportunity to use their talents to add greater breadth to the drinks industry. It took an outsider, someone without distilling or drinks knowledge (Ben Branson), to show the industry what they were missing. She commented “imagine how much creative power is sitting in this room!”
There followed a lively Q&A session, facilitated by Trevor, which asked the panellists to comment on many issues, including: “what happens when Gen Z ‘comes of age’ and has more disposable income?” and “shouldn’t the spirits industry be targeting the over 40s, who already have more disposable income?”. The final point – on which all panellists agreed – was that there was a significant risk of misleading (and losing) consumers if poor quality beverage products (alcoholic and 0% alcohol) are allowed to proliferate the market.
The Chairman closed the debate by asking for a show of hands to see whether the speakers had managed to sway opinion, and this showed the ‘team Warner’ had indeed done so, with 48% in favour of the motion and 52% voting AGAINST the motion.
Concluding the formal proceedings, the Master of the Worshipful Company of Distillers – Chris Porter – thanked the Chairman, the speakers and the organisers for a highly successful Debate, and invited everyone to join him for a drink, with products kindly supplied by the speakers. For the first time in the history of the Distillers’ Debate, two-thirds of the drinks served contained no alcohol.
Organisers of the City Food Lecture today announce the Worshipful Company of Distillers will become part of the leading food industry event in 2023. They join the seven existing City of London Livery companies involved in agriculture and food: the Worshipful Companies of Bakers, Butchers, Cooks, Farmers, Fishmongers, Fruiterers and Poulters.
From its start, back in 2001, the invitation-only event has always enjoyed a high calibre attendance of 600 plus, with a long list of well known key note speakers that include Ash Amirahmadi, MD Arla Foods, Mel Smith, CEO Ocado.com, Dave Lewis, CEO Tesco, Dominic Blakemore, group chief executive Compass Group, Louise Fresco, the President of the Executive Board, Wageningen University and Paul Polman, Chief Executive Officer, Unilever.
The City Food & Drink Lecture, as it will now be known, brings together industry leaders, academics and liverymen and women at this annual London event in the food industry calendar. It also champions future leaders in the industry, with its Future Generation Forum for university students, as a key part of the event involving its key note speaker and panel members prior to the lecture itself.
The Worshipful Company of Distillers is delighted to be joining The City Food and Drink Lecture. Our aspiration is to be at the heart of the spirits industry. We look forward to working with our seven fellow food liveries to raise the profile of the UK food and drink industry through this prestigious high-profile event.
Trevor Stirling, Chairman of the Industry and Membership Committee WCD
We are really excited that the Company of Distillers are joining what will be the City Food and Drink Lecture as from 2023. They join what we like to think has become a highly important, successful and enjoyable event that is now in its 22nd year. They will bring new ideas and thoughts to this well established event from their sector, which adds a brilliant new dimension. We’re really looking forward to welcoming them aboard formally in the next few weeks and months. We also plan to announce the 2023 dates and details of who our key note speaker will be for 2023 too. The aim, is always, to keep the standard of the event very high and combine the history and tradition of the eight Livery organisations involved, along with addressing the really important issues that the agriculture, food and drink sectors face.
John Giles, Chair of the City Food & Drink Lecture
The Gin Guild’s annual dinner and Spring Installation of new members took place in London’s Guildhall on the 5th of May.
In front of an audience which included WCD Master Chris Porter, Upper Warden Chris Searle, Middle Warden Lorne MacKillop and 19 other liverymen, 23 new members were sworn in to join the Gin Guild’s ranks.
Included in this installation ceremony was the new Director General Pal Gleed, George Maxwell, son of former Master Charles Maxwell, and Dr Abhishek Banik, who all joined the Guild as Rectifiers.
Other installees included multi-award winner Jon Hillgren from Hernö Distillery and Rob Curteis from G&J Distillers.
Following the installation ceremony guests enjoyed the legendary Gin Guild bar, which featured founder member gins, and those of new installees, including the Stranger & Sons (of India) collaboration with Four Pillars (of Australia) – the Spice Trade Gin.
After a delicious meal followed a highly entertaining speech by Liveryman Sam Galsworthy, who talked about the many highs and lows of his colourful career, including his infamous run-in with the Court over his initial choice of company names. He is (still) truly sorry.
The surprise for many on the night was the awarding of the Gin Guild’s Lifetime achievement award, its highest honour, to outgoing Director General Nicholas Cook, which was bestowed upon him by fellow Liveryman and Gin Guild Chairman Christopher Hayman following his decade in the role. Nicholas is only the 5th person to receive this accolade.
Following an excellent speech from Christopher Hayman and a thank you response from Nicholas, the audience rose to their feet to give him a standing ovation, which was then followed by a rousing “Three cheers!” A good night was had by all.
For a full list of all Gin Guild installations, please click here.
In the traditional world of distilling it is not often that you meet a young person so deeply and enthusiastically committing themselves to this craft. But things are changing, the gin world has changed dramatically over the last ten years and now things are really happening in the new wave of whisky distilling.
It is with great pleasure therefore that we welcome Alice Pearson of Cotswolds Distillery to our Worshipful Company with a bursary to undertake the three-year course for the Diploma in Distilling at the Institute of Brewing and Distilling in London.
This is a major commitment which she is taking on with characteristic enthusiasm and dedication. For the Distillers she is one of the first students to receive this award in our new strategy of longer term support for promising young distillers.
Starting as a guide at the distillery Alice is now responsible for new product development as well as cask selection of whisky for maturing, vatting and bottling especially in the premium special releases. She has already been recognised as an “Emerging Talent in Spirits” at the 2021 IWSC awards and congratulated on producing the top English Old Tom Gin.
But to show that her heart is still in the distillery as well as in the tasting room she also has a licence to drive the forklift truck essential for moving around the large vats of high strength spirit. We look forward to helping her with developing her academic and practical skills and hopefully tasting some of her fine new whiskies and gins!
The highest accolade that Gin Magazine bestows is to induct members into its Hall of Fame. These individuals are drawn from distillers, company owners and writers, all linked in that they have left a lasting mark on the gin industry. It is a permanent tribute to the people whose work in gin is cherished and enjoyed.
Liveryman Nicholas Cook, who after 10 years is shortly to retire as inaugural Director General of the Gin Guild, was one of four inducted to the Hall of Fame in this year’s Gin Magazine awards, alongside Joanne Moore, the Master Distiller at G&J Greenalls, Philip Moore, Distiller at Distillery Boanica in Australia and Carolus Nolet Sr., the Chairman and owner of Nolet Distillery in Schiedam in Holland. Nicholas joins existing Hall of Fame fellow liverymen and gin legends: Charles Maxwell, Christopher Hayman and Desmond Payne.
Nicholas’s citation read:
“During his tenure, Nicholas has helped to build the Gin Guild into a globally recognised body that connects and supports all corners of the Gin industry. It hosts forums for members to meet and network, provides resources, training and events to members and non-members, and recognises quality amongst products and producers.
The organisation is also connecting with gin drinkers and helping them to better understand what is in the glass via it’s Gin-Note [flavour profiling concept].
Through Nicholas’s direction The Gin Guild is standing up for the integrity of the Gin category; it has taken a firm stance against products that do not meet the regulatory requirements to be called ‘gin’ but nonetheless attempt to trade on the spirits good name. In leading the development of a platform for all in the gin industry, and encouraging the spirit of custodianship amongst them, Nicholas is helping to secure a bright future for the world of gin.”
The Scottish Committee met at Holyrood Distillery on Tuesday 15th February and The Master joined us by zoom.
After our deliberations we enjoyed a tour of the distillery with Marc Watson, Distillery and Operations Manager, and sampled some of their various new spirits made with different barley varieties and yeasts and their gin Height of Arrows.
Great to see this young distillery in the centre of Edinburgh continue to evolve and develop and we wish them continued success.
The Worshipful Company of Distillers has recently launched an educational programme aimed at sharing the Livery’s considerable commercial and marketing knowledge with young distillers. This follows the recent announcement by the Company to dedicate charitable investment to the next generation of young distillers who might benefit from our support. The first step of the programme has been the creation of “The Business of Spirits”, a Masterclass in partnership with the Institute of Brewing & Distilling.
The first session, held in October at the offices of the WSET, (Wine &Spirit Education Trust) was attended by 18 students all studying the IBD’s Master, Diploma and General Certificate courses. The Masterclass is aimed to complement technical knowledge with a high-level of commercial acumen.
The one-day interactive seminar brought together spirits industry leaders, City analysts and senior industry executives. They shared stories, anecdotes, skills and expertise to explain the elements needed for a Spirits business to succeed in a competitive global market place. Students learnt about global markets, structure and companies, category and consumer segmentation, pricing, finance, and branding and innovation.
The day, of course, included some fun tasting of spirits from around the globe!
We have such rich knowledge, skills and experience in the Livery that it seems only natural it should be shared with the next generation. Our partners are brilliant at teaching distilling, and with our members knowledge we are enriching the curriculum and broadening the students understanding of how business works.
Martin Riley, The Worshipful Company of Distillers
Many of the IBD members and candidates are in roles where they are either entrepreneurial, if working for themselves, or ‘intrapreneurial’ if working in a product development environment within a larger company. This collaboration with the WCD has provided them with an insight to the commercial acumen needed to support the technical knowledge acquired through our qualifications. It was exciting to hear about the projects that some of these candidates are developing and taking into the market, opening their own distilleries, and bringing to life all of their learning. “The Business of Spirits” has been a great way to provide with extra support to help them succeed in the industry.
Jerry Avis, IBD Chief Executive Officer
The WCD one-day seminars will be rolled out across the country with our educational partners, the Institute of Brewing and Distilling (IBD), The Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) and the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling (ICBD) at Herriot Watt University.
Earlier this summer, The Distillers’ Charity and Sotheby’s announced a six-year partnership to host three biennial auctions of ultra-rare and unique Scotch whiskies and experiences under the name “The Distillers One of One”. The first Distillers One of One auction – comprising one-off, never-to-be-repeated lots specially created and donated by companies from across the Scotch Whisky industry – will take place on Friday 3 December 2021. The exceptional lots are now being revealed for the first time and will range in estimates from around £1,500 upwards to £500,000, all to be offered without reserve. Each lot has been carefully selected to showcase the excellence in craftsmanship, innovation and value of Scotch Whisky.
For the most serious collectors seeking an opportunity to own a piece of liquid history, some truly astonishing releases have been made available. Of particular note, as the highest valued lot of the auction, with an estimate of £350,000-£500,000, is a Talisker Cask of Distinction 1978. Casks of Distinction are selected on account of their outstanding quality, and this is the first ever to be offered at auction, paired with a cask-end that has been turned into an original work of art by Turner Prize nominee Callum Innes. After further ageing in the cask for up to five more years, the whisky will be housed in very special bottles and wooden presentation boxes, featuring the cask-end artwork of Callum Innes; another first for Casks of Distinction.
William Grant & Sons is providing three lots from Glenfiddich, The Balvenie and Ladyburn, all exceeding fifty years of age. Glenfiddich’s exceptional offering comprises four unique decanters – created especially for the auction and housed in a bespoke presentation case – from the 1950s: 1955, 1957, 1958 and 1959. The estimate for this ultra-rare collector’s piece is £220,000-350,000.
Beam Suntory are generously offering two lots, one from Bowmore, the other from Glen Garioch.
The Bowmore Onyx is an exceptionally rare and unique 51 Year Old single malt presented in a hand carved, bespoke black glass vessel, inspired by the terroir of the island home of Islay. Matured in a refill hogshead barrel from 1970, this whisky is bottled at 47% ABV, and is the first ever 51 Year Old released by Bowmore Distillery (estimate £100,000-180,000).
The Glen Garioch Cask lot features two full casks of whisky: the first, a 31-year-old cask from 1990; the second, an en primeur cask distilled in 2021 (estimate £100,000-150,000). The last time that Glen Garioch was distilled using direct fire on the stills was 31 years ago. The practice of direct firing is now being reintroduced and this will be the very first cask from the newly fired stills, making this a unique lot of historical significance.
Scotland’s Oldest Working Distillery, The Glenturret, is providing an exclusive Lalique decanter bottling containing a unique Single Malt whisky selected from 1987 Sherry casks created by Master Blender, Bob Dalgarno. To house this precious liquid, Lalique have created a spectacular One of One hand-blown decanter in green crystal; the rarest that is made. Included in this lot (estimate £15,000-25,000) is an invitation to The Glenturret Distillery to enjoy a sensational gastronomic experience, led by Head Chef, Mark Donald at the newly opened Lalique Restaurant.
On offer from Gordon & MacPhail, the 126-year-old family business, is an unforgettable, bespoke visit to Elgin in Scotland. The lucky recipient will not only tour the historical warehouses but also sample from a selection of maturing Single Malt casks from the 1940s and 1950s. After choosing their favourite of the casks, one bottle of the whisky it contains will be filled into a unique decanter, with a second bottle provided for drinking. This once in a lifetime experience carries an estimate of £80,000-160,000.
The Distillers’ Charity is the philanthropic arm of The Worshipful Company of Distillers. Proceeds from The Distillers One of One auction will benefit The Youth Action Fund, which has been created by The Distillers’ Charity focusing on supporting disadvantaged young people in Scotland, transforming their life chances and empowering them to create positive change in their lives and communities. Working with charity partners who offer education and training programmes, the fund will provide young people with opportunities to develop life skills, discover their values and be work-ready.
“The generosity the Scotch Whisky industry has shown in coming together to create these truly unique lots available for this landmark sale has been humbling. Countless young people will benefit for years to come, thanks to the results of the auction. It is a testament to the spirit of the people who work within both the family-owned businesses, and global companies that have contributed to this momentous occasion. We cannot thank enough all those who have come on board with us and Sotheby’s to help realise our mission, and to all the collectors who will be taking part on the day.”
Jonathan Driver, Master of The Worshipful Company of Distillers
“This landmark sale, compiling such significant donations from so many world-renowned brands, shows the strength of community spirit in the Scotch Whisky industry. To bring this number of exceptional whiskies to auction, from unique bottles to rare casks offers, and all for a good cause, is reason enough to raise a glass to everyone involved.”