Both gin and whisky distillers have had a resurgence in popularity over the past few years, with many consumers assuming they are competing for sales and market share.
On the contrary, I feel that we need to look a little closer to see how they are beneficial to each other.
Over the past 10 years, gin sales have increased dramatically, with the number of UK distillers increasing from 10 in 2008 to 128 at the beginning of 2017.
In comparison, whisky hasn't seen such dramatic growth, but as mentioned in my previous article, the industry will see 20 new distilleries come online in the next few years, on top of 14 in the past five years.
For me, this growth is evidence of an increased interest in the spirits industry which can benefit all distillers, especially the new innovative entrepreneurs and their business models.
For the first few years, the big companies of the spirits world, have the resources and financial backing to cover all build and running costs. This give them the maturation time required to ensure they produce the malt whisky they want. However, this is not always the case for the small independent craft distillery, where a source of income is major consideration, with funds being restricted and running costs amounting to thousands of pounds a week.
So, how do the new craft distilleries survive this early period?
One of the most obvious ways is to produce a spirit that can be sold without years of maturation.
Gin is a perfect solution, providing a number of benefits to a distiller, the most obvious of which is an immediate income stream.
Income is crucial, but its not the only driver for a craft distiller, as gin production gives them the chance to experiment and gain experience with the distillation process. It provides them with a better understanding of what will, and will not work when it comes to the single malt.
A case in point is Glasgow Distillery Company, the first new single malt distillery in the city since 1902. To help consumers discover the spirit of Glasgow, they are producing a new lowland single malt, at the same time as the award winning Makar gin.
The first gin to be produced in Glasgow, they have four expressions of the gin available including two barrel aged expressions.
One is aged in oak with the second being aged with Mulberry, these gin expressions along with an independent bottled aged single malt give the distillery the income needed to function, while waiting for the single malt to reach maturity.
The Isle of Harris, a social distillery, is another that has produced a unique gin to sell, while it waits for its innovative single malt to mature.
Like the Hearach - the name of the Harris single malt - the gin uses local ingredients to imbue the spirit of the Isle, with the most unique botanical being locally sourced sugar kelp.
The production of gin at distilleries gives them a chance to develop their brand, team and enables them to experiment and educate consumers via distillery tour experiences.
Crucially, this highlights their capabilities and offers a hint of what will be in the future.
If you can produce an unique or award winning gin that stands out from the crowd, then it must give you the confidence and skills to produce an award winning malt whisky in years to come.
Distilleries are not the only place where the two spirits complement each other, the specialist bars and pubs across the world are benefiting.
With many now advertising a huge array of whiskies and gins to drink, the possibility for new drink experiences are endless. As a result, many of our cities and towns are benefiting from new formats or openings, due in part to the rise in popularity of both spirits, but also with the increased popularity of cocktails.
One of my local pubs - the Commercial - has over a hundred whiskies to choose from and upwards of forty gins available. With monthly tastings held covering both whisky and gin consistently sold out.
Nowadays, consumers want to experiment and find new flavours or experiences, so it is possible to introduce a whisky drinker to gin, and vice versa.
So, while both spirits brands might compete for your attention and shelf space, I personally feel that increase in popularity of both spirits can only be beneficial to each other and the industry as a whole.
*All images copyright of Glasgow Distillery Co. and Isle of Harris Distillery
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