Gin up, stay cheerful

While the Coronavirus Lockdown may have utterly changed everything in the on-trade, not surprisingly off-trade sales have soared. Over the full eight weeks from March the 9th to May the 3rd, purchases of gin in off-licences here showed growth of 38%. What can we expect demand to be like this Autumn? We review the ever-exuberant gin market.


During the Coronavirus Lockdown it might just have passed you by that World Gin Day took place on June 13th this year and with a third of the world’s best-selling cocktails being gin-based, the on-trade should be paying attention to the changing fortunes of the gin sector.

While the Coronavirus lockdown may have utterly changed everything in the hospitality trade, not surprisingly off-trade sales have soared.

During lockdown it seems that spirits – especially gin and whiskey – gained in popularity.

According to Nielsen, over the full eight week period from March the 9th to May the 3rd, purchases of gin in off-licences here were up 38%.

And IWSR forecasts whisky and gin to rebound fastest to pre-Covid-19 levels.

A further bonus – the EU accounts for 46% of all gin exports from the UK. With it looking increasingly likely that the UK will crash out of the EU without a deal, that leaves a potential export opportunity worth €378 million for Irish-made gins.

Richard Corbett is Senior Market Analyst for Ireland, UK and the Nordics at IWSR.

“With the on-premise decimated, inevitably, off-premise sales of gin have rocketed within the category” he told Drinks Industry Ireland, “it is however very evident that premium and super premium gins have been outpacing the standard gin segment. This premiumisation process has accelerated since lockdown.

“If you’ve not been impacted economically by the crisis, then with no commuting costs and no (or limited) opportunity to spend money eating out or on holidays then disposable incomes have jumped for many. This will have encouraged people to upgrade.

“There are also some in the industry that believe that with travel retail sales collapsing some of this volume has come back into the domestic off-trade.

“The Summer has also seen the pink gin momentum continue but this time supplemented by the rapid expansion of other flavour alternatives proving popular.”

With people having less options to spend their money on, he says, they’re becoming more curious and willing to experiment. This factor has also helped trigger a cocktail-making boom this year, a concept that replicates the rise in home baking.

“Those drinking gin in Ireland are likely to be more affluent types, between 25 and 40 years-of-age with a bias towards women,” he adds, “It’s hard to retain brand loyalty in the gin market as the variety on offer keeps changing as brands and new flavours appear.”


Gin in Ireland

Around 50 different brands of gin are sold in Ireland.

According to the annual report from Drinks Ireland|Spirits, just-published, gin sold 338,500 cases here last year, indicating a sales increase of 4.6% on 2018’s 323,650-case figure. This puts gin’s share of the spirits market at 14.4%, slightly up on 2018.

“While it’s unlikely that gin will ever overtake vodka there’s no doubting that gin now offers clear competition as a category in a way that perhaps it didn’t in years gone by,” comments the Head of Drinks Ireland|Spirits Vincent McGovern.

Of the total nine-litre case sales figure for 2019, just under one-third (102,300 cases) is distilled ‘locally’ here in Ireland. Obviously the vast majority comprises imported gin according to IWSR figures.

At 55.5%  most gins are sold via the off-trade.

According to IWSR, gin’s value increased by 3.9% last year.

Indeed gin’s volume sales experienced a Category Annual Growth Rate of nearly 25% between 2014 and 2019 and IWSR forecasts volume growth of 0.3% CAGR from 2019 to 2024.

But volume sales of local gin in Ireland were down 3.5% in 2019. Nevertheless, value was up 0.2%.

Between 2014 and 2019 local gin volumes showed a CAGR of 17.8%.

“The data contained  in our most recent Spirits Report (for the calendar year 2019) shows that gin sales in Ireland were still growing in 2019 although at a much slower rate than previous years,” commented Vincent McGovern, “That should not be seen as a negative development for the gin market in Ireland – quite the opposite because in line with objectives outlined in the 2018 Irish Gin Strategy the growth in gin sales over the last number of years has been extraordinary. And market share is not going to suddenly evaporate just because growth is returning to – what would be considered in any other spirits category as – more normal levels. From a gin point-of-view the growth of the last five years illustrates quite clearly that there was a consumer desire for gin as a category, the challenge of which producers and brand-owners in Ireland stepped up to meet.

“The question now, in these Covid-19 times, is what’s next for the category? Drinks Ireland members who produce or own gin brands are clear in their view that the next step for the category in Ireland is to focus on gin made in Ireland and to look to grow that share of the gin market in Ireland. So, following on from the FSAI’s publication earlier this year of its Guidelines for the Marketing and Labelling of Irish Gin we believe that one way of looking to contribute to this is through raising consumer awareness of the diversity and quality of Irish gin produced and available in Ireland.

“We have recently started a social media campaign called #ExlporeIrishGin as a first step. With #ExlporeIrishGin we’re looking to generate more consumer awareness of and raise Irish gin’s profile by telling the story behind many Irish gin brands through focusing on the four Ps of each brand.

“That is the People behind the gin, the Process by which their own unique gin is produced, the Provenance of their gin and how the land, rivers and seas of the locality influence the flavour profile – and of course the gin Product itself.

“We hope that a conversation about Irish gin will gain momentum and that awareness of the many great Irish gin brands out there and the different story each has to tell will illustrate to the Irish consumer and overseas visitor when they start to return to these shores, that the Irish gin sector is a diverse, innovative and highly creative industry and a core part of our native drinks industry.”



Graham’s Silver & Gold

Two of Graham Norton’s new-to-market gins won Gold and Silver at the Gin Masters 2019 competition in London.

Judged alongside 300 industry peers in a blind-tasting competition Graham Norton’s Own Irish Gin scooped a Gold medal while his popular Graham Norton’s Own Pink Gin landed a Silver award.

Created in collaboration with West Cork Distilleries, Skibbereen, Graham Norton’s Own Irish Gin is a combination of Juniper and Coriander with hints of locally-foraged Rosehip, Fuchsia petals and Gooseberries rounding off the special blend of 12 botanicals. The gins boast a London Dry style.

Graham Norton’s Own Pink Gin uses locally-foraged botanicals too.

Both are produced from 100% Irish grain, drawing flavours from Rose petals, Lemon peel, Orange peel and Elderflower.

Gin is one of Graham’s favourite tipples so he really wanted to put his own Norton-esque twist on one. The bottle shape and design of both have great stand-out. Distributed by Barry & Fitzwilliam, the gins speak for themselves!

Serving Suggestion: Graham Norton’s Own Irish Gin – enjoy with Indian Tonic Water, lashings of ice and fresh Lime to garnish. Graham Norton’s Own Irish Pink Gin – enjoy with Indian Tonic Water, lashings of ice and Summer berries to garnish.




Q&As with Bombay Sapphire’s Richard Brickley, Market Development Manager, Bacardi Martini portfolio


  1. How were sales of Bombay Sapphire in 2019?

An excellent year for Bombay from a sales perspective, achieving an overall double-digit volume increase versus 2018. We saw volume and value increases across all channels showing both the incredible consumer demand and trade loyalty towards Bombay. In 2019 the on-trade was the largest channel for us in terms of volume so it’s extremely important for us.

  1. How have off-sales of Bombay Sapphire been affected by the Covid-19 crisis?

Along with most premium spirit brands, we’ve been impacted by the situation in the on-trade. However Bombay Sapphire has shown tremendous resilience in these uncertain times with growth in independent and grocery channels. According to Nielsen MAT August 2020 figures the Gin category grew by 19% in volume and 26% in value. Honing in further on these figures Bombay has enjoyed a 34% volume uplift for the period June to August versus the same period last year.

  1. What plans has the brand for the rest of 2020 in light of the present circumstances?

The newly-launched Bombay Bramble will be a key priority for us. We’re responding to a new consumer demand with a premium flavoured and coloured gin created using real ingredients and by marrying the brand’s vapour distilled gin with real berry infusion, creating a distinctive crimson colour.

So you might ask what makes Bombay Bramble different?

Firstly it’s naturally flavoured – we only use real fruit, freshly harvested blackberries and raspberries.

Secondly this new gin is the result of a highly-crafted, intensive process that challenges the common practice of other flavoured gins on the market which often use concentrates, additional sugars and additives to flavour the liquid. The vapour infusion method favoured by Bombay is a more complex, time-consuming process but the end result provides a more naturally flavoured product with a more sophisticated taste.






  1. What should the on-trade know about Bombay Sapphire?

Firstly, Bombay Sapphire is a firm favourite amongst the bartender community. The expertise of the Master of Botanicals and Master Distiller combine to make an iconic gin with a bright, fresh flavour that provokes experimentation. While many other gin brands have a dominant flavour note that limits or restricts versatility, Bombay’s unique combination of botanicals works in combination with the vapour distillation method to create a complex gin where individual flavours can be accentuated depending on the bartender’s or consumer’s taste, mood, occasion or creativity.

Secondly, Irish consumers love Bombay Sapphire! The brand has enjoyed continued success in this market and is one of the most often-requested brands by name in the premium gin category.

  1. How has Bombay Sapphire answered the demand for gin over the past five years from Irish consumers?

Bombay has paid close attention to global and local trends such as consumer willingness to pay more for premium products, the importance of discovery and innovation and of course convenience – drinks on demand without compromising quality or taste.

Bombay has also identified that the RTD market has evolved and presents an opportunity to provide more sophisticated drinks for on-the-go moments and occasions. Earlier this year we launched the Bombay Sapphire Gin & Tonic RTD.

Essentially this is the perfect gin and tonic you’d expect from a bartender, expertly mixed and ready to pour. We see huge potential in this high growth but extremely competitive category.

From an on-trade perspective the brand has supported the trade with innovative POS items and educated and inspired bartenders through our Brand Advocacy Programme resulting in more interesting and creative cocktail options for consumers.



  1. What’s the backstory to Bombay Sapphire?

From the outset, the brand was on a mission to do things differently. Most gins at the time favoured traditional green glass but Bombay completely disrupted the category with the launch of the striking blue bottle. It quickly gained cult status around the world and is now considered a design classic. But as we know, the liquid inside the bottle has been key to the continued success of the brand. Unique to Bombay Sapphire, the brand has a Master of Botanicals responsible for working closely with farmers all around the world, supporting their development to form lasting relationships that give the brand direct access to the finest hand-selected botanicals. This ensures a consistent, sustainable supply of high quality ingredients. Each of the exotic botanicals used is then inscribed on every bottle, alongside their country and region of origin

  1. What’s Bombay Sapphire’s USP?

The biggest USP for Bombay is the bright, fresh taste resulting from the vapour distillation process. To extract the truest flavour from the botanicals, Bombay has stepped away from convention. Whilst most other gin makers boil their botanicals, Bombay embraces a unique vapour infusion process – enabling us to create a completely unique gin expression. Bartenders have been quoted as saying it’s a cocktail cabinet in a bottle – if you want pink, add pomegranate, if you want a mule, add ginger beer and so on.

  1. Is there anything we’ve not mentioned that you feel readers should know about the brand?

I believe the brand home in Laverstoke in the UK is an amazing experience and well worth a visit. The building itself is an incredible architectural feat, built on the site of an historic paper mill.

It’s definitely first on my list once we can resume travel again!








Hinch Distillery’s Eastern triumph

Hinch Distillery won the highest accolade for its Ninth Wave gin at the China Wine and Spirit Awards (alongside three other distinguished titles for its range of Irish whiskies), walking away with a globally-recognised ‘Gin of the Year’ Trophy.

This marked the first-ever Trophy win for the company.

Recognition as a CWSA Trophy Winner is the highest honour in the biggest and most prestigious wine and spirits competition in Hong Kong and China, states Hinch.

The 2020 medals rack up a lengthy list of awards bestowed upon Hinch Distillery less than a year after its launch.

The awards follow on from over a dozen other wins in 2020 including Gold Medals for its Ninth Wave Gin brand at the World Gin Awards, Australian International Sprits Competition and the Canadian Alberta Beverage Awards, where again it was awarded Best Gin in the competition, the first-ever non-Canadian gin to achieve this accolade.

“Taking our first-ever trophy at CWSA 2020 makes the team very proud and is a highlight for us during what is a very surreal year for the trade,” said Dr Terry Cross OBE.

To date distributors have been signed-up in over half of Hinch’s target countries including China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Canada, the US, Japan, Russia, Poland, Czech Republic, Belgium, Holland, Spain, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Ireland.

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Thin Gin

Multi-award-winning Thin Gin has seen exceptional online sales growth during the pandemic and continues to solidify its place as one of the best Irish gins to come out of the recent gin explosion.

Winning numerous awards internationally for taste and quality, it’s the only Irish gin to have been recognised three years consecutively in the Irish Whiskey Awards Gin category, winning the overall ‘Best Irish Gin’ trophy in the inaugural year.

Thin Gin, produced in small batches, has retained its place as the Irish gin choice for the more discerning gin drinker. It’s available in Australia, Germany, Denmark, Ireland and online.

Thin Gin has a traditional Juniper base, a layer of native Irish flavours and finishes with a burst of citrus.

According to one expert reviewer in London this Summer Thin Gin’s “citrus dominates with vivacious acidity from nose to palate to finish. Bright, lively and fresh.”

Not surprising then that Thin Gin holds a ‘Silver Outstanding’ IWSC Fever Tree Gin and Tonic award.

The ‘Thin’ in the name Thin Gin refers to Isaac Thin, a gentleman gin enthusiast who lived in Waterford in the 1920s.

Keeping a 100% Irish Signature Serve:

50mls Thin Gin, 125mls Poachers Premium Irish Tonic and a slice of fresh Orange.

Go to for more information.


Kinsale Gin takes 3 Golds at Bartender Spirits Awards

Kinsale Gin took Gold across three categories at the Bartender Spirits Awards in the US recently.

This small-batch, premium Irish gin won Gin of The Year, Gin Producer of The Year and a Double Gold at the international awards.

Kinsale Gin has been distilled with local botanicals and derives its flavour from the Kinsale countryside.

The Bartender Spirits Awards aim to provide independent and honest reviews for brands looking to enter the US on-premise market. The judging panel comprises some of the most renowned names in the US bar industry, all with extensive expertise in the on-premise.

“We really wanted a way to recognise those spirits that would be a great addition to any bar and that are completely on-trend in terms of packaging and price,” said Sid Patel, Founder and Chief Executive of Awards organiser Beverage Trade Network, “Whether bartenders are looking to plug a very specific gap in their existing spirits inventory or construct an entirely new cocktail menu from scratch, what better advice could they get than from fellow bartenders?

Kinsale Gin, owned by Cork’s Kinsale Spirit Company, was co-founded by Cork publican and entrepreneur Ernest Cantillon, Colin Ross and Tom O’Riordan – all current or ex-publicans who’ve spent their lives serving drink and building extensive experience in the hospitality and beverage sectors.

The awards couldn’t have come at a better time for Kinsale Gin, explained Ernest who said, “We’ve just launched both Kinsale Gin and Red Earl in the US. These awards are based in San Francisco, so the US credibility and press are invaluable.”

Kinsale Gin was one of seven Double Gold winners scoring 96 or more points.

Other drinks in Kinsale’s portfolio include the recently-launched Red Earl Whiskey, the first of the company’s ‘Battle of Kinsale’ series of whiskeys. The company is currently planning a new distillery for Kinsale due to open in 2021.

The 2020 competition saw submissions from 34 countries.


Jackford’s IWSC Award success

At 2018’s Irish Whiskey Awards Jackford Irish Potato Gin received the Irish Gin Gold Medal where the gin was blind-tasted against 20 others and it also achieved a Bronze at the International Wine & Spirit Competition 2018. This year it was awarded a Silver in the IWSC awards.

Jackford was also presented with a Blas na hEireann Bronze Award in the White Spirits & Liqueurs category recently.

Produced by Stafford Spirits, it’s a premium hand-crafted 41% ABV gin. The creamy, smooth potato base is complemented by the natural sweetness from the unique mix of botanicals, balanced to perfection with citrus, spicy and earthy notes.

John Stafford recently appeared on South East Radio with Alan Corcoran discussing their recent international awards.

On the Stafford family farm this is the cream of the crop, a new spirit from Ireland’s Ancient Southeast.

Stafford Irish Spirits will be offering a corporate gifting service as well as personalised bottle labels to add the special touch this festive season.

For more details:






Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin launches limited edition ceramic bottle

Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin, Ireland’s best-selling super-premium gin brand, has launched an exclusive new limited-edition ceramic bottle onto the Christmas market.

An instant eye-catcher on shelf, it’s set to delight consumers both as a collectible and as an extremely special Christmas gift.

The blue and white design is inspired by the ancient art of the Far East where PJ Rigney began his curious botanical journey that would inspire the creation of Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin.

Every drop is slow-distilled by hand with oriental botanicals and gunpowder tea, hand-labelled and sealed by the team at The Shed Distillery of PJ Rigney in Drumshanbo, County Leitrim.

The Shed has also announced further jobs at the Leitrim distillery with the opening of The Shed Distillery Visitor Experience and Jackalope Cafe which invites visitors on a journey into the Inner Sanctum of the whiskey distillery and a ‘voyage to the Far East’ to discover gunpowder tea.

From left: John Dillon & Pat Rigney at the new Shed Distillery Visitor Experience.

From left: John Dillon & Pat Rigney at the new Shed Distillery Visitor Experience.

Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin, launched in Summer 2016, is now in over 60 countries across the world including every US state, Australia, Hong Kong, Russia, South Africa and the majority of European countries.

Every drop of Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin, Drumshanbo Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey and other ‘The Shed Distillery’ brands are slow-distilled by hand, hand-bottled, sealed and labelled by the team at The Shed Distillery.



Opihr Gin in the can

Opihr Gin, the original oriental spiced gin, has launched a new format for its RTD range, unveiling a duo of G&T cans this month.

The new cans pair Opihr’s popular spiced London Dry Gin with a quality tonic offering two flavour twists: Gin & Tonic with a Dash of Ginger and Gin & Tonic with a Twist of Orange (both 250ml/ABV 6.5%).

Responding to increased consumer demand for adventurous flavours

Opihr has made its RTD range more widely available to shoppers through the introduction of this new convenient format.

The RTD category has seen sales up 26% on the same four-week period last year. As consumers increasingly seek out premium G&T options to enjoy as they venture outdoors, Opihr feels confident its new RTD duo will prove a hit with consumers.

Presenting a new and equally convenient way to enjoy its distinctive gin variants Opihr’s RTD cans feature a beautifully ornate and striking design inspired by its connection to the Ancient Spice Route – where its hand-picked botanicals are sourced including Cubeb Berries from Malaysia, Coriander from Morocco and Cardamom from India.

The launch will be supported by an integrated marketing campaign, including in-store, digital, PR and social media activity, all aimed at raising awareness of the RTD cans amongst consumers and driving demand.

For more information contact Quintessential Brands by e-mailing


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