Introduced here last year as part of the William Grant & Sons portfolio, Hendrick’s Scottish gin hails from Girvan in Ayrshire and was first launched in the US in 1999.
Corsican-born Xavier’s in Kehoe’s of South Anne Street, Dublin, for a couple of days to present deconstruction tastings and help prime the growing Irish customer base for the Richmond Marketing-distributed brand.
Hendrik’s is now in about 55 to 60 markets around the world, the top three being the US, Spain and the UK (“Spain is a massive market for gin,” says Xavier).
He tells me that 15 years ago, anyone walking into a style bar in London or New York might have 10 or 15 vodkas and a few gins from which to choose.
“Today, walk into PDT in New York, for example and you’ll see one vodka and five, six, seven eight different gins,” says Xavier, the part-owner of ECC Chinatown in London (which boasts but one vodka and 15 different gins).
“The old recipies are coming back, bartenders are re-learning the basics so that they can add to the regular G&T with a premium gin offering for customers.
“So something more can be made of a premium gin such as Hendrick’s.”
In Paris he’s seen Hendrick’s served to the customer via a 50ml miniature accompanied by a small bottle of special tonic water such as Fentiman’s and — Hendrick’s trademark – a few slices of cucumber rather than lemon to garnish.
The waiter served this to the customer on a small tray, he repports, so that the customer could put the G&T together to his or her taste.
“It therefore becomes a little experience of its own for the customer. It’s more expensive, but the serve is ‘premium’,” he adds.
Hendrick’s has two distinguishing ingredients in its mix: Rosepetal and cucumber and Xavier would be quite happy to see the gin category expanded in the pub, diversified along the lines of scotch whiskies.
All this ‘difference’ is summarised in Hendrick’s ‘Victoriana’ approach to marketing and promotion which sees the brand involved in curling (for the Winter months) and croquet (in Summer), “old-fashioned gentlemen’s kind of sports”, rather than contemporary soccer or tennis, he says.
Furthermore, Hendrick’s distinguishes itself by serving cocktails from small teapots, also stemming from the Victorian era when people – dare we mention Queen Victoria? – used drink gin from a teapot.
Today, the Hendrick’s teapot is used to share gin socially among a group in an establishment.
“It’s a different way to upsell,” explains Xavier.
“Others spot the slice of cucumber in someone else’s G&T and ask the barman what that’s all about and the barman replies, ‘Because it’s a Hendrik’s Gin, a special gin, slightly more premium’ and so the bar goes from serving a standard €5 G&T to a G&T costing €7 or €8.”
He claims too that bartenders and their customers are becoming bored with vodka, especially in the US.
“I even heard a bartender there once tell a customer who’d requested a vodka that, ‘We don’t have any pure vodka but perhaps you’d like to try a vodka infused with juniper?’ which is exactly what a gin is!!”