With a huge influx of small-batch gins in recent years - has demand plateaued? And what's next?
With gin sales throughout the UK slowing down, is rum set to be everyone’s favourite new tipple?
After years of only the ‘big boys’ producing the sweet liquor, local, small batch operators are getting involved – and it seems they’re leaving the door open for many more to come.
It all started around 2010 with a ‘gin renaissance’, as the number of small batch and ‘craft’ gins skyrocketed, helped in part by both the ease of which gin could be made and a big surge in the drink’s popularity.
It’s something that we still see to this day in the city, with bars like Atlas offering over 350 different types of gin, and pretty much every bar in the city featuring an impressive range of options for your gin & tonic.
Manchester has also become home to a dazzling array of gin producers, with Manchester Gin recently opening up a city centre distillery and bar/restaurant, Thomas Dakin getting ready to open up on John Dalton Street and Three Rivers still banging out the bottles over on Red Bank in the Green Quarter.
Elsewhere in the UK you’ll find Didsbury Gin, Ginsmiths of Liverpool, Bradford’s Chesterton Gin and Hoxton Gin to name just a small percentage – in fact I’m surprised that there isn’t an Oldham Gin yet – there would certainly be a market for it down there.
But there might be a bit of trouble on the horizon for gin. UK sales have started to slow, whether that’s from too much choice, gin fatigue or just changing fashions – it may be that many small batch gin manufacturers are going to find it more and more difficult to get their booze into people’s gobs.
On the other hand, sales of rum are growing year on year, helped in part by significantly improved distillation methods which have opened up the notoriously difficult to make spirit to a whole new audience.
As a result, we’ve seen an impressive influx of Manchester rums in the last year or so, with brands like Diablesse, Pineapple Grenade, The Salford Spiced Rum and Manchester Rum all making an appearance on bar shelves.
In turn, many of the city’s bars and restaurants are now turning to these exciting new rums when creating cocktails – offering something different with more diverse ingredients available.
Cleo Farman’s Diablesse, for example, offer up a fantastic Clementine Spiced Rum which Cottonopolis have enthusiastically incorporated into their ‘Japanese Principles’ cocktail menu. It’s the key element in the fantastic Clementine, Acai & Strawberry (£9.00) which comes packed with Cleo’s clementine rum, coconut rum, acai berry, orange, strawberry and fat washed coconut.
A firm favourite of mine, and another Manchester-based rum is Pineapple Grenade, an overproof spiced rum that’s distilled at a whopping 65% ABV. The rum is infused with a secret spice mix alongside pineapple and salted caramel – meaning it’s much smoother and easier to taste than other similarly strengthen liquors.
The one big difference between gin and rum though is the fact that while gin is notoriously easy to make, rum is considerably more difficult, and so therefore you find that some of the new rum producers are in fact sourcing their base rum from the Caribbean or South America, and then blending and flavouring it over here in the city.
Others, like The Manchester Still and The Salford Spiced Rum distil and produce the rum right here in the city (or cities) and it seems that we should probably be on the lookout for a fair few more opening up in the future.
So, I think the answer to question posed in the title is a difficult one to answer. Invariably the gin market was always going to reach a plateau, and as different drinks go in and out of fashion there’s always space for something new to come through.
With what we’ve seen in the city thus far in terms of rum – it looks set to be the spirit of 2019 and 2020 for sure.