Gin: Quality vs Quantity… vs Consistency

Humanity’s love of alliteration

Forget the age-old adage that it’s about quality vs quality. We only say that because it involves a nice bit of alliteration (even the double ‘L’ in the above heading was enjoyable to read). The truth is the phrase should read: Quality vs Consistency.

Take gin, for example. According to The Drinks Business, Gordon’s sold 4.62m nine-litre cases of gin back in 2016, with Bombay Sapphire not far behind. Both Gordon’s and Bombay (as well as many other gin brands out there) can easily hit the quantity mark. They are parts of big brands like Bacardi and Diageo. Nowadays, with enough money and marketing prowess, it isn’t too difficult to create a quality gin in quantities enough to satisfy customers.

More important than quantity, is consistency. Lack of consistency will kill a gin maker. To ensure consistency over a single batch, vast quantities of gin are mixed together so all the liquid is essentially the same. But how to ensure consistency over multiple batches?

A good master distiller is important, but more important is to use ingredients in proportions and conditions which you know you can acquire every year.

And this is where quantity comes in, either as a side adage or a third leg to the quality vs consistency binary. The higher the quantity, the harder it is to find ingredients you know will not change year by year. If your gin uses a specific herb or flower – like the Blue Pea flower used in Sharish’s Blue Magic Gin (and in Bluebird Tea Co’s Blue Raspberry colour changing tea) – you need to be sure the required quantity of that herb or flower will be available every year.

And if it isn’t, well then good luck with your business plan.

So what does quality vs consistency mean?

Take Forager’s Gin. This gin is made from freshly foraged botanicals and fresh water from the mountains in North Wales. It is a fascinating gin, and one of great quality. But you can’t produce 4.62m nine-litre cases of this gin because the ingredients you use won’t sustain that production.

Sure, there are ways to maximise production; Forager’s Black Label uses only two botanicals (according to The Gin Guide), but that will only go so far.

The higher the quality of the products (the more rare, the more fresh, etc) the lower the consistency over high quantities.

So it is quality vs quantity?

Or is it quality and consistency vs quantity… or quality vs consistency and quantity… or quality vs consistency vs quantity?

Here we find ourselves at the beginnings of the world of gin drinking. We haven’t touched on how gin is made and the chemical interactions that take place (or don’t) in order to produce well tasting gin (google the role Orris Root plays in gin [and perfume]). We haven’t touched on the importance of individual preference. We haven’t touched on the marketing of different gin (and when to use the word ‘artisan’).

No, we’re still on the outer edges of understanding gin. And we’ll stop here. It’s been a bizarre and brief snapshot into gin. Next time you look for a bottle on the supermarket shelves, picture the triangle of choice. Do you choose a more obscure gin (it might be better quality but if you like it you aren’t guaranteed to have it again) or do you choose a more consistent gin (reliable and safe but maybe not as complex, taste-wise), or do you move away from the supermarket all together (Forager’s isn’t found on the supermarket shelves. It’s too niche).

Gin is a growing industry and nowhere near as complex as whisky or wine (there is a whiskey [bourbon] aged in the underbelly of a ship as it circumnavigates the globe), but it is intricate and intriguing in its own way.

I don’t hope this article helped answer any gin questions you had, I hope it raised more.