How two contrasting distilleries approach gin creation

Posted on 14 Sep 2018 by Maddy White

Fancy a G&T? Probably. Gin has certainly been having a moment for some time, as it continues to lead growth within the spirit market globally. Maddy White visited two contrasting distilleries across the UK to learn the secret behind the now favoured spirit.

The growth of gin shows no signs of stopping. Traditional gin is projected to grow by around 5% over the next five years, and flavoured versions of the spirit by 3%, according to data from the International Wines and Spirits Record (IWSR).

Where is it made and how are manufacturers adapting to this surge in popularity?

Two contrasting distilleries making the most of this spirit-boom is Clapham-based Thames Distillers and G&J Distillers in Cheshire. Both producing spirits on different scales, with different histories, but the same objective: nurture and retain the reputation of gin, while allowing it to innovate.

A contrasting pair

Thames Distillers

Thames Distillers, was set up little over two decades ago by Charles Maxwell. In this time however, the distillery has reacted and now even predicts trends – even producing a non-alcoholic spirit, we’ll keep you posted.

Traditional gin is projected to grow by around 5% over the next five years, and flavoured versions of the spirit by 3% - image courtesy of Depositphotos.
Traditional gin is projected to grow by around 5% over the next five years, and flavoured versions of the spirit by 3% – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

Maxwell who has over forty years experience in gin creation sat down with The Manufacturer to talk about how Thames Distillers, as a small London distillery, produces the spirit and optimises its production.

“Gin is a conversation piece and in terms of flavour delivery – you have an incredible array, which has very distinct differences. You have pink gins, fruit gins, what is going to happen now – I just don’t know. Gin for UK trade is now very important, because it is where the growth is in the spirit sector.”

The distillery produces gin for customers, bottling about half of what they produce at the facility and exporting the rest to be bottled by the customer, with some of these as far as Japan, Australia and South America.

The company takes on other projects too as part of their flexible approach, during TM’s visit the team at the distillery were bottling 30,000 litres of 50cl sized chocolate wine.

G&J Distillers

Joanne Moore is pictured.
Joanne Moore is pictured.

If you are an avid fan of gin, 250-year-old G&J Distillers has likely filled your glass. The distillery, which is housed across two still houses, can produce a quarter of a million bottles of spirits per day.

It is home to household brands including Greenall’s Original Dry Gin, Opihr Spiced Gin and Bloom Gin. It is also the largest supplier of own-label gin (plus vodka and Irish cream) in the UK. It is safe to say, G&J Distillers are a leader in the market of supplying spirits.

Joanne Moore is G&J Distillers’ first female master distiller out of a total of seven in the company’s history. She says – alike Maxwell – that gin’s popularity has been reflected in increased amounts of innovation, with different flavour profiles, packaging and colours.

Moore, who has worked at G&J Distillers for over twenty years, said: “The gin world has exploded in the last five to six years and it is going to continue to do that. Total spirits are growing, but what is driving that is gin.”

The two high speed production lines can fill 400 bottles a minute.

Key strategies

A key strategy used by both businesses is a more flexible approach to what consumers now demand, this is often shorter runs with more differentiation. Maxwell says this is “essential” in the bottling process, to be able to fill all different types of glass containers, whether round, oblong, miniature or otherwise, and this strategy can take more time.

Charles Maxwell is pictured.
Charles Maxwell is pictured.

However, at G&J Distillers, the strategy is low-cost, fast and highly efficient. This the facility is; filling up to 400 bottles on their high-tech liquid filling machines every minute. 

Both businesses have a wealth of knowledge in producing gins, and create bespoke recipes for different customers all over the world from small start-ups, to entrepreneurs and large businesses.

When The Manufacturer visited Thames Distillers, the business was just about to distill a non-alcoholic spirit, which Maxwell believes will be a “significant player” in years to come, as more people are choosing not to consume alcohol.

G&J Distllers also look at trends as Moore explained, not just in the spirit market but across different sectors. Introducing colours, like pink gin, as she says was not a new concept, it was new to gin but this has been happening across different industries for some period of time.

Both Moore and Maxwell are clearly passionate in what they create, and the importance of the reputation of gin. With different scale productions and customer needs, both businesses innovate and adapt to what their consumers now demand. That is, quality gin, presented in many different ways – whether that packaging, flavour, or colour – with the core principles of the spirit embedded.