Bonfort’s Gin Category Report, And Leaders of the Splinter Segments

The gin category is exploding, but is there enough room for every brand out there? Well, that depends on how you slice it, and what you consider to be “gin”.

Natasha Swords examines the market, exemplifying some truly diverse leading their corners of the market as viable and growing segments..

The U.S. beverage market is a $354.2 billion industry with alcoholic beverages making up 60% of the revenues, with $211.6bn in sales. The alcoholic beverage market is almost equally split between malt beverages on the one hand and wine and spirits products on the other. Distilled spirits make up around 37% of the sales of alcoholic beverages. The largest sub-category of spirits is vodka with 34% of cases sold, followed by whiskey with 24% and rum with 12%. Wines make up around 15%  of the alcoholic beverage market. 71% of the cases sold are domestically produced wines and 21% are imported wines. Champagnes and sparkling wines make up around 6% of the wine volume.

The spirits segment volume has been growing at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 2% over the last 10 years while revenues outpace this growth with a CAGR of 4%. Smaller brands taking share of larger brands is a phenomenon across many FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) categories. Factors often cited as reasons include: shortening life cycles of brands in general, entrepreneurial innovation wave, liberalization and de-concentration of marketing avenues (e.g., Internet), premiumization, desire of consumers to differentiate themselves.Smaller brands have been gaining share. The non-top 5 brands gained between 12 and 37 percentage points over a 20 year period and between 2 and 9 percentage points in the last 5 years.

Revenue in the Gin segment amounts to US$1,745m in 2018.

Small premium brands outgrew large supplier premium brands by a factor of 5.5x and the overall market by 18.9x. Approximately 45% of the category growth is coming from small supplier brands. This is remarkable, especially given that the account selection (e.g., no on-premise) and data availability typically provides a bias towards national and larger brands.

We can derive from this that there is, indeed, growth for new, smaller gin brands that can react to trends and opportunities quickly. Bristlecone is one such brand — new and nimble. Its price point has an SRP of $26.99 and iis already available in UT, ID, OR, MT, WY, CA, TX, MI and currently seeking distribution in FL, NC, SC, NY.

Bristlecone Makes A Meaningful Dent

Bristlecone Gin is owned and trademarked by Dented Brick (which opened its distillery in April 2016). The Bristlecone label is quite unique, as is its flavor profile, since one of its most distinctive components is Bristlecone pine needle tips. Any offer where licensees can charge a premium and make more money is usually an attractive idea, and Bristlecone satisfies that notion. “We’ve built a high capacity distilled spirits plant, and an award winning product line, already attracting multi-state distribution, and making way in market penetration,” says Founder, Marc Chistensen. “Our spirits are distilled from 100% organic, locally sourced ingredients and artesian well water located on-site at the distillery.”

Every aspect of Dented Brick is designed to deliver handcrafted spirits, from grain to glass. Spirits now command nearly 36% of the alcohol market, with craft and small batch products such as Tito’s Handmade Vodka and Hendrick’s Gin growing into national brands. “Millennials are driving this shift, by becoming more savvy about their purchases and searching for quality they can trust,” says Christensen. “They’re not just looking for something flashy and new — they’re searching for something authentic. Products like Dented Brick’s are what they are looking for! We’ve won multiple Gold Medals at prestigious competitions for our rums, whiskey, vodka and gin. We’ve even won medals for our Well brands!”

On the shelf, Bristlecone sits beside Aviation Gin, Big Bottom Gin, Beehive Gin, and other craft comparatives. The brand supports retail sales through shelf talkers and has a full POS program for on-premise accounts including bar mats, garnish trays, shakers, signs and coasters.

James Bond Martini

Must be free pour to be Classic Bond

Rinse the glass with Dolan’s Dry Vermouth

Shake a pour of Bristlecone Gin until tiny bits of ice are floating

Pour into Martini glass

Add twist of lemon for classic or oil and some juice for Dirty Bond

Tinkerman’s Refreshes Category

Tinkermans Gin-About the Most Refreshing Gins on Earth from Chris Bartell on Vimeo.

Tinkerman’s Gins are crafted at the A. Smith Bowman Distillery in Fredericksburg, Virginia by “tinkerman” Master Distiller Brian Prewitt. The Distillery is known for experimentation and for producing award-winning spirits. Prewitt set out with the mission to create the most refreshing gins on Earth, and started by creating a clean base spirit before he began introducing select botanicals. He spent months tinkering and created more than 30 different recipe combinations, but three separate expressions stood out:

Citrus Supreme

Prewitt created Citrus Supreme using a variety of citrus oriented botanicals, including lemon peel, Spanish orange, lime peel, lemongrass, vanilla bean, elderflower, Italian juniper, coriander, and others. This gin was distilled slowly and gently using George’s gin basket. Citrus Supreme is described as being “unashamedly floral on the nose. Complex and inviting with slight peely citrus character. Expect smooth mouthfeel and well-mannered juniper.” This gin is adorned with blue labeling and is gin recipe number 4.2.

Sweet & Spice

Recipe number 6.3, Sweet Spice, was created using a combination of nutmeg, grains of paradise, coriander, American juniper, angelica, wormwood, lemon verbena, orris root and others. This gin underwent a slow distillation with its botanicals macerating for 24 hours in the still. Tasting notes describe this gin as “Confidently aromatic. Delightful rich character draws you in with satisfying warm spice and finishes bold, yet balanced. Wintertime harmony personified.” Sweet Spice is dressed in red labeling.

Curiously Bright & Complex

Curiously Bright & Complex was created using a combination of jasmine green tea, ginger lemongrass, Italian juniper, coriander and others. This gin was distilled slow and gentle using George’s gin basket to macerate its botanicals and extract vapor. This gin is described as being “optimistically exotic and floral on the nose. Wakes up the palate with its fresh, bright attitude. Asian fusion influence inspires a delicate finish.” Curiously Bright & Complex comes with green labeling and is gin recipe number 7.4.

All three gins were crafted in small batches on the Distillery’s custom copper still “George” using 100 percent American grain. The label on each bottle of Tinkerman’s Gin lists the botanicals featured in that expression, along with tasting and distilling notes.

These three expressions are only available in limited quantities with each expression bottled in 750mls, at 92 proof at a suggested retail price of $29.99. Tinkerman’s Gin launched initially in the A. Smith Bowman Distillery Visitor Center last fall, and began spreading to additional markets beginning in early 2018.

“Each flavor profile is unique and consumers love to discover new products,” says Tinkerman’s Marketing Director Tracey Clapp. “These gins are not only refreshing — they’re also talk-worthy.  The brand story is on the label, as well as how the gin is made, the unique botanicals in each and tasting notes.

“We also want to promote the concept of the gin flight,” says Clapp. “whereby consumers can order all three as a flight, and appreciate the differences between them, just as they would with a flight of wine.”

Tinkerman’s supports sales by offering an assortment of point-of-sale materials, including its accolade shelf talkers. The expressions have won a number of 90 and above ratings and Citrus Supreme took Double Gold at the 2018 San Francisco Wine & Spirits Competition.

The Pinky Swear

2 oz Tinkerman’s Citrus Supreme Gin

1 oz Fresh Lemon Juice

1 oz Simple Syrup

1 oz Cranberry Juice

2 Cucumber Wheels

1 oz Soda

Method: Shake over ice. Double strain into lowball glass over fresh ice.

Concullin Leads The Irish Gin Movement

“Globally, gin sales rose 2.5% in 2017 to 52 million cases fueled principally by premium-priced gin brands,” says Connacht Whiskey Founder, Tom Jensen. “The Irish gin category, which did not even exist five years ago, is now on fire internationally, with exports growing three-fold in 2017 to over 130,000 cases,” he adds.

Jensen is the former CEO and President of Remy Cointreau USA and has worked in senior positions at some of the industry’s leading companies such as Allied Domecq, and Gallo Winery in his 30 plus years in the industry.

“We expect Irish gin to grow significantly in 2018, and the Irish Spirits Association expects Irish gin to reach over 400,000 cases by 2022,” Jensen explains. “While there are only a couple of Irish gins with limited distribution in the US, there are hundreds of gin brands in the US as gin is a favorite offering of many US craft producers. The US now has gins from around the world available for gin aficionados.”

Made at Connacht Distillery, Concullin is one of those premium priced Irish gins making its name in America, with an SRP of $29.99. Since it arrived in America in September of last year, it’s already distributed in 12 states (NY, MA, PA, IL, CA, FL, NJ, DC, OR, MD, DE and WY, and plans to be in all 50 states by year’s end 2019. It has been awarded a gold medal and a 92 rating by Chicago’s Beverage Testing Institute.

Conncullin Irish Gin is currently in 12 states including most of the major markets of NY, MA, PA, IL, CA, FL as well as NJ, DC, OR, MD, DE, and WY. We will continue to expand our distribution as we hope to be available in all 50 states by the end of 2019.

Conncullin Irish Gin contains a variety of Irish botanicals including elderberry flower and hawthorn berry. The gin was produced by award-winning gin maker, Robert Cassell. It contains strong notes of juniper and hints of berry on the nose and is bottled at 47%. The name Concullin is a merging of two County Mayo Lakes, Lough Conn, and Lough Cullin, which are the source of the water used at the distillery.  

The brand itself is wholly owned by the Connacht Whiskey Company, which is an independently owned craft distillery in County Mayo on the West Coast of Ireland. It is the result of a dream shared by four men, three Americans, and one Irishman, to bring Irish spirits back to the West of Ireland after an absence of over 100 years.

“It’s aimed at the true gin drinker that is more concerned about the quality and taste of the gin than what color the bottle is. It is for the discerning gin drinker looking for a well-made craft Irish gin,” Jensen pointedly explains. “The creative use of Irish botanicals while maintaining a traditional juniper base and full 94 proof means that Conncullin Irish Gin is equally impressive on its own, in a martini or in a classic gin and tonic cocktail.

“While there are a lot of gins, there are very few Irish gins in the US and Conncullin Irish Gin is the only Irish gin made with local Irish botanicals to be at a full 94 proof and crafted by the internationally known master distiller Robert Cassell.”

Conncullin Mediterranean Gin & Tonic

1.5 oz. Conncullin Irish Gin

Three sprigs fresh thyme

0.25 oz. simple syrup

2.0-3.0 oz Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic

Lime wedge for garnish

Method: Muddle the thyme in simple syrup in a mixing glass. Add gin and ice and shake well to chill.  Double strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Top with Mediterranean Tonic and stir. Garnish with lime wedge.

Rutte: Genever Versus Gin

Stephanie Jerzy is the Customer Marketing Director at Royal Dutch Distillers, home of Rutte Old Simon, Rutte Dry Gin, and Rutte Celery Gin. She admits the gin category is “congested” but adds that “it’s growing”. She says  “Genever is the grandfather of gin and there’s a particular space in the category to expand that consumer’s palate.”

Genever is Dutch for “juniper” and is a clear, botanically rich, malted grain-based spirit that can only be called Genever if it comes from Holland or Belgium. The Dutch Government and EU officiated and AOC for Genever, so now it’s as official as Champagne or Cognac. And it’s not just gin, it’s a blend of two distillates: a whiskey-like distillate made of corn, wheat and rye (malt wine); and, a juniper-infused distillate. So if your gin customer is also a whiskey drinker, Genever should be an easy sell.

Rutte, which operates at an SRP of $32.99 – $34.99 per 750 ml,  has been creating Genever since 1749 in Dordrecht right outside of Rotterdam, The Netherlands. While in its eighth generation of master distillers, it celebrates its first female in the role, Myriam Hendrickx. The brand moved to the U.S. three years ago, about five years after it was acquired by De Kuyper.

“The malty notes, matched with complex botanicals makes original gins like Rutte truly different to everything else out there,” says Jerzy. “There’s a solid reason to replace something on your shelf with Rutte. It shows up in cocktails like The Martinez differently to other gins out there. The maltiness really shows off in contrast to the sweet vermouth.”

Currently Rutte is available in 20 states including CA, TX, IL, NY and FL.

The Martinez

2 oz Rutte Old Simon Genever

1 oz Vermouth Rosso

1 Dash Orange Bitters

1 Orange Zest

Method: Add all ingredients and stir until cold and diluted. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with an orange zest.


Natasha Swords
Natasha Swords

Natasha Swords is an accomplished editor and writer with 20+ years of creative composition, reporting and management. She hails from Dublin Ireland where she held the position of Editor at Jemma Publications. Natasha honed her editorial skills by delivering engaging content on a wide range of topics, before finally focusing on the alcohol beverage and cannabis industries. She is Editor-in-Chief at Bonfort’s Wine and Spirits Journal as well as Drink me Magazine, where she leads all editorial content from story-idea generation to commissioning freelance writers and photographers. She also heads up CannEpoch, a lifestyle publication for the newly cannabis curious. In 2018, Natasha launched Bonfort’s Wine and Spirits Journal from inception, as well as the Bonfort’s Lifetime Achievement Award, a top-tier industry event connecting leading brands with key buyers. Steeped in the alcohol industry media, she was previously editor of Off-License Magazine, California Beverage News and Patterson’s California Beverage Journal (now Tasting Panel Magazine), and ran corporate communications for a number of alcohol supplier companies including TGIC (now Guarachi Wine Partners) and distributor, TITAN Wine and Spirits.

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