We Scots are a proud people. We like what we like. We do what we do. Thing is though… Generally when we like what we do we get REALLY passionate about it and then we absolutely smash it.
We nailed whisky… We nailed inventing telly because we want something to do while we drank the whisky… We nailed the hangover soft drink Irn Bru to feel better after a night in front of the telly drinking whisky.
We also don’t like to be bored and stand about doing nothing so we had to find something to do while waiting for the whisky to do its thing… So we decided to nail gin.
The gin craze has swept the universe in the last few years and, as is often the case with alcohol,+ the Scots have embraced it and really went all in. We have some AMAZING gins kicking about and, I dare say, some amazing gins yet to kick about.
When I first created my Twitter and started trying to understand what was going on I followed a page that seemed to “get” what I wanted to see and seemed to share an interest in not only gins but SPECIFICALLY Scottish gins.
I followed their posts with keen interest until one day when they really caught my eye. The Gin Cooperative posted looking for parties interested in a project they had been working on… I’m nosy so I stuck my name in… They mailed out info on International Scottish Gin Day and wanted to know who was interested in actually being involved in it… I was… Hello! Sounded great. I was all over it.
Last week I was announced as an official supporter of the event and I couldn’t be more excited.
3rd of August is going to be an exciting day for Scottish gin and I’m buzzing to be involved and buzzing to pass on the info to all who follow me…
So anyway… I decided I wanted to delve a little deeper into what the script was and why it came about and just basically stick my big beak into the business of those behind the big day. So I slid into the DMs of Martin and Natalie from the Gin Cooperative DEMANDING (asking nicely for) information and the answers to some of the questions I have about the story behind the day and what the dream is for it…
Q. Can you talk me through your story and how the Gin Cooperative came to be?
Natalie: In December 2017 I was at a crossroads in my career. Myself and my husband and co-founder Martin had been gin drinkers for the last 15 years or so. Over the last 5 years we’d been drinking a lot more Scottish Gins. It’s something we’ve tried to do more of is buy local, support local.
The idea for The Gin Cooperative actually evolved from a discussion myself and Martin had when we were on holiday in NYC. We were in a bar enjoying some post-lunch G&T’s – Hendrick’s to be specific and thought it would be amazing to have a travellers guide that detailed all the gins in the world. A directory of gin I guess you would call it.
Fast forward to December 2017 we were laughing about building a business around sharing the story of Scottish Gin and at the time there wasn’t a directory or A – Z of Scottish Gin. There were also a lot of blanks in the story of Scottish Gin that we wanted to know more about. The people, the locations and more.
Martin: We also wanted to educate ourselves as consumers about distillation, botanicals and where the gins were being made. A few years earlier, we’d bought what we believed was a Scottish Gin for family and friends and were so proud to be supporting a small gin producer and told all our family the story behind the brand. Turned out it wasn’t made in Scotland. We both felt cheated.
With The Gin Cooperative, we wanted to create a consumer facing business that could showcase the brands, the gins, the people and the places but in a non-sales led way. We wanted the consumer to learn, discover and explore Scottish Gin for themselves as everyone has their own tastes. It’s one of the reasons we don’t review gins – there’s a lot of great people already doing it plus it’s not for us as a business to tell the consumer they should be choosing one particular Scottish Gin brand over another.
Q.Where did the idea for ISGD come about?
Natalie: It was always part of plan to launch a day that could be an annual celebration of all things Scottish Gin. We’d enjoyed taking part in World Gin Day, which was established by Emma Stokes AKA Gin Monkey, so we knew there was an opportunity to try and build a day around specifically Scottish Gin.
Martin: We wanted to create a day that could highlight the story of Scottish Gin to a truly global audience and provide some great opportunities for Scottish Gin makers to help tell their story but also potentially create some commercial benefit for them individually.
Q. Do you expect it to become an annual day in the gin community or will it be a one off for 2019?
Martin: We’d love for it to become an annual date in the drinks calendar. I think as the gin category continues to grow it’s vital that Scottish Gin can be presented as its own category rather than just another part of the so called ‘gin craze’. I truly believe Scottish Gin should come to represent a quality spirit distilled, cold compounded or rectified in Scotland. We’re in a lucky position that we have a long and rich food and drink history and heritage already associated with Scotland and there’s no reason Scottish Gin can’t be part of this offering.
Q. Why the 3rd of August?
Natalie: We spent a week going through all the dates available throughout the year. Out of professional courtesy we didn’t want to do anything that was near World Gin Day as we think what Gin Monkey has been able to create and build is brilliant for gin as a category, so we didn’t want any confusion. We’ve planned it so it captures some of the international audience who will be visiting Scotland to experience the Fringe in Edinburgh and exploring Scotland.
Martin: The 3rd of August 2019 lands on a Saturday and going forward we plan to make the first Saturday in August every year International Scottish Gin Day. Besides wanting the day to fall on the weekend, we also wanted to try and increase the likelihood of the weather being half decent (although in Scotland you never know!) but at least give bars and events organisers the chance to do something outdoors. It also covers the UK School holidays so means us hard working parents might be able to rope in some babysitters so we can enjoy a night out.
Q. What are the expectations for the day itself?
Martin: We’ve taken a really unique approach to the day. We’re not event planners or organisers. We realise that every business has different operational requirements and resources including financial so what we’ve done is focused on creating a central source for all ISGD events, content, news and more. The website is currently under development but will be the official resource for all ISGD events and content. In other words, if it isn’t listed on the website then it isn’t an official event. It’s a great chance for collaboration between Scottish Gin brands and the on and off trade, events organisers and more.
Natalie: We’re inviting businesses from a range of categories to take part including bars, hotels, bottle shops, events organisers and more to be involved. We’re giving everyone who wishes to take part the opportunity to create their own event to suit their requirements. So for example this could be a meet the maker event at a bottle shop, a special Scottish Gin menu at the bar, some special cocktails created just for the day, a Scottish Gin and food pairing menu. There is no specific format for what an ISGD 2019 event will look like, so long as it features Scottish Gin, encourages sensible drinking and can bring in some commercial benefits to those taking part.
Martin: Harking back to the support local idea, we understand that the on and off trade, especially for small, independent businesses, it can be challenge bringing in footfall so we genuinely hope that those taking part can benefit financially from being involved with ISGD.
Q. Do you have plans event-wise?
Natalie: We won’t be putting on an event ourselves but all we can say is watch this space after some very exciting and enthusiastic meetings and phone calls… we think there will be some fabulous events for us to attend!
Q. Would you like one big event or would you prefer numerous events throughout the country to mark the occasion?
Martin: I think the more people who can discover Scottish Gin the better. We’re hoping by August we will have at least 200 – 400 official events listed on our website. As for locations, we’ve already had conformation of participants from Barcelona, New York, Melbourne, London, Hong Kong and other global locations so behind closed doors we’re literally working 16 hour days and have been since the 7th of Jan.
Natalie: We’re putting our love of Scottish Gin into ISGD 2019 and hope year on year we can continue to build the day and share the story of Scottish Gin with a growing international audience.
Q. What is the dream for the event as a whole?
Natalie: Well all the Scottish Gin makers who signed up to involved with The Gin Cooperative are all automatically enrolled as official supporters and their gins will be listed as the official Scottish Gins of ISGD 2019. We’re working with over 70 Scottish Gin brands who have all been invited to take part. I guess in a way, ISGD is a thank you to them for believing in The Gin Cooperative as a small rural business and choosing to engage and be part of what we’re trying to do.
We can’t be responsible for what type of events or the quality of events people put on under the banner of ISGD but we believe, going by the quality of bars we’ve asked to be involved, there will be a lot of great venues across the world taking part, which we think is testament to how Scottish Gin and Scotland is viewed.
We’d also love to see friends getting together to celebrate ISGD in their own homes by putting on their own events or whatever they want. It’s a great excuse to organise a get together and enjoy Scottish Gin your way.
Martin: I’d love to be sitting hangover free on the 4th of August and think, yeah that was brilliant. Not only did we help Scottish Gin makers share their story, sell gin, create new commercial opportunities and build some collaborative links with some really great international businesses, we helped millions of people discover Scottish Gin.
Q. If you were to host an actual “live” event similar to the gin festivals out there what, other than the presence of the very best gin makers, would you like to have there/ take place/ include?
If we were to host an event, which we have no intention of doing (we’re leaving it to the experts!), there are a few things we would do. We would have a great selection of Scottish Food producers serving hot and cold food. It’s one thing we always find at gin events, there’s often a lack of food. Perhaps some really great cheese makers, smoked salmon, venison burgers, artisan pizzas and more. All really great quality food made by small producers.
As for the actual format, we would have all the gin brands from across Scotland and one thing we would make sure of was to never put two gin brands from the same area next to each other just so they can shine separately.
Q. What has been the stand out moment for Scottish Gin and for the Gin Cooperative from 2018?
Natalie: It’s a tough question and not one we can honestly answer as a business that’s only just turned one… we’re still learning every day, making new connections, developing our understanding of the industry, distillation, botanicals and more. It’s one of the things that excites us, is the opportunity to learn and meet new people.
Martin: Personally for me it’s been every distillery visit, every new face I’ve met, every new gin I’ve discovered and as Natalie said learning more about a drink I’ve enjoyed for the last 15 years.
As for the highlight of Scottish gin…
The collective story of Scottish Gin has been the highlight. Seeing the continuing growth of Scottish Gin was fantastic to see and experience.This included seeing plans for new distilleries and learning more about some of the brands bringing their distillation back to their local area. Also, lots of awards for Scottish Gins just highlighted where Scottish Gin is heading as a category – quality, premium spirits taking on the world. It’s been an inspiring and exciting year for the story of Scottish Gin.
Q. What are you most excited about for 2019 (not including ISGD)?
Natalie: Seeing, experiencing and enjoying the story of Scottish Gin grow. We hope 2019 can be an outstanding year for growth for Scottish Gin as a category and the many amazing people and brands in the category. With a number of new distilleries scheduled to open and a number of new Scottish Gin expressions due out in the next few months, we’re optimistic 2019 will be a brilliant year for everyone in the Scottish Gin community. I’d personally like to see a lot more Scottish distillers working on a collaborative gin with the likes of Four Pillars in Australia or Reid & Reid in New Zealand (no family connection incase you’re wondering haha).
Q. Sum up Scottish Gin in four words…
Martin: People, Places, Passion, Premium.
You can find Martin and Natalie on their social media using the links below:
And you can get a good read and keep abreast of what’s going on by visiting their websites:
As always give your brain a treat and go follow me on social media using the links below…
*All photos are owned by the Gin Cooperative and used with their permission.