After several years of muttering – and no doubt cheerful shall-we-shan’t-we banter – the Gin Guild has been established by the Worshipful Company of Distillers. The move underlines the growth in the gin category and indeed it was the spiralling interest and activity over the last two years which finally persuaded the powers that be to go ahead.
“We have often talked about forming a gin guild and it was the renaissance of gin which gave us the trigger,” says the Grand Rectifier Christopher Hayman. “And once we found we had the support of the leading gin distillers, Diageo, Chivas Brothers, Bacardi and William Grant, we decided to press the green light.” That was last year and in strict accordance with the ancient traditions of the City of London’s trade Guilds, leading members of the Guild have been “installed”.
The aim of the Guild “is to bring together gin distillers and industry leaders involved in the production, promotion, distribution and consumption of gin together with other interested parties in order to promote and encourage commitment to excellence in gin distillation and industry custodianship of the spirit category”. But there are some strict provisos: the chief among these is that “the Guild only recognises gin styles produced by distilling ethyl alcohol in stills traditionally used for gin, in the presence of juniper berries and other botanicals provided that the juniper taste is predominant”. So there will be none of your cold compounded stuff going on.
The strategy of the Guild is set out by the management committee where membership is accounted by the big four together with other Guild members and liverymen for the Worshipful Company of Distillers. The titular head is the Grand Rectifier, and the four big distilling companies are represented by the Founder Wardens.
There are two others types of membership alongside the Founder Wardens, Warden Rectifiers which are the producers/distillers and brand owners – but as this is a corporate representative position the Guild is at pains to stress that supermarket own brands and retail off trade are excluded. Finally there are the Guild members known as Rectifiers, which include individuals who are involved in the gin industry either in terms of production, distribution, marketing/sales, mixologists, retailers/buyers, journalists and educators.
“Initially the membership drive is concentrating on the UK but the intention is to have an international base,” says Hayman. “We shall be constantly reviewing logistics as the Guild gets larger.” For example there will be a future category of associate membership, known as Guild Journeymen, this will introduced to attract non-industry enthusiasts.
The next “Installation” will be in October at The Mansion House, but there will be on-going Guild meetings and initiatives such as its stand at the London Wine & Spirit Trade show in May, as well as a supporting presence at this year’s London Cocktail week in October and an annual gin tasting event. Additionally a website is in the pipeline.