Australian Gins- the State of Play

So apparently someone decided that day I’m writing this, 21 November, is Australian Gin Day.

Sure, why not?

As you know I’ve been covering this beat for a decade or so now, so pretty much everyday is a cause for me to celebrate and acknowledge the passion and talents of gin makers around the country.

It’s been my mission to bring you insights and inspiration about these spirits through this site, socials and my hundreds of events.I’ve always aimed to provide a pathway for a deeper appreciation and confidence in these innovative spirits in an independent way.  I have also had the privilege of being a judge at various award programs.

I’ve maintained the list of makers for all that time and it’s grown from a handful to over 340 now. In fact, I added another three today.

There’s no sign of it slowing down given the pace that still makers and associated industries are at to keep pace with demand for both new entrants, and those looking to expand their production.

Whilst gin is a fast growing category, craft spirits as a whole of the Aussie spirits market is still tiny. Some say less that 10%, others way less than that, just a few % of the overall spirits market. Of which Australian gin makes up just a fraction, with a few well known brands have a good share of that.

Overall, it is growing in market share, but you can see that there’s a lot of gin, lots of players in a very competitive market.

Some are happy to be finding their niche based around their local tribe, others have bigger ambitions.   But there difficulty getting into retail markets, including distances they need to travel to things like markets, or events. Or to get a bottle into a bar which self space can be limited and the need to educate staff on best use of the spirits.  This all takes time and money and a lot of effort, for sometimes a very small team.

On the upside, there’s been a growth of online options which enhance their prospects for brand profile and sales, many of which are listed here.  Of course, social media has been a boon for building their brands and connecting with their market.

Not to mention the growth in public facing tasting events and awards programs which they can leverage for promotional purposes, and the industry is getting more confident in relying less on ‘influencers’ to get the word out. In short, it is maturing as an industry, whilst still happily being collaborative and supportive.

Plus, whilst many of the distilleries listed on my site here are family run, or small businesses in rural and regional locations with challenges of getting product to market, and getting brand recognition.  Then there’s the small matter of one of the highest excise taxes in the world to contend with against cheaper imported gin. Fun fact, about a third of the cost of your next bottle of gin at a shop goes to the tax man.  You can read about some of these challenges in this Good Food magazine article.

Finally, not to mention the impact 2020 has had on the industry….. no events, tastings, cellar door sales, disruption to supply chains, plus natural disasters, you name it, they’ve had it thrown at them.

Despite a myriad of challenges, what they do have in common is a passion and inspiration of where they come from and a real sense of brave innovation. Whether it’s hand foraged and sustainably sourced botanicals, confidence in handling unique flavour profiles and technical proficiency, the overall quality of Aussie gin is very high.

The emergence of contract distillers, who create spirits for another brand means on one hand, excellent, consistent gin, but more brands in the market trying the find their market share.

But at the same time the public, i.e. you, have much more confidence in the product. Spending $80 or more on a bottle of gin you don’t know is an investment for many.  I like to watch folks in bottle shop to see them facing a wall of gin (happily many retailers are now enthusiastic supporters of local product) and see their decision process…  a well known imported number (usually cheaper for various reasons), or an Aussie one, more and more they opt for the latter.

I think the overall picture is one that has it’s best days ahead of it. What needs to happen though is the market share to grow to enable all those gin makers a place in the sun they deserve (distilleries aren’t cheap to build and run), it can’t stay niche.

I also think we need some more local heroes in terms of commercial success, so that a few well known labels don’t crowd out the others, but you can also think of those as ‘gateway’ gins, opening doors for the consumer to try something new.

I tend to find that many labels are rooted in the location and local / regional market (a good thing) and in turn can actually be part of the tourism experience there. They become attractions, or are what people want to experience when they visit a place.  This evolution is a very welcome one and the way these are presented are world class in some instances, but always with a smile and heart no matter how big.

So go pour yourself something Aussie in a glass, and toast the hardworking, talented and passionate women and men (and their dogs) who have treated us with a distillation of all the place they call home for us to enjoy.



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