Chivas is also taking the opportunity to increase Plymouth’s price in line with its more artisanal positioning. In the UK it will move from around £17/£18 to between £20 and £25 and globally it will go up in the region of 40%. There can be little doubt that this was in response to the growing number of artisanal gins coming into the mix – perhaps most notably the likes of Sipsmith from Chiswick, London, and the Scottish gin Caorunn – both-small batch gins and both making the most of their respective botanical mixes.

The fact that within two years of its UK debut Caorunn became the number three super-premium in the market clearly underlines the potency of these brands. “We had successful launches on key gin markets in the US and Spain, where gin experts highly appreciated Caorunn and there was a great reaction to its USP, taste and perfect serve,” says Interbev’s brand manager for Caorunn Iby Bakos.

Super-premium assault

Of course, along with the UK, the US and Spain are the traditional gin hubs in the world and in all three markets it is clear that the super-premium sector is on the move.

Latest IWSR figures up to 2010 confirm that in the US back in 2001 it amounted to 69,500 cases and by close of play nine years on it had breached the 189,000 cases mark. Similarly in the UK where super-premiums were later off the mark it was just 6,000 in 2005 (entirely attributed to Hendrick’s) but by 2010 the tally was 46,550 cases – almost an eight-fold growth. In Spain, using the same comparison, it was 3,500 (2005) and ended at just over 80,000 cases – an even higher growth.

These figures are, of course, small beer in vodka terms, but these super-premiums are the ‘single malts’ of the gin category and, because there are no ageing constraints, it’s an extremely lucrative business. Furthermore, it is extraordinary how quickly the super-premiums have taken hold. In the US they now account for almost 27% of the total gin action and, with the ongoing decline of the standard sector, it has to be said that some of the growth has been at the expense of the premium gins. However, in the UK and Spain super-premiums have hit the standard category.

In all three strongholds Hendrick’s dominates the scene, indeed the brand has 50% of this highly lucrative gin action and is testament to the rewards of consistent marketing which, coupled with its burlesque-style PR campaigns, has clearly struck a chord with both trade and consumer.

“Our main challenge now is to keep Hendrick’s special – it’s a small-batch gin and we have to ensure supply meets demand and stay true to our roots, so we will be increasing activity,” says William Grant brand manager for Hendrick’s Deirdre Clarke.

A decade or so ago, the UK, US and Spain were really the only markets worth going for on the gin front. But today it’s a different story – gin is on the move and Asia, along with other ports of call in Europe and Russia, is now within its scope, as is South America, where Hendrick’s is “going from strength to strength” in Colombia. “It’s really in the past 18 months that these green shoots have started to show in markets traditionally associated with vodka,” says Clarke.