My husband and I were debating what constitutes a craft gin or a craft beer or even a craft tonic? At what point does it no longer classify as a craft product? As we living during the gin craze, I want to answer that from a gin perceptive plus, as I work for The Gin Box (SA’s 1st online craft gin subscription based club), they maintain that all the gins they include in their Gin Boxes are strictly Craft? (And yes they are all Craft Gins!)
If you reading this you, like me you probably love gin, but when it comes to choosing a gin, the choice is rather overwhelming. Especially if you’ve been listening to The Gin Box and want to stick to SA Craft gin by not only showing your loyalty to our SA distillers but also because they’re super, damn good! But how do you know which are SA gins and which are overseas brands, and then, which are craft gins?
Firstly, there is a lot of controversy out there in regards to what makes a craft gin – there are no clearly defined rules for anything, so don’t be surprised if you come across conflicting information on your search! Besides the big brands that we get on SA shelves, namely Tanqueray, Gordon’s, Bombay Sapphire, Beefeater, to name a few, the rest are craft gins. I am not saying that these big brands make dull gin. Their gin is of high quality and we can learn a thing or two from them, but they certainly are not craft gins because they distill in mass volume and thousands of bottles are bottled each day.
Here are 3 signs to look out for when trying to spot craft gin:
1. The gin distillers behind the bottle are real people.
One of my highlights of working at The Gin Box is meeting fab people who make the gin. They are like you and me. They are super down to earth, most of them are great fun who I would enjoy spending more time with on a social and professional level. Many have come from other industries, although there is often a link to the distilling from being a foodie (which makes them excellent when it comes to a perfect nose) or an ex-engineer (making them fine designers and builders of that beautiful still). So a huge part of what makes a gin a craft gin are the distillers behind it! If you a Gin Box member, you’re sure to have noticed how many of our gin distillers have been husband and wife duos, close-knit family teams or a few good friends who came together over their love of gin to produce something magical.
So, if you can’t put a face and name to the distiller behind your craft gin bottle, then is it truly a ‘craft’ gin?
2. Craft Gin is often small-batch gin – but they don’t mean the same thing
I know I speak on behalf of the craft distillers, when I say that for many priority is not in making money but in the art of formulating their own recipe to make their gin unique and different. It’s a passion that they fortunate enough to pursue every single day. How lucky to work in a profession that you are passionate about! A distillery team is usually quite small, so it’s not unusual for a craft gin distiller to have just a few stills and make their gin in relatively small-sized batches. It’s also not unusual for some craft distillers to have a ‘family’ of gins under their umbrella like Hope on Hopkins who distills for Musgrave, Blossom & Hops, etc., as there are so many difficulties in getting a liquor licenses in SA. There’s no written law for what constitutes a ‘small-batch’ gin, but if your favourite distiller isn’t churning out thousands and thousands of bottles every day, there’s a good chance they qualify!
3. Craft Gin = Craftsmanship and Creativity
What also sparked the debate between my husband and I was the question: “Are too many companies misusing the term ‘craft’?”
South African craft distillers ‘handcraft’ their gins. They know each and every botanical that goes into their gin and what purpose it serves. These distillers are passionate and innovative in the way they approach gin. Meet one, and you’ll know exactly what we mean or look out for our Meet the maker interviews on Social media and you will quickly see their passion and interest.
At the end of the day, craft gin can be a controversial topic, but if you look into your distillers and learn their stories, you’ll be able to tell the difference between a bog-standard gin and a craft gin all on your own.