The incredible rise of Spanish gins
No one disputes that, if there is an alcoholic beverage that remains in vogue despite the crisis, that is gin. So much so that, today, more than 200 brands of gin are marketed in Spain, of the most different qualities and characteristics. With a direct effect: it has given rise to a national industry that tries to adjust to the palates. But it's not gold, nor London gin, all that shines.
"Currently about 60 brands of gin are sold as Spanish but here there are only 10 or 12 distilleries. I think there are people who are skipping legislation," says David Martínez,one of the two partners of the Siderit distillery,located in the Cantabrian town of Torrelavega.
More than legislation, we should talk about requirements. To make any high-quality alcoholic beverage, whatever the type, production methods must be met, as explained by the Spanish Federation of Spirit Drinks (FEBE). A regulation which, they point out, is established at both Community and national level and contains a number of minimum parameters.
In the case of gin, it is a spirit drink flavoured with juniper berries (Juniperus Communis L.) and other aromas. In all gins,the taste of enebro should be predominant and the minimum alcohol grade of 37.5%. According to the EU regulation adopted in 2008, there are three methods of production: the aforementioned gin, with no more surnames; distilled gin,whose initial alcohol base should be at least 96%; and London gin,for which no colouring or sweetener can be used and which has more nebrin flavor, the aforementioned fruit of the eenbro. Among the Spanish brands there are names that, practically, cover almost all the cardinal points: Nordes (Galicia), Ginbraltar (Zaragoza), Xoriguer or Ginnesia (both Menorquinas), Level Gin (Tarragona) or Macaronesian Gin (Tenerife).
However, it is common for many consumers to hear about 'premium' gins. "Any additional conditions that are incorporated into the production process and result in its quality will make the product premium,although there is no legislation on it," they assume from the employer. "Thus, the number of times it has been distilled can make a difference in taste, along with the botanicals that are added in the process and that serve to give the product aroma and final taste,"they nuance.
It's not an easy process. "Quality is determined through the regulation called London gin," says Rives Group President Augusto Romero Haupold. He explains that this "is based on 10 main seeds distilled in copper stills,alcohol purity and water quality." "Only gins produced under this criterion can certify the quality of the product," he stresses.
"However, gins that do not meet these requirements are being marketed in Spain, harming producers who do," saysHaupold. "We could say that adding rosemary to a gin doesn't make it more Mediterranean. Quality is determined by the purity of its distillation," he stresses.
Fashionable Gin Tonic
Although gin and tonic are still fashionable and Spain has outperformed England in the consumption of gin, this is still not the alcoholic beverage of choice for Spaniards. Of the 220 million litres of spirits drunk annually in Spain, about 15% correspond to gin. Ahead, there's still dark rum (which accounts for 17% of consumption) and 27% whisky. But, while the latter two are in a fallen layer, gin grows at an annual rate of between 5% and 6%. In addition, unlike other drinks, in Spain there is a gin with protected geographical name: the gin from Menorca,which takes advantage of the native enebro of the island.
In such a competitive market, where brands such as Beefeater, Tanqueray or Seagram concentrate much of the consumption, Spanish producers try to differentiate the difference. "We produce very little, 24,000 bottles. More than a premium product we are gourmet", says David Martínez,who launched Siderit with his partner Rubén Leivas. "We use, for example, rye alcohol,spring water or mandarin bark. We came from engineering, we had made wineries and microbreweries and decided to do something for ourselves. We invest about 250,000 euros in the project and we are only four people; we are profitable and we are gaining market share. We're happy," he concludes.
Gin producers also point out that there is an essential component to the rise of gin: female consumption. "Women mainly drink gin and tonic because the product itself is lighter than other spirits," says Rives president. And, nuance, because it has a satiating effect, because of the tonic. "It's amazing, because the gin and tonic boom is mostly due to women," Siderit's co-founder hits the same direction.