Hayman’s Gin are launching an innovative new expression called Small Gin. A full strength gin with stronger botanical flavours, Small Gin has been designed to reduce the amount of spirit required to make a Gin & Tonic.
The expression is said to be so rich in botanical character that only 5mls is need to create a perfectly balenced G&T, which in theory reduces alcohol consumption by 80%.
With many consumers actively looking to reduce their alcohol consumption but keen to still enjoy the classic gin flavour, Hayman’s have sought to create a new catagory within the thriving Gin market.
With it’s release scheduled for early August,we talk to James Hayman from Hayman’s Gin about how Small Gin was created, how it tastes and, of course, how this new style of Gin should be used in Highballs and other Gin cocktails.
As the trend moves towards low ABV drinks and cocktails, Hayman's Gin has developed a new expression called Small Gin. A full-strength gin, Small Gin has stronger botanical flavours designed to reduce the amount of spirit required. As many consumers are actively looking to reduce their alcohol consumption, but are keen to continue enjoying that classic gin flavour that they have grown to love, we talked to fifth-generation distiller, James Hayman, about their new expression, Small Gin. Thanks for joining us, James.
No, my pleasure. Nice to speak to you.
Now, Hayman's is known as a very traditional English gin. What made you think to develop a gin that is perhaps much more modern in having a low ABV?
Well, from Hayman's point of view, we very much focus on the true English style of gin, which you mentioned, but at the same time, whether we've been sitting for a long time and we were very true to how we've always made our gin, it's also important to look at how the markets move forward and stay relevant to that. And gin is also going through a huge fashion at the moment, it's very trendy, there's lots of new distilleries popping up and there are new expressions of gin that are coming out. So we'd never want to not be part of that, we haven't actually got involved in the whole pink phenomenon, but we obviously do spend a lot of time looking at gin innovation in the distillery.
And one thing that's really come to mind over the last few years is the importance, I think it's going to be far more important to people what they eat and drink so that obviously impacts out the amount of alcohol they consume. You have periods during the course of the year when people have a dry month, which you would never probably experienced 10 years ago. And I think when ... for us people like drinking a gin and tonic or a gin cocktail, but there are occasions when perhaps you don't always want the alcohol associated with that and it might be a barbecue on a Sunday when you've got work the following day.
It might be early in the week, a Monday or Tuesday night when you want to have the gin and tonic ritual and experience, but you don't necessarily want to wake up the next morning feeling maybe like you might do after a heavy night out on a Friday or Saturday night. So with that sort of in mind, there were some ... From our point of view, back to your original point, we have to make sure that anything we produce or introduce is of the right quality and really fit with our existing range that we pride our very much ourselves on. On the styles of gin we make, the awards we win. Last week we won the ISC trophy for Hayman's London Dry.
So anything we do has got to fit within that range and that style. And it's just something we sought to, quite a long time ago now, about how do we make a gin and tonic experience but take out the alcohol. There are other equivalents on the market, but rather than go low, they've gone no, and I think they've had some mixed reaction. I think people really understand ... there are a lot of people very in favour of what it's allowed them to do and didn't know to have an experience, which isn't actually gin and tonic experience, but it's following the ritual of having a gin and tonic and feeling that they're having a gin and tonic if they're ... they might be driving or unable to drink at that for a period of time.
What we want to do is really develop something that retains the gin in terms of the gin and tonic and actually still be a gin. The interesting thing about small gin, it still fits within the gin regulations because it's 43% ABV in terms of alcohol. What we've done is actually dial-up the amount of ... we dialled-up the flavour in it, so you need less of it to create a gin and tonic experience. And it's taken out 80% of the alcohol view of a normal gin and tonic. So those are sort of the key components to what was behind it. And ultimately, and when you're doing innovation, and lots of innovations don't work for whatever reason, it might be a great idea, may end up not tasting so great. And when you find an innovation that actually starts ticking all the boxes, then you know that you're in a position that you can take it further and actually bring it to market.
When you say that someone would be using less of it, what sort of quantities are we talking about?
Yeah. Well, so normally if you have a standard gin and tonic, certainly from a British point of view, you have 25ml. So gin serves can either be 25ml, 35ml or a double can be 50ml. We actually only put five ml in. So we have a little thimble which is on every bottle, and the actual thimble ... which is 5ml, relates ... thimbles were very popular in Victorian England when people used to do a lot of sewing et cetera. So it really sort of has a nice link back to when we first started making gin as a family. So it has 5ml instead of 25ml, which is why it takes out the 20ml of the alcohol, 80% of the alcohol.
You talked about the botanicals being stronger. What process did you go through to develop it?
The botanicals we use are the same botanicals we use in all our gins. So we have 10 botanicals, which all of our different styles of gin use, we just use different levels of them depending on what the gin may be compared to, say, compared to our Hayman's London Dry and our Hayman's Old Tom, for example. And we've used the same 10, it's just having a more intense flavour, so when you're actually having your 5ml, the flavour, the botanicals, is coming through which gives you the gin and tonic taste or gin and tonic flavour as such. So it's the same 10 botanicals, it's there's no botanical ... there's not a botanical in there which sort of alters the whole process. It's very much using what we've got, but just having more of it.
How much experimenting did you need to do with the levels of botanicals to make sure you got the right mix?
Yeah, a lot. This was not an easy project to come up with, I'll be honest. And you look at what we've managed to create and you've also got to remember the days in the distillery when we were really trying to make this happen and we hit quite a few problems regarding it. There were times when we thought it's a great idea but probably maybe it's not going to work, and you then have to park it for a couple of weeks and then come back to it. And think, is there another way that we can do it? And the team that we have in the distillery, persevered with a lot of desire to make this happen. And so it's ... it took a long time. You are really, really pushing the boundaries of distillation. You have to overcome many, many problems to actually get it to a final product to make it work. So this has taken a long time, a lot of thinking, a lot of trial and error, a lot of periods when you were going, "You know what? I'm not sure this is actually going to be able to work because of the technical side of it." You could create the flavour, but you've also ... you've got to create the product that you then got to get into a position where it's ready to be bottled and the issues that it can have by following the process that we've had. So a huge amount of perseverance to do it. A lot of trial and error. Occasions when you just have to go, "All right. We're going to leave this for a couple of weeks because we're hitting a brick wall." And it's taken a very long time to do it from the initial concept of how do we do it, and we had various different ideas of what we might be able to do, that's a kind of phase one which then evolved into, right? Which one has got the potential to work to actually then going through the feasibility of can it work, to then get into the stage where we think it can and it's ready to take to market.
When you say a long time, are we talking months or years from when you started the process to now?
I mean, the idea ever is over a year old and the initial idea is over a year old. And as I said, it's we had a couple of ideas that have evolved, so, well over a year. And the reality is some parts of it were quite straightforward, some parts were very difficult. And distilling's actually quite a science and it's really making the science of distillation work to be able to create the end style of gin that we've created. So yeah, well over a year since sort of thinking we want to do it. I mean, it was probably March, April time this year when we felt that we cracked it as such. And then you have to go through a process of getting it ready to be bottled and you've got aspects of it, how do we tell the consumer that it's only 5ml? So we had to think of what can we do on the package that makes them realize it's only 5ml and how can we help them pour only 5ml, which is where the thimble idea came from. It's a small gin, it's a small bottle, although it's a 20cl, it's actually got 40 serves of gin in because it's only 5ml and how do we present that to the consumer? How do we make sure that on a shelf it stands out? How do we explain that messaging, et cetera. So we put it into a larger pack to really help give it shelf standout and also to give more instructions on the pack. So people picking it up can follow through a newer style, a newer ritual in terms of how you make a gin and tonic. And that was all part of the process and that wasn't easy to do, but probably the hardest part was actually making the liquid, and the thimble we think works really well. We've had lots of compliments about that and it's only been out a couple of weeks, but it's really helping people understand what they have to do to be able to create the final product. I mean, it really is, we would go as far to say this is probably the biggest innovation in gin for well over a hundred years because it really has taken gin away from the London Dry style, which maybe gets evolved for different countries, to then maybe adding some … additional flavours or some additional colours if you want to go down the pink route. This is truly something quite different. It's the whole process from start to finish is different. So it's been a big innovation and really exciting to work on, but equally quite challenging as well.
Do you think that expressions like your Small Gin are the future of gin?
It's a great question. It's something that we've often discussed and one of the things that we're keen to avoid as a business is trends. There are always going to be aspects of a category which is a trend. I think if you look at the flavoured category, it's a trend. Will flavoured gin still be popular in 5, 10 years time? We suspect not … not to the extent they are today, but we actually think that the “low” and “no” side of the market has got longevity behind it. I often talk about we're a family business and we don't like the roller coaster business model where something goes up and grows very quickly, reach a peak and then come down quite quickly. We think it has got longevity to it and it certainly seems to be ... I think it's aimed at actually quite a wide number of people. You've obviously got a younger audience who are approaching the drinking age who maybe don't want to drink as much. We are aware that the newer generation or younger generation maybe don't drink as much as older generations. There's that age group coming through. But I just think overall in across the spectrum people are far more considerate or lots of people are far more considerate about what they drink and what they eat. I think it will become a style of gin and I've already been asked the question by somebody else, is this the future? I think it's part of the future. I still think there's an occasion where you just want to have a gin and tonic or gin Martini or a Negroni or whatever cocktail of choice it might be that has the full alcohol in, but I think it will become part of it. Now where we are in future generations. That's quite difficult to predict. But I think looking at for where we are for today and the generations that exist today and where they're going to go over the next 20 years, I think it's got longevity to it, but I don't think it's going to competently replace some of the drinking trends that we currently have. I think it'll just become another option for people to have that if they want to have a gin and tonic or gin cocktail with less alcohol in, this is the route to go down.
Now in terms of taste, is someone going to be able to tell the difference between drinking Small Gin and let's say a normal London Dry?
Actually when we introduced it, we any introduced it a couple of weeks ago and we had a UK trade show. What we actually did there was we created the world's smallest gin bar, which was a gin bar for one and had of a very small door that people had to crawl underneath just to create a little bit, creates a little bit of theatre around it.
A bit like Alice in Wonderland, I'm assuming.
Absolutely, yeah. We did. We had quite a queue of people wanting to actually go into the world's smallest gin bar. It's quite a nice idea just to bring it to people's attention. Really what we did from that point of view, we did a blind taste is two gin and tonics. One's got a Hayman's London in, one's got Hayman's Small. In and we reckon 50%, well, not reckon. It was resolved 50% of people could not tell the difference between the two.
In fact, even yesterday afternoon I was sampling it was six people and four of those people could not tell the difference between Hayman's London Dry and, and a Hayman's Small Gin. There's still a lot more work to be done on it. There's still a lot of people who still haven't experienced it. They've got to try it. But from the initial signs are … and I've been through the process myself … my team, my distillery, have blind tasted me on it and it is very difficult to pick it out because you still get the intense flavour of gin coming through. If you are somebody ... we've come across people, if you are somebody who puts a lot of gin into their gin and tonic and really free pours it, yes, you are going to you're going to get a difference because alcohol actually enhances those botanicals in there. But we think 50% of people not being able to tell the differences are pretty good figure based on what it is. Still very early, but we were quite positive about that.
What market do you imagine is going to be drinking the Small Gin?
I think it's quite wide because I was talking to somebody who works in the trade and he goes, "The problem is … you go out for lunch now, gone are the days where you maybe have a gin and tonic when you arrive and it may be a glass of wine ... you've got to go back to work and you've got to be able to handle what's given to you.” A lot of people are maybe just drinking sparkling water or water or soft drink at lunchtime. This actually gives you the opportunities to have a gin and tonic style drink, which has got 80% less alcohol in it. I think it stretches across a very wide spectrum of where it will be available to somebody who maybe wants to have a gin and tonic in the evening, but you might have a young families, so if you've got young children who are going to be up early the next morning, you can't really ... the last thing you want is to feel a bit heavy from the night before. It crosses a very wide spectrum. It's still very early days, but it creates the opportunity for people to have a gin and tonic without the alcohol that a normal one would have. I think it gives a wide opportunity and at the moment it's quite focused on the UK, but certainly, the retailers and the bars were speaking to it and are very positive about it. There's lots of ideas that are coming out of that. I don't think it's just one specific thing. I think it's going to be quite wide.
Now do you see Small Gin, I mean, has it been designed to compete against other gins or on the other side compete against these low ABV Aperitivo's that are coming through the market?
The most important thing to achieve from Small Gin was to be able to retain the flavour of the gin in a gin and tonic. There are some no alcohol products out there which allow you to, in effect, have a gin and tonic experience about the gin. The feedback we've had is this supersedes that because it creates a better drinking experience with more flavour. I think it fits between both of them. I think it creates a whole new sector in effect where it's given people an alternative to a no alcohol and it's giving people an alternative to a full alcohol. I think it sits in the middle. We haven't created it to fo after one market or another market. We've created it to create a new experience and to create a new way of drinking gin.
How do you see it being drunk? Are you seeing it as an everyday gin?
Again, it really comes up to the individual in terms of what they want. If someone every day wants to have a gin and tonic, then yes, it can be every day.
Now obviously this has been created with a gin and tonic in mind, but what are other cocktails could Small Gin work well in?
The Tom Collins cocktail, which usually has an Old Tom style of gin and has lemon added to it as well. It's not as well known as the gin and tonic, but it's an alternative to the gin and tonic. A lot of people don't like tonic, which is why they think they don't like gin. Yeah, it has soda water rather than tonic, so we created the Tiny Tom Collins, which follows down the same route. Now, interestingly, a couple of days, some, some of our guys in the UK came back from for a potential customer with a Negroni, which uses a product from Australia called Liars, which is a non-alcoholic orange bitter and then Cocchi vermouth. Again it's still got the alcohol in it, but I think it was 0.8 of the unit, the a total amount of alcohol.
Yeah, it's going to be quite low, I would imagine.
It was exceptional. It really was exceptional. I'm a big fan of the Negroni and it's one of my go-to gin cocktails and I was pleasantly surprised by what it delivered from a drink and experience. I think there's a huge ... we're a gin distiller, we're not bartenders or mixologists and once it feeds itself into the market, then that's something that we expect to evolve as bartenders get their hands on it and start experimenting with it making cocktails. We created it for the gin and tonic to create a low alc gin and tonic, but I am sure other cocktails will evolve from that as well.
And what has the reaction of bartenders and bars been to the Small Gin so far?
Very positive. As I said, we launched it at a trade show so it was a good opportunity to introduce it where all the bartenders congregate. We've had some wonderful write-ups in the press. Imbibe, which is a very well known British drinks trade magazine called it ‘The Product Of Imbibe 2019’. We're getting a lot of people emailing us, a lot of people calling us, saying ‘can we try it? can we have samples?’. And these people are very recognized bar groups and retailers across the UK who are quite taken with the idea. So there's still a process to go through. Usually, when you create a product you have to go and sell it and communicate it and knock on people's doors. What we're finding with this is that actually, people are coming to us.
It's only been two or three weeks, so very early days but the initial feedback has been positive to it. And you do expect that because whenever something new comes out I think people are quite intrigued. We are very aware as much as we think it's a great idea that there's still a long process to go through to establish amongst consumers, bartenders, in bars, et cetera. So it's a long term project and nothing works overnight. So there is a process to go through. But I think one of the key things, when you launch something, is raising some interesting behind it and making people intrigued enough to want to try it, right? That's the first challenge whenever you introduce something new.
Now with the name ‘Small’, is there a story behind it? Why did you choose that particularly?
Yeah, there is. And if you actually go back to the 1700s, back in England, beer at that time was probably about .5 percent, maybe up to 2 percent. And the reason being it was probably better for you to drink beer rather than it was to drink water. And it was called Small Beer because I guess it was ahead of its time by quite a few hundred years in many ways. But it was a low alcohol beer. Which still exists today. It is available now.
So it was really sort of building on something that was already in the market. And then it links very nice because there's 40 serves in a 20cl bottle, compared to 28 services in a 70cl bottle, you've got a small bottle. It's a small serve. So it tied in very well and the two just came together. We always called it Small Gin because we always knew it was going to be a small serve and the small beer side of it is not that well known, but it's something we were conscious of. So it just really sort of all tied together to create something that worked very well. The most important thing is it's still a gin but how do you keep it within the gin category but tell people it's something different? And I think Small Gin, it's easy to understand once you understand it but it also will make people ask the question, well what is Small Gin? And part of the way of educating people is to get someone to ask the question, so you can give them an answer. And the answer actually appears on the packaging.
Now let's talk about availability. I'm assuming it's available throughout the UK at present?
We introduced it a couple of weeks ago. The official launch will be the first of August. So at the moment, we're just in discussions with various people but we're taking pre-orders for it. So as of the first of August around early August, it will be ready for us to ship out.
And what about other international destinations?
One of the things with Hayman's, it's something we very much focus on, is that we are widely distributed from an international point of view we're available in 65 markets around the world. But we take into account there will be some markets that maybe aren't so interested in low alcohol or they maybe haven't got to the stage of low alcohol. So a lot of interest in Europe. A lot of interests in Canada and America. Likewise Australia, New Zealand. Asia, gin isn't so big. It's still growing. Asia traditionally has been a very dark spirit market be it whiskey or Cognac. So it's certainly … gin is definitely growing in that part of the world. Whether they're ready for a low alcohol alternative yet remains to be seen. But it's probably the more traditional gin markets that we will focus on initially. And then we'll see how it goes from there, really.
And if people want more information, I assume they can go to your website
On our website we have a lot more information on Hayman's Small Gin. Also, our social medial pages are a good place to go to as well be it Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, et cetera. Any updates, that's usually a place that's easier to sort of keep that regular updates and if someone creates a new cocktail, like we're seeing with the Lo-Groni at the moment, we can put it in our social media pages and spread the word quite quickly. So that's also a good place to visit.
Excellent. All right. Well look, thank you for taking the time to speak to us today, James.
For more information on Small Gin go to haymansgin.com