Success of Hadleigh-based GinPunch.com reflects growing popularity of nation’s favourite spirit
During his career in the Royal Navy, Neil Farrow travelled the globe.
“I’ve enjoyed gin and tonics at many locations around the world and always tried to have something different each time,” he said.
Now, having retired from this life at sea, and residing in land-locked Hadleigh in Suffolk, Neil has turned his passion for gin into a business; GinPunch.com, an online shop for gin drinkers and a resource for people who want to learn more about the spirit.
He started the business around two years ago with the aim of giving gin drinkers down to earth tips and reviews.
“I see myself as a bit of a gateway,” he explained.
“Around two to three years ago, everyone was loving gin but I started to see some snobbery creeping in. It’s happened with wine and whisky – this hierarchical text from above telling you what you should and shouldn’t like.
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“I wanted to give a more street-level view of the world of gin - it doesn’t matter if a gin is made using 25 botanicals in a pot still 500 years old – that is almost irrelevant and can get pretentious.
“At the end of the day, what matters is whether you enjoy a drink or not, and whether it makes you feel good. The snob element forgets about enjoyment.”
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Neil hasn’t looked back and alongside his online business has since been busy attending national and regional food and drink festivals and fetes, as well as holding corporate tasting workshops and catering for private parties and weddings.
His success has reflected the rise in the popularity of the juniper-based spirit.
According to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association’s latest market report, Brits bought over 47 million bottles of gin in 2017, up 7 million on the year before, while a YouGov poll found gin is the most popular spirit with 29% of drinkers voting it their favourite spirit tipple.
This ‘Ginaissance’ has also come to Suffolk and north Essex.
The Gin Festival Ipswich, held for the first time last year, was a sell-out success while Adnams, which is traditionally known for brewing beer, has seen its spirits business take off in recent years with the brand’s gins being sold as far afield as Brazil.
New distilleries and gin-related businesses have also cropped up including the Stillery in Bury St Edmunds, The English Spirit Company in Great Yeldham and the Tiny Tipple Company from Lowestoft - to name but a few.
Adult pick ‘n mix
“Part of the reason for the rise in the popularity of gin is that there is so much choice out there now,” continued Neil.
“It’s been driven by the public- if they didn’t keep trying the new gins, there wouldn’t be new stills opening. It’s a perfect storm – more distilleries are producing more varied products and more people are discovering new tastes.
“We’ve always drunk gin – I don’t think this is a sudden thing.
“I just feel the quality has got better and people have become more adventurous about trying new stuff. People are less brand loyal now- they are more about discovering new tastes.”
This demand for fresh tastes has led Neil to launch a new part of the business called Gin tubes, where customers can buy two 100ml (the equivalent of a pub double measure) bottles each containing a sample of a new gin on the market.
“We call it adult pick ‘n mix - if you can afford to buy a craft gin bottle at £44 each month that’s great but a lot of people can’t, so it’s about finding the right price point,” continued Neil who says smooth sipping gins and fruit-flavoured gins are becoming more popular.
And what about him? What’s his favourite way to drink gin?
“For me, it’s sitting in a garden with a long gin and tonic that has a bit of flavour and punch,” he added.