• STV
  • MySTV

Scots gin makers accused of 'misleading' customers

Many gins marketed as being from local communities don't have on-site distilleries.

From the western isles to the Borders, you don't have to look far to find a local craft gin.

The ever-expanding Scottish gin industry is difficult to ignore. It's estimated to make up around 70% of all botanical spirits consumed in the UK.

Many gins are named and marketed as being from small communities where the company is based - but some don't have on-site distilleries.

So although the botanical ingredients might be local, in some cases the gin itself is made by contract distillers elsewhere.

Concerns are growing that this grey area of where the products are made is misleading customers and threatening the lucrative drinks industry's reputation.

Drinks expert Blair Bowman told STV News: "There are now other spirits such as rum and absinthe and vodka which have this Scotland stamp which consumers understand as being premium of high quality in the same way we have Scottish salmon and Scottish beef.

'There are a few chancers and charlatans who are skirting the rules.'
Drinks expert Blair Bowman

"But there are a few chancers and charlatans who are skirting the rules.

"I'm not trying to put anyone out of business - I just think it's important to be transparent about what you're doing."

It is a frustrating issue for drinks producers who have made significant investments in developing distilleries and other facilities, which in turn has a positive impact on the local economy.

The rules around gin are much more relaxed compared with whisky, which has special geographical protection, meaning that every element of the product must be made in Scotland to qualify as Scotch.

There are now growing calls for gin to be given similar protected status. This is tied up in EU regulations, so as Brexit hangs in the balance, this makes the issue even more uncertain.

Adam Hunter, from Arbikie Distillery near Arbroath, said: "It's a bit like going into a restaurant and saying, 'okay, I'd like a spaghetti carbonara', you think the chef is going to make it from scratch but actually you find out what they've done is use a sauce pre-made, but they've grown their own onions.

"If your contract is distilling down in say, England, but you have a registered address on some island on the west coast of Scotland, all you're doing is filling your own pockets."

Steve Ross, head distiller at NB distillery near North Berwick, said: "Right from the beginning we chose to make everything here, to develop our recipes here and to create a great spirit here - and to do it here in North Berwick... we're proud put the NB name to our gin.

'It's a bit like going into a restaurant and saying, 'okay, I'd like a spaghetti carbonara', you think the chef is going to make it from scratch but actually you find out what they've done is use a sauce pre-made, but they've grown their own onions.'
Adam Hunter from Arbikie Distillery near Arbroath

"From the consumers' point of view, if it says it comes from a certain place it should come from that certain place. [Gin] should have protected area status."

But some say the issue is not quite so simple.

Andrew Scutts, who runs drinks festival Cocktails in the City, said: "I've personal experience of working for  brands who were distilling in one place until we had enough money and capital to do it in our own facilities.

"A lot of these companies are very small, husband and wife teams or family businesses, and everybody has to start somewhere."

Either way, the gin boom does not seem to be waning any time soon.

James Sutherland, who runs the 56 North gin bar in Edinburgh, said: "You see an absolute 50-50 split - some [customers] are massively passionate about the idea of the gin being from a certain location.

"You then see the other side of the coin - the ones who just like the tasty liquids.

"The [producers] who are cutting corners are the ones which wind up the industry the most. 

"The place name thing is the biggest issue - traceability and honesty are the two key words."

Download: The STV News app is Scotland's favourite and is available for iPhone from the App store and for Android from Google Play. Download it today and continue to enjoy STV News wherever you are.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check. That e-mail's already in our system. Please try again.
ShowHide
Forgot password?
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long. Did you enter your details correctly?
If you've forgotten your details then use the 'Forgot password?' link.
Need to reset your password?

We'll send a link to reset your password to

We've sent you details on how to reset your password

Please check your email and follow the instructions.

Forgotten your email address?

Have you forgotten the email address that you previously joined with? Don't worry, by emailing enquiries@stv.tv we can help.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This must be at least 6 characters long.
ShowHide
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long.
You must be over 16 to join STV.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date
We need this to check that you live in an STV region.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid postcode
Would you like us to email you about our great shows and services from time to time?
We'll only send emails we think you'll like (see example) based on information you have supplied and shows you have watched on STV Player. For details on emails and advertising, see our STV & You page.
Would you like to receive emails from the Scottish Children's Lottery about draws, instant games and competitions?
We support the Scottish Children's Lottery (SCL), which is managed by our colleagues at STV ELM Ltd. You can find out more about the SCL on its website, including its Privacy Policy.

By continuing you agree to our Terms of Use, and understand our Privacy and Cookie Policies.

Upload Profile Picture

Please make sure your image is under 2mb in size and a valid JPG, PNG or GIF.

Are you sure?

Unfortunately, you'll be unable to access our premium content. We’ll be sorry to see you go, but if you change your mind you can rejoin us at any time.

Please verify your STV account

Please verify your STV account using the email we sent you. If you have lost the email, we can send you another one, just click the button below.

Thanks

We've sent you a new verification email.
Please check your email and follow the instructions to verify your account.

Welcome to STV
Thanks for joining us.

Oops!

Sorry, you must be at least 12 years old to place a vote for your Real Hero.

Please review our Voting Terms of Use for more information.

Oops!

Sorry! It seems that you are using a browser that is incompatible with our voting service.

To register your vote please copy the below URL in to your regular mobile browser. We recommend Google Chrome, or Safari.

http://shows.stv.tv/real-heroes/voting

Oops!

Sorry, you seem to have already voted in this category.

Thanks for voting

Now share your vote with friends on your social network

Share on twitter Share on facebook

Cast your vote

Please register or sign in to continue.

Cast your vote

This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date

Cast your vote

Please fill out this form to cast your vote. As you are under 16 years old you will not create an STV account. Why do we need these details?

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check.
Location This field is required.
Parental Consent This field is required.

That's you. All that's left is to click the 'Submit Vote' button below. By doing so, you confirm that you and your parent or guardian have read and accept our Voting Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Cookie policy, and that the details you have entered are correct. We'll look after them as carefully as if they were our own.