Cheers to gin in 2020!

Adam Hardie

Adam Hardie

Business Development Partner and Head of Food & Drink

05 November 2020

Celebrating the very best of gin distilling across the country, the annual Scottish Gin Awards are nearly upon us. With 194 Scottish gins entered and a judging panel chaired by Johnston Carmichael’s Head of Food & Drink, Adam Hardie, this year’s awards night is to be broadcast live as a virtual event for the first time ever.

Many industries have been hit hard in 2020, and Scotland’s gin distilling sector is no exception. The on-trade market (sales to licensed premises) and sales into the hospitality sector represent a significant element of many gin producers’ income, which vanished overnight when lockdown forced the closure of bars and restaurants. Export was also made very difficult when the movement of goods across borders ceased. As restrictions continue into November, albeit in a different format to the beginning of the year, the hospitality sector continues to be severely impacted, so craft gin distillers have had to find new and innovative ways to mitigate these extraordinarily testing market conditions.

In the early days of the pandemic, many in the distilling community stepped up to play their part in helping meet the nationwide demand for sanitising products. Even prior to the formal lockdown announcement in March, our Dundee client Verdant Spirits responded to appeals from care partnerships and pivoted from gin production to production of hand sanitiser. Pickering’s Gin and many others followed suit, producing hand sanitising spray for frontline workers in the NHS and others.

Alongside this continued demand for hand sanitiser, fortunately consumer appetite for gin has also soared. The UK’s gin spend rose by 41% during lockdown, and with Scotland producing 70% of all UK gin, the industry has continued to flourish. The challenge for many distillers has been switching from selling into hospitality to focusing on other areas such as retail and online direct to consumer sales; requiring investment of additional time, limited budget and marketing resource. Direct to consumer sales have skyrocketed, and distillers have shown remarkable agility in swiftly turning their hand to driving more online sales.

New gins have continued to be launched across every corner of Scotland. Many producers have embraced the power of digital events, such as virtual gin schools, to unveil new offerings, whilst Eden Mill have led the way with thousands of new customers joining online tastings. Gin subscription boxes have also proven to be a popular new way to engage consumers, with subscribers regularly receiving a variety of new gins to try together with mixers and garnishes. 

This creative and enterprising spirit demonstrated by distillers has been a key theme of this year’s Scottish Gin Awards, which will be broadcast live from the Glasgow DoubleTree for registered ticketholders. Awards will be presented in 17 categories, recognising the best of the best in Scottish gin.

The 2020 Awards will be presided over by Johnston Carmichael’s Head of Food & Drink, Adam Hardie, with the independent judging panel comprising of 36 other Taste Judges and Business Judges from every facet of the drinks industry: the largest and most experienced gin judging panel in the UK.

Adam said, “In a year when the world has turned upside down, the Scottish gin sector has worked hard to adapt, change direction and take our industry forward. I congratulate all those who have entered The Scottish Gin Awards 2020 and look forward to celebrating with everyone virtually!”

The Awards will be a welcome evening of pride and revelry for Scotland’s distillers, whose achievements in the face of adversity are certainly worth celebrating. For more information on how to book tickets, visit: